Mink Machine

The black balsam of Riga

I just got back from a trip to Riga, the capital of Latvia. Apart from delicious Laima chocolate and lots of cobblestones, the city is home to a lethal brew with the somewhat mysterious name Black Balsam (or Melnais Balzams in Latvian).

It’s a traditional herbal liqueur composed of 24 different ingredients such as flowers, roots, oils, berries and other funny things you may or may not find in a forest. Topping it off is the herb wormwood, which you may recognize from absinthe. The original recipe was created by pharmacist Abraham Kunze in 1752 and often used as medicine.

Black Balsam drinks Having weird balsam drinks.

Unfortunately, it tastes like hell. I was tempted to try another one I’ve never seen anywhere else, called “Wrong Island Ice Tea”, but something about the name beckoned for caution.

2 comments

  • avatar
    bollman
    27 Aug, 2008

    Well, I’m sitting at a hotel in Bergen, craving for some alcohol, but my wallet says no. 45NOK för a small bottle of boring beer, no thanks.
    Go out? Uh, no, not really, it’s pouring down and the beers are if possible even more expensive.
    They obioulsy don’t want people to use “drugs” in this country, a pack of cigarettes costs 80NOK, about 95SEK
    I bet you paid somewhat less for that interesting drink ;-)
    On a side note: absinthe is marvelous!

  • avatar
    29 Aug, 2008

    Yeah, it cost 3,50 lat (roughly 50 sek). A beer was about 10-14 sek. :)
    Absinthe is odd but nice. In Gothenburg we got a club entirely devoted to the brew, aptly named Absynth.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Featured stories

Chilling in Chile

"My weary feet has reached Valparaiso. After almost a month of traveling across the South American continent I realize that this is as far south as I will come, due to weather conditions."

Historic locations in Gothenburg

"Hundreds of houses were quickly build, but unfortunately all of it was burned to the ground in 1611 by Danish forces."

Reliving history in Washington D.C.

"As I entered the heavily guarded Rotunda in the center, some of the most famous documents in the world laid before me."

Roaming in Valletta

"I passed the statue of Jean de Valette, the 49th Grand Master who laid the foundation stone to Valletta in 1566, to gaze at the golden interior of St. John’s Co-Cathedral, where he is buried in the crypt."

Roaming through Banff

"Even though the main town is surrounded by mountains with names such as Sulphur Mountain, it is as far away from Mordor as one could imagine."

The sound of Salzburg

"It is based on the true story of Maria von Trapp, even though I suspect she didn’t go singing alone in the mountain ranges."