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.
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.