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.

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