What's your poison?



Love this question. I work with fermentation research, so any kind of weird fermented anything is 100% my jam.

I was super impressed with all the options when I visited Latvia. There they have something called black balsam ( Melnais balzams), which is a 90-proof distilled bitter herbal concoction. It has valerian and wormwood, among other things, so it’s the perfect nightcap.

Another thing I tried in Latvia was this birch sap wine, which I really want to find again! It had these amazing but subtle herbal grassy flavours. And because it uses indigenous yeast to ferment, it tasted quite funky, like a Spanish Sidra. That was a truly unforgettable and unique experience.


@EricGrundhauser , A&W seems to be my go-to brand! It is the only one I’ve ever found in Europe, and it seems to be in fridges (refrigerators, I guess I should say) across the US and Canada. Though when in a restaurant, I haven’t got a clue what brand I’m drinking, as it just comes served in a glass :slight_smile:

@schultjh Note taken, thanks! Will certainly do some research.

@Philip_Shane , Cream Soda is another one I really love. Slightly more known on this side of the pond, can be found at most larger supermarkets but still very rare in cafés/restaurants and considered rather hipsterish, up there with a crispy kale frappe latte or a fennel and matcha smoothie.

Coffee - any American guests can’t hide their disappointed expression when I offer tea or coffee, they say coffee, and I ask (by now, I should know, totally pointlessly), “it’s instant, is that OK?”. You absolutely have one over us on that front!


I love to check out local breweries wherever I visit: I always get to try out beers I’ve never heard of, some of which I’ll never see again, and it’s usually pretty cheap.

A few I recommend:
Revolution Brewing (Chicago)
LIC Beer Project (Queens, New York)
Micro Bar (Reykjavik)
Grimm Artisanal Ales (Brooklyn, New York)

On the non-alcoholic side, I really really like the butterbeer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Yes it’s really just butterscotch soda. It’s really good butterscotch soda.


Phunky Brewster , thanks for the reply! ,

Thats a fascinating angle of research ! Personally I would absolutely love to learn to ferment and brew weird drinks from plants and trees , do you have any reccomendations of where and how to start ?

Hmmmm , it sounds like something magical to try and I would certainly love to experience it ,the trees themselves are really quite magical too.

But I guess the sap of a lot of European trees can be toxic right ? I mean , I know the Yew tree can be deadly , there is even folklore about a concotion of its sap and berrys being used by Boadicea to kill herself.


Not much beats caipirinhas in Rio with fresh fruit added (pineapple is my fave), totally worth how much it gets stuck in the straw.

Tokaji wine in Hungary is great if you like sweet wine. Not a big fan of Unicum, but the Unicum Szilva isn’t nearly as bitter as the original.

I’m picky when it comes to beer, but Pilsner Urquell and Kozel Cerny in Czechia are some of the rare big brands I like.

Honorable mention: Pimm’s no. 1 (English) & Schonauer Apfel (German), because I actually discovered these in Epcot (while on a “my drink-around-the-world can ONLY include things from that country” tour) instead of their actual countries of origin. They’re now staples in my liquor cabinet though, the apple liqueur is a really good addition to Moscow mules.


careful when talking about prisco and prisco sours anywhere in peru and chile because there’s a long standing rivalry about which country’s pisco is better. and they’re very different! i try not to show favoritism although it’s tough when in chile to convince them peruvian pisco has any merit and vice versa. just thought i’d point out that both countries love their pisco and clearly think theirs is better than their neighbors’!


Check out the Milk the Funk group on facebook, they’re huge and also a big reason I have a job :smile: They also have an independent wiki. On FB there is also a “ferment all things” group that I believe is associated with Milk the Funk, but that’s more for pickling, kraut, kimchi etc.


Thanks Phunky,

Dont have a facebook but will check it out somehow , found this podcast the other day about fermenting henbane and deadly nightshade etc. and thought I’d share and get your opinion on it , but I can’t find the damn thing now



For toxic plants it really depends on the particular substance, some can become more toxic because the alcohol from fermentation makes them more soluble, but I imagine some can lose toxicity because of biotransformation during fermentation. That also likely depends on the yeast strain!


Just bookmarked the page , excellent :slight_smile: , thanks mate !


For a few months in 2012, I lived in a tiny little town in Georgia – the country, not the U.S. state – when I taught English. Turns out most Georgian families make their own wine. My host family were wonderful winemakers. They made both red and “white”. I say “white” because their white grapes turned into a bright orange-hued wine.
My host Babua (grandfather) and host Bebia (grandmother) always drank wine at breakfast and insisted on serving me a glass of both the red and the “white” before cutting me loose to teach at the local school. Of course, that made for some great times and created great memories. To this day I’ve not had better wine than that produced by my Georgian host family.


I keep hearing things about this Georgian wine , I am intrigued , I’ll have to try it one day