Four Unlikely Après Drinks - Ski Mag

Four Unlikely Après Drinks

Where to find the secret—and good—mountain moonshines of the world.
Author:
Publish date:
Another day in Kyrgyzstan.

I didn’t find these drunk truck drivers (pictured above) dueling atop their crashed rig by accident. I went looking for characters like them on an assignment that took me to the glorious nation of Kyrgyzstan, a central Asian republic so obscure and miserable that you almost expect this kind of behavior. While other ski photographers bask in the manicured world of five-star lodges, chasing foie gras with champagne, I’ve somehow become the go-to guy when editors need stories shot amongst horse shit and human-rights violations. So if you take ski trips like mine, count on enjoying various moonshines served from a jerrican. Here are a few taste-tested potions.

Kefir (Central Asian Republics)

A full-bodied, sour, and curdled brew of fermented goat or horse milk, typically unpasteurized and served at room temperature. Taste: Brutal. Safety: Very safe at roughly three percent alcohol, because you’d be hard-pressed to stomach enough to get anywhere near a bad decision. Not recommended.

Baijiu (Western China)

A clear and potent moonshine distilled from rice. Taste: Like bad sake, ranging from tolerable to terrible. Safety: Moderate. Its potency varies, but even thimble-size shooters will catch up with you. Baijiu was good for washing down the fried insects and squirrel that my Chinese hosts served, which was a bonus. Not discouraged.

Kakheti (Georgia)

An opaque white wine tasting vaguely like dry apple cider. Taste: Excellent. Safety: Moderate to dangerous depending on the length of the dinner, the most epic of which, a supra, spans 20 courses. Every course is accompanied with its own toast. At the toast’s end, everyone yells “Gamarjos!” and drains a cup. Gamarjos means “victory,” though the inevitable public puking (common and tolerated) will make you feel like a loser. Recommended.

Bhang Lassi (India, Nepal)

Although it’s technically not an alcoholic beverage, this yogurt milkshake made with cannabis extract is worth a mention for its creativity alone. Taste: Sweet, though not too sweet, and velvety. Safety: Exercise caution, but bhang lassi can lighten up any situation, like your daily experience with India’s petty theft and dysentery. Recommended.

Related

Chris Davenport, Antarctica 2008

Four Ski Documentaries

Four upcoming ski movies tackle everything from sailboats to community development in Central Asia. And yes, there’s lots of skiing.