The Poor Mans Choice – Samogon
Samogon is the Robin Hood of alcohol, why do I say that? Well when you get outside the big cities and out in the back woods of Russia it becomes the poor man’s choice against the other monster drink – Vodka.
This is Russian moonshine and unlike its American counterpart it comes in a variety of flavors. This truly atomically explosive drink holds a very special place in the hearts of many Russians.
Much like vodka, samogon appeared in the 14th century as a way to get around Ivan the Terrible’s state monopoly on wine. From that time forward soviet officials have tried to rid the Russian Sherwood forests of these backyard distilleries to no avail. Mostly because the poor merry men of Russia wanting to avoid having to pay the high cost of state controlled liquor.
Vodka also loved by all came after samogon as a way to steer the masses away from their beloved ancient mash. The profit from the first where a way to line the coffers of the rich, and the state. The poor Russians staged their tea party without blowing up anything up except their own bodies. Some of these home brews were quite dangerous.
Contempt for Central Authority
The down and out had great contempt for central authority, which ensured that Samogon would continue to flourish. The greatest appeal of this elixir was that it could be mixed with a myriad different ingredients. One could throw just about anything into the fermenting mix and they often did. Sugar was the main source for the process, but occasionally grains were thrown in as well. Some of the things that found their way into the mix were potatoes, beetroot, corn and just about everything else they could find. Sweetening this something bad-smelling drink fruits like apples, pears, apricots, honey was often times added as well. If it was lying around and in reach, it went in the Samogon maker, nothing was left untested!
“Pervach”, meaning “the first one”, was the first to come out of the distillery. It was nearly tasteless and odorless, this happened because it would evaporate before the water would. What came after that would make the drink more pungent and impure. This is why the fruits, honey and other additives were added to give it a more zesty and a pallet pleasing taste.
The Poor Man’s Drink
Since samogon was the poor mans drink, they often cut corners in how it was made, thus sometimes the results would cause poisoning and more times than not, “death”. The cost of the better stills were expensive so other ways were found that could lead to the causes of many of the ill-fated incidences. People that were crazy enough would use heaters from car radiators, that would leech antifreeze and/or lead into the mix, both of which are deadly. The worst part was that the alcohol would become over 80% proof, so very flammable. So if you didn’t believe what I said earlier and you still dare to drink it, you might want to consider passing on that cigarette!
“Kosogorov Samogon” the New Commodity
Today you can find what they call “Kosogorov Samogon” it’s a legalized brand of samogon. It can be found in the supermarkets and in bars alongside its eternal rival, Vodka. Believe it or not sales are doing well, the rebel backyard booze is turning into a commodity. A great alternative for those unwilling to drink the real thing.
Oh, and I thought everyone would like to watch an old film that is endearing to this marvelous drink, samogon.