Life has changed but at least there's samogon

Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:47pm EST
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By Julien Pretot and Dmitriy Rogovitskiy

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (Reuters) - "I only drink mine," Edik Baturin warns when talk turns to samogon, a potent, chest-warming moonshine he brews in his shack in the shadow of the Caucasus mountains.

If made correctly, it is said to be purer than vodka. If it's not, it can kill.

Samogon (self-made) is a Russian liquor that the people of Krasnaya Polyana, a town situated close to the exuberance of the Sochi Olympic Games, hold dear.

"Look, it's like a child's tear," Baturin, 38, says samogon dribbles from a refrigerated metal tube into a three-liter bottle.

Baturin has thrown away the first drops - 5 to 10 per cent of what's produced - because they will contain too much methanol and acetone. They fall on a barbecue and a huge flame roars into the air.

This gut rot is called "pervak" (the first one), an extremely flammable mixture that can kill or cause blindness.

"The final part is to try and get rid of the bad oil (sivukha), which is also undrinkable. Our task is to try and obtain the best quality of alcohol. From 35 liters of home brew, we will get around five liters of samogon," Baturin explains.

A mix of oranges, yeast, sugar and water is blended with a grain, water, sugar and yeast after resting for two weeks. It is brought to the boil as the distillation process begins.   Continued...