When travelling to the Baltic States you might wonder what people like to drink there. What are the traditional drinks there that locals love to drink? Below you can find a list of drinks you should try on your next trip to the Baltic countries:
1. Birch sap
‘I am sure you’re asking why is birch water here on the list and is it actually something that you can drink and something people in the Baltics drink? Yes, that is true, you can drink it and it’s a much-loved drink by the locals. It’s believed to be good for you and is full of amino acids, minerals, enzymes, proteins, antioxidants, and vitamins. Like maple sap, birch sap is collected in springtime. Back in the day, it was mostly sold in plastic bottles at markets and roadside stalls but nowadays, it has experienced bigger production and you can even buy the sap from supermarkets. They make wine and different soft drinks out of it and even grappa-like schnapps. ÖselBirch in Saaremaa is one of the better-known birch lemonade producers in Estonia. Latvian producers have taken a step further and are turning different products from lemonades and syrups to wine and strong alcoholic spirits. It’s possible to try the products and even do a factory tour at Birzi or Libertu Birch Winery.
2. “Bread drink”
This is a very popular Slavic fermented beverage made of rye bread. In Estonia, it’s known as kali, in Latvia as kvass and in Lithuania as gira. It’s a non-alcoholic (or very low on alcohol) beverage similar to root beer, a perfect beer replacement for people who don’t drink alcohol. You can buy it at many restaurants and supermarkets all around the three countries. Enjoy it on a hot summer’s day or a sauna night. It’s also a perfect drink to accompany the popular garlic rye bread snack. Read more about the garlic bread snack and other traditional foods from our 10 traditional foods you need to try when visiting the Baltic States blog post.
3. Craft beer
The craft beer revolution has hit all the Baltic countries. You can find many local breweries, big and small, making their own beer. All different and with their own unique flavour. Of course, there are still breweries producing commercial local beer brands but in recent years, the popularity of more universal beer types such as IPA’s and other common craft beer labels are increasing. Craft beer is so popular in Tallinn, Estonia that they even have a special event dedicated to it: Craft Beer Weekend.
4. Riga Black Balsam
There’s no drink more symbolic to Latvia than Riga Black Balsam. This traditional Latvian herbal liqueur is made with 24 natural ingredients, including 17 botanicals, infused in the spirit-water mix. The drink itself is black and can taste quite bitter, but with a distinct sweetness to it. Our favourite is the black currant variant which is the softest and most pleasant to drink. It’s possible to drink Riga Balck Balsam on its own or inside a cocktail, hot drink or even put it as a topping on ice cream or use it in desserts. When you’re in Riga, head to Black Magic Bar to taste it or buy it as a souvenir to take home. If you want to learn more about the production and history of the balsam, head to Latvijas Balzams Factory for a tour.
5. Vana Tallinn
As Riga Black Balsam is the symbol of Latvia, Vana Tallinn is the symbolic drink of Estonia. This legendary rum-based liqueur is packed full of various natural spices. It’s recommended to drink Vana Tallinn neat, with a hot drink, or on ice. It is also a perfect cocktail component. It comes with 40% to 50% alcohol and in different flavours.
If you’re wondering what to try in Lithuania and take home as a present then you should go with mead. Mead is said to be the oldest alcoholic drink in the world and is made of honey. The Lithuanian mead comes in a variety of different flavours and strengths – from 12% to 75%. The most popular brand is Stakliškės, named after the town where it is produced.