Riga Black Balsam

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Riga Black Balsam
Rigas Balzams.JPG
Riga black balsam in its traditional small ceramic bottle
Type Liqueur
Manufacturer Latvijas Balzams
Country of origin Latvia
Alcohol by volume 45.0%[1]
Proof (US) 90
Colour Pitch Black
Website [1]
Riga Black Balsam cocktail

Riga Black Balsam (Latvian: Rīgas Melnais balzams) is a traditional Latvian balsam made with many different natural ingredients. In the crafting process Riga Black Balsam is made using unique single-barrel infusion technology[clarification needed]. Botanicals are infused in spirit-water mix to create a so called "Riga Black Balsam essence". After that the essence is blended with the rest of ingredients, such as honey, caramel, natural juices and bottled in natural clay bottle that retains the original unique appeal and preserves the qualities of the drink.

It can be had as it is, on the rocks or mixed with schnapps, akvavit, or vodka, or warm, in tea, coffee or black currant juice, or mixed with soda water or a soft drink, or in any variety of cocktails. It is also occasionally enjoyed as a topping on ice-cream. The drink itself is black and very bitter, but with a distinct sweetness.

Riga Black Balsam is made by JSC Latvijas Balzams. The traditional recipe was created by Abraham Kunze, a pharmacist living in Riga. It is made from 24 all natural ingredients, including 17 botanicals. The ingredients that contribute to the complex and versatile flavour of Riga Black Balsam include common roots and herbs such as Valerian, Wormwood, Black Pepper, and Ginger, as well as rare ingredients such as Gentian, Linden flower, and Peruvian Balsamic Oil. It is sold in ceramic handmade flagons. Riga Black Balsam has been acknowledged internationally, as it has received more than 100 awards at international fairs throughout its history.[2][3]

According to tradition only the Head Liquor Master and his two apprentices know the secret recipe. The original recipe was lost sometime during the chaos of WWII and the resulting German occupation. It has been estimated that Latvia, where Riga Black Balsam is made, lost nearly 25% of its population during the war; apparently those who knew the original recipe were among the between 300,000 and 500,000 killed in Latvia in WWII. After the war the recipe was carefully restored from shreds by a joint effort of former employees. Since then the recipe has remained unchanged.

Black Balsam is also used in traditional medicine. It is suppossed to be a good cold remedy and is used to treat digestive problems.[4][better source needed] There are no epidemiological studies which back these claims up.[5] It has been made in Riga since the middle of the 18th century. According to legend, Empress Catherine the Great of Russia, became ill during a visit to Latvia, but was cured after drinking Riga Black Balsam.

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