Alcoholic Drinks in Azerbaijan

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Despite being nominally a nation of Shiite Muslims, more than 160 years of Russian presence have left Azerbaijan with strong taste for alcohol.

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The country once produced large quantities of domestic wine and brandy, but the industry has fallen in decline since independence. Vodka and beer are the main tipples these days.

Spirits Russian vodka - mostly Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya brands - is available most everywhere, and costs only $2 to $2.50 for a half-litre bottle. The throwaway foil caps speak volumes about the Russian attitude towards an open bottle.

Vodka, or arag as it is known locally, is the drink of choice when making toasts at a special dinner. Azerbaijan's own locally produced hooch distilled from tut (mulberries), and known tutovka - handle with care.

Whisky, gin, rum and other spirits can found in most Baki bars, but are more expensive than vodka.

Beer & Wine

The most popular pivo (beer) in the country is the Turkish Efes which can be bought canned or on draught almost everywhere.

A French-Azeri joint venture has revived the Hyrdalan (Xirdalan) brewery on the north-west fringes of Baki, and it now produces a very acceptable bottled pilsner.

The strong Baltika brew from St Petersburg is also fairly popular, and a wide range of European beers can be found in Baki's expat bars.

Azeri chahir (wine) can be bought in Baki supermarkets for around $2-4.50 a bottle - try the Ivanovka, Madrasa, Ipak Yolu (Silk Way) labels - or in upmarket Azeri restaurants.

Georgian wine is also widely available.

Another hangover (apt word) from Soviet times is the popularity of Russian shampansky (champagne), which can be enjoyed for a mere $1.50 a litre.

The little yellow tankers you will see on Baki street corners in summer sell kvas (usually shown as the Cyrillic KBAC) for 12 cents a glass.

Kvas is a traditional Russian small beer made from fermented rye bread. It is only mildly alcoholic, and tastes a bit like ginger beer.