We may not have tried them firsthand, but we’ve at least heard the stories. Legends illustrating the most interesting drinks from around the world, ranging from the utterly absurd to the ultra-extravagant.
Sure, most standup bars feature an overpriced cocktail with a weird mix of things you can barely pronounce. But that’s not what this particular story is about. We’re focused instead on the bizarre and the unexpected, like wine made from moss or a beer made from ingredients that spent some time in outer space.
Raise a glass to these other-worldly beverage phenomena:
Back in 2014, Ninkasi Brewing started an actual space program. Their Ground Control Imperial Stout is brewed with a few intriguing ingredients, like cacao nibs, star anise, and Oregon hazelnuts. But its most out-there inclusion is brewer’s yeast that’s been to outer space and back.
The first successful mission saw six vials of yeast launched into orbit. It may not do much to the flavor, but it’s cool to know you’re enjoying something that’s been close to 80 miles above the earth (not to mention the kudos earned from keeping ever-temperamental yeast alive and kicking during the journey). Fittingly, the hop bill includes the likes of Apollo, Comet, and Bravo.
Although it’s been outlawed in both Europe and the states for many years, the practice of fining with ox blood still exists in small pockets throughout the international wine community. Fining, or clarifying and stabilizing a wine by drawing out some of its solids and conducting other steps via microbiology, used to be done with all kinds of witchy elixirs. Vintners used everything from fish bladders to blood powder.
In Hungary, they go one step further, or at least they used to. Egri Bikavér is wine that was historically made with bull’s blood, a tradition dating back to the 16th century. Legend says it was made to give soldier’s strength but it was probably employed as much, if not more, to help with fining and filtration. It’s a hearty red blend that persists today, made of some Bordeaux varietals and Kadarka, a Hungarian variety. Some are even rumored to still contain the not-so-secret ingredient.
We can file this in both the “exorbitantly priced” and “outrageous” categories. Merchant Hotel’s Mai Tai goes for roughly $1,200 a pop, made using rare, decades’ old rums according to an original and mostly forgotten recipe. Given the Merchant’s super-swanky vibes, it’s not completely irrational, in the overall scheme of things. Supposedly, only a few souls have shelled out and tried the cocktail.
Anybody who’s taken an introductory chemistry class or attended a state fair knows there are countless kinds of wine. All you need to get started, essentially, is a sugar source. But beyond the mostly undrinkable riffs like banana wine, corn wine, and pumpkin wine is the funky, Viking-spirited boreal version. Enter, Icelandic wine.
The tiny outfit known as Westfjords Winery claims to be the northern-most winery on the planet. As such, it can’t exactly grow Merlot. Instead, it harvests Bilberries from nearby fjords, turning the Nordic version of the blueberry into an antioxidant-rich wine. They suggest pairing it with the midnight sun, but if you can’t get all the way to Scandinavia, the winery is growing and slowly entering the American market.
In 2010, a ship sank in the Baltic Sea. Turns out, it had some fantastically old bubbly on board. Divers recovered a few cases of the stuff, later estimated to be some 170 years old. Scientists and vintners realized what some had been preaching all along—that the conditions at the bottom of the sea can be ideal for aging wine. It’s inspired all kinds of offshoots that sing the praises of submerged wines.
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