Molochnaya Vodka Araga
Milk vodka, araga, is a strong alcoholic drink made from khoitpak (fermented sour milk) using ancient technologies by the people of the Tuva (the Tyva Republic), a federal subject of Russia. It is a highly valued alcohol that is mostly consumed by old people. The vodka is produced in a shuuruun (the hollowed trunk of a poplar tree), which is placed inside a pot and steadied with stones. On top of this is placed a vessel, which serves as a condenser and the join between the pot and the this vessel is lined with a band of felt to stop steam escaping. Once the apparatus is ready a fire is lit underneath the pot and, when the bottom of the condenser becomes warm the fire is strengthened and the condenser is filled with cold water. The khoitpak is reduced by boiling and the condensation created slowly drips out to form the araga.
The first distillation of araga is between 5-20% alcohol and further distillation can produce a drink of 79-80% that is able to burst out in flame. Araga produced by second and third distillations is called dan zarya and is only made for guests of great honor on special occasions. Though araga is mostly produce for home consumption there are small quantities of artisanal product available at local markets.
The Tuva Republic is a historic cattle breeding region. The Tuva people have always bred native yaks, cows and goats that are resistant to many diseases. The delicious milk they produce is used to make khoitpak and araga as well as other traditional products such as byshtak cheese, aargh cottage cheese, kurut curd and sarzhak melted butter. Since the introduction of more productive breeds at the end of the 1990’s there have been problems with the quality standards of araga because traditional milk production is now limited to a very small number of animals.