Latgale is buzzing with moonshine as Šmakovka Museum opens

The Šmakovka (moonshine) Museum in Daugavpils opened up on the weekend, inviting connoisseurs from across the world to taste authentic Latgalian homebrew and look at state-of-the-art ways of making the stiff aquavit, reported Latvian Radio's Silvija Smagare Sunday.

The museum had been in planning for six years. It houses moonshine stills alongside an exhibition dedicated to the drink.

Rows erupted at the opening over how the moonshine should be named. It turns out šmakovka comes in names as different as the ways of making it. 

Guests are welcome to taste the brew while visiting.

"The traditional šmakovka has the best reviews so far. Some claim they don't like the Tarhun of Latgale, a green-colored drink with lemon balm. But many like the oak šmakovka, which is made from apples and held in oak barrels," said Valdis Ozols 

The drink is called kandža in western Latvia, formerly dzimtenīte in Latgale and now Šmakovka. Other names include ļurga, samagonka, and others more poetic, like "the sobs of the women", and "the sobs of ditches".

There are many ways of making it, too. "The real šmakovka is a drink that's made from different local products grown here. It's corn, peas, potatoes. The end product has to be held in oak barrel for at least three to six months," said local tourism expert Lolita Kozlovska.

At the moment the šmakovka available for tasting is being shipped here from the nearby Sēlija region where about a ton of the stuff is made each year. This šmakovka is made from wine.

It remains to be seen whether tourists will be as enthusiastic in visiting the museum as Latvians have been in naming the strong drink.

While with an illicit history, the šmakovka at the museum is made with a license and safe for consumption provided it's done responsibly.

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