Tucked away in East and Central Asia, Mongolia, known for its vast rugged landscapes and the iconic Gobi Desert, is a country steeped in tradition. While fermented mare’s milk, or ‘airag’, may be the nation’s beloved alcoholic beverage, Mongolia boasts a collection of non-alcoholic drinks that reflect its nomadic and pastoral culture. Here are the top five non-alcoholic cocktails that are a must-try when visiting the Land of the Eternal Blue Sky.
- Suutei Tsai (Milk Tea): A ubiquitous drink in Mongolia, Suutei Tsai is a savory milk tea made by boiling water with crushed green tea leaves, salt, and milk. Often enjoyed with a side of traditional bread or fried dough, it’s the quintessential Mongolian beverage for every occasion. For an authentic taste, try it with sheep or yak milk!
- Airag (Non-fermented version): While the alcoholic version of airag, fermented mare’s milk, is widely consumed, a non-alcoholic variant exists that’s just as delightful. Fresh mare’s milk is mildly acidic, creamy, and sweet, offering a distinct flavor profile. It’s a refreshing and nutritious drink best savored chilled.
- Clotted Cream Hot Chocolate: Inspired by Mongolia’s dairy-rich diet, this indulgent drink fuses traditional clotted cream, or ‘örtög’, with rich cocoa. The clotted cream is melted into warm milk, followed by the addition of cocoa powder and a touch of sugar. This decadent blend is both a treat for the senses and a nod to Mongolia’s pastoral heritage.
- Aaruul Smoothie: Aaruul, or dried curd, is a staple in the Mongolian diet. This smoothie incorporates the tangy flavor of aaruul with the sweetness of local fruits like sea buckthorn berries. To prepare, blend aaruul with mixed fruits, yogurt, and a touch of honey, creating a delightful mix of traditional and modern tastes.
- Sea Buckthorn Juice: Native to Mongolia, sea buckthorn berries are packed with nutrients and antioxidants. The juice, derived from these bright orange berries, is a tart and invigorating drink, often sweetened with honey or sugar. Apart from its delightful taste, it’s celebrated for its numerous health benefits.
Mongolia’s non-alcoholic beverages offer a unique insight into the country’s pastoral and nomadic way of life. From the customary suutei tsai to the innovative aaruul smoothie, each drink tells a story of tradition, nature, and survival in the vast steppes and deserts. As you embark on a journey across the Mongolian plains or enjoy a cozy evening in a ger (traditional tent), take a moment to indulge in these beverages. They are not just flavors but experiences, providing a tangible connection to Mongolia’s rich heritage and the warmth of its people. As you relish each sip, immerse yourself in the Mongolian ethos of harmony with nature and community.