Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

An Unusual Cure for Hangovers

Long before Danone and Fruttis arrived on the scene, kefir reigned in Russia. This lumpy, watery drink is thicker than milk, with a texture less consistent than yogurt and a slightly sour but delicate taste.


Long a favorite among Russians, kefir is available in every grocery store, school and cafeteria. All that has changed is its packaging; where it used to come in bottles, it is now sold in cartons.


It is still not uncommon to see construction workers or bureaucrats enjoying a healthy lunch of white bread and kefir. Children drink kefir with a teaspoon of sugar on top. When I was little, I would mix it with jam, creating a sort of homemade yogurt.


Kefir is an excellent, thirst-quenching refreshment, especially when drunk cold. It is also renowned for relieving constipation. One of kefir's most remarkable qualities, however, is its ability to relieve hangovers. Experts say kefir has a small alcohol content, which is never noted on its cartons, but nevertheless is the source of numerous jokes. It is pretty hard to get drunk on kefir, but one woman recently confessed to me that she gives it to her 2-year-old daughter before putting her to bed so that she sleeps more soundly.


Kefir can be consumed in different ways. People often enjoy it straight or combine it with tvorog, a Russian type of cottage cheese. From here you can add either something sugary or, if you prefer, salt, black pepper and herbs.


The special set of bacteria to ferment milk for kefir was found in the Caucuses, but other countries also have their own products made out of fermented milk. The Swedes have what they call "sour milk," with a taste very similar to kefir, and the Turkmens drink chal, which is camel milk that has been fermented until it becomes pungent. I have to say I'd prefer to drink our humble but delicious kefir.