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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cabbage Juice Cure-All Goes Commercial




With many Muscovites gearing up for nine days of May fun over the approaching holidays, a local brewer is betting it can cash in at both ends of the party spectrum by launching a mass produced version of that traditional hangover cure - rassol.


Generations of this country's notoriously overindulgent drinkers have sworn by rassol - traditionally the fermented brine left over from salted cucumbers or tomatoes - as the best cure going for a hangover.


And next week, the Ochakovo brewery's version of rassol will hit the shelves of city stores at 10 rubles (35 cents) per 0.33 liter can. Considering the company's wide existing range of alcoholic drinks - beer, cider, mixed drinks and vodka - the company can perhaps now claim to be able to satisfy a hard drinker's every need; from that first intoxicating sip the night before to the groaning rush for relief the morning after.


"Now our lineup is complete: We produce soda, beer, vodka and rassol," said Ivan Strizhakov, Ochakovo's deputy director, at a Thursday press conference to launch the new product.


The brewery has decided to trample on tradition when it comes to the recipe for its hangover cure, a lightly carbonated, salty brew made from salted cabbage juice rather than cucumbers or tomatoes and hence the name Rassol Ochakovsky Kapustny. The one nod toward tradition seems to be the cabbage leaves depicted on the can, which are curled paisley-style: paisley patterns are called ogurets, Russian for cucumber.


While some inveterate drinkers may be reluctant to try a cabbage-based rassol, a spokeswoman for Ochakovo - which spent $1 million to set up production of its newest beverage line - defended the brewery's recipe as providing the best mix of solid tradition and scientific research.


"Cabbage is a better vegetable, rich in various vitamins and micro elements" said Ochakovo brewery spokeswoman Galina Grekova.


And it has economic at tractions, too. "It's cheaper and can be preserved longer," Grekova said.


Valery Chumachenko, a doctor with the Korsky Psychiatric Clinic of the Moscow Medical Academy, said that a lot of people swear by rassol, even though it does not help all those who drink it.


"Everything depends on the degree of the hangover - a light hangover can be cured with rassol," said Chumachenko.


Cabbage rassol contains elements such as sodium, potassium and magnesium, which, along with vitamin C, help the body to rehydrate after a night of heavy drinking has dehydrated it.


However, no doctor would seriously prescribe or recommend rassol as a remedy, he said.


"There is another side to the matter," he added. "If you start suffering from hangovers, that means you have started having problems with alcohol, and it's time for a visit to the doctor - no rassol, cabbage or cucumber, will help."


Ochakovo's rassol has a salty taste and the beetroot juice added to the cabbage juice base gives it a rosy color. The drink - which also contains water, unspecified spices and sugar - should be consumed chilled, the company says.


The beverage will be marketed under a slogan, "Vernis k Zhizni" or "Return to Life," that is suggestive of rassol's reputation as a hangover cure. However, with its high vitamin content, the company is hoping its healthy properties will make Ochakovo rassol a favorite with people, "indifferent to alcohol," said deputy director Strizhakov, who is also head of quality control at the brewery.


Rassol will be available next week in Ochakovo's Ryabinka kiosks in western Moscow, and at the Perekryostok and Sedmoi Kontinent supermarket chains, Grekova said.


Talk of launching rassol production had been floating around at the brewery ever since it opened in 1978, although it was thought prudent not to push ahead with the idea in the 1980s when Mikhail Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign was in full swing, said Strizhakov.


The rassol production line - a retooled beer production line - will put out an initial run of 30,000 liters of the beverage over the next month. It will then shut down until August, when a new crop of fresh cabbage is due to arrive, Grekova said.


It took Ochakovo two years to develop a rassol recipe for commercial production, gain regulatory approval and then set up manufacturing facilities.


The brewery plans to produce 1 million liters of rassol by the end of the year, Grekova said. That's a mere drop compared to the 2.5-billion-liter ocean of alcoholic beverages consumed in this country, according to the Russian Statistics Agency.


In addition to rassol, Ochakovo, produces 60 brands of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks including the traditional Russian beverages, kvas and medovukha.


Ochakovo's newest beverage is not the first attempt to manufacture rassol commercially. St. Petersburg businessman Andrei Fatkhullin licensed a rassol trademark in 1994 and began production. But after his company produced 240,000 cans, Fatkhullin abandoned the project due to lack of funds.


Grekova said Fatkhullin approached Ochakovo with his recipe, but that the factory found it to be unacceptable.