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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Maria's Hooch Produces Hangover Horror Story

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In a column late last summer I told how our dacha was besieged by wasps. They penned us indoors, devoured the berries on the vine and destroyed the beehives. A real natural disaster. But my wife Maria nevertheless contrived to pack some plastic bottles with cherries, blackcurrants and raspberries, add sugar and set them out in the sunshine so that this mixture would ferment and could be used in the production of nalivka, or fruit liqueur.

Five minutes hadn't passed before the bottles were covered with a seething mass of wasps. I waited until the winged fiends had returned to their nest for the night, and then carried the bottles into the garden far from the house, hoping that Maria would forget about them. Fat chance -- as we were leaving the dacha she realized that the bottles weren't in the car. I had no choice but to pull the bottles out from under the bush where I had stashed them and put them in the car.

The bottles stood on our balcony in Moscow for some time, attracting the attention of the city's wasp population. When fall arrived, I forgot about the bottles. But Maria didn't. One day she brought them into the kitchen and with a look of triumph in her eyes, showed me two one-liter bottles of fermented fruit juice. She even let me try some, putting about 30 drops in a glass. It was so sweet I nearly choked. "Very tasty. But you can't drink it," I said, coughing.

"What do you know?" Maria said with annoyance. "You add the juice to vodka to make nalivka. It's tastier and more wholesome than the most expensive wine."

So when we next had guests over and Maria served her nalivka instead of the usual Tvishi semi-sweet Georgian wine and Stolichnaya vodka, I kept my mouth shut. I'm not a drinking man, but our guests drank up and sang my wife's praises, especially the women, who asked for the recipe. But Maria wouldn't part with her secret formula.

The next morning one of our guests called, then another and then a third. "What did you give us to drink? There's not a dog in the world whose hair could take the bite out of this hangover!"

"I don't get it!" she said as she tied a wet towel around her aching head. I added a quarter-liter of the juice to a liter of chacha that my friend from Tbilisi gave me," she said, referring to Georgian grappa.

I was floored. "A liter of chacha. Have you lost your mind? It's homemade brandy -- pure alcohol. It burns when you put a match to it!"

The next time our friends came over they all brought along a bottle of wine or vodka and set them on the table, fearing that Maria might break out the nalivka again. But I had learned my lesson and bought drinks at the store in advance.

Vladislav Schnitzer is a journalist and pensioner living in Moscow.