The magic drink of Latvia is Balsam and I drank it!

The mighty Latvian sausage in Riga.

Right now, I’m running around like a headless chicken because I’m in Spain.

In Baaaaaarcelona.

OK. That’s not entirely true.

I’m really at a seaside resort on the Costa Brava. A place called Lloret de Mar.

But I spent a lovely day in Barcelona too, but more about that in a few weeks LOL!

So last week I wrote a lovely post about how gorgeous I found Latvia to be, and with the help of Linda the Irish Queen, the post ran through Facebook like wildfire. My post went live on Monday and on Tuesday I had 4,000 hits for the day.

On Wednesday, I had almost 7,500 hits on the day alone! And it kept on growing.

Latvia was the gift that just kept on giving.

I couldn’t believe it.

I am amazed at how many people, in this case, the Latvian people, really loved my post.


Thank you so much everyone!

So for those of you who don’t know and are coming to The British Berliner for the very first time, we were on an independent trip around the Baltic Region. This journey was an adventure of fifteen (15) days in total:

  • Three (3) days in Vilnius (Lithuania).
  • Three (3) days in Riga (Latvia).
  • Three (3) days in Tallinn (Estonia).
  • Two (2) days in (Helsinki) Finland.
  • One (1) more day in Tallinn (Estonia) again.

This is what I have written about them so far:

A European Capital of Culture.
A European Capital of Culture.

We travelled around the above four (4) countries by coach-bus and we were extremely lucky to be on a part-sponsorship of the largest international express route coach-bus operator in the Baltic region. An Estonian company called Lux Express, taking us through the Baltic Region by road from Germany, all the way through to Estonia, and back again!

And why?

Basically because the region has not really been discovered by tourists and travellers, and I’m also slightly eccentric LOL!

The Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland are countries based in Europe and their capital cities have stories of richness, history and grandeur, unspoilt by the full-board package set and the larger louts of stag and hen nights. They are sparsely populated, and not your typical cheap and friendly destination.

My mantra has always been, why not?

That’s why!

And quite frankly, even though you might have heard a whisper of these countries, nobody really knows anything about them, and hardly anyone you know, has actually been there.

It’s time to change all that.

Photo@ J-O Eriksson

When I said that Riga was beautiful, I absolutely meant it!

And that included the food.

Do you remember the musical number from Oliver Twist:

“Food, glorious food!
We’re anxious to try it.
Three banquets a day
Our favooooooourite diet!”

You can find what I wrote about food in other countries right here but food from Latvia was something else.


Being that Riga and therefore, Latvia is in an unknown part of the world, it stands to reason that it’s food and drink culture would be similar so.

So now that you know how fascinating I find food posts, here comes the feast of Latvia!


Exotic seafood in Riga, Latvia.

The item above my good man, was breakfast.

Yes, breakfast. And let me just say, it was one of the best part breakfast items we ever had on our journey, and not because it was most unusual, even though it was, but because it was seafood.

In this case fish.

I loooooove fish!

But just look at that dish above. Is it not just delish? As I write this piece, my mouth is watering and I’m trying quite hard not to swallow my spittle!

It’s a wonderful plate of salmon with a dollop of mustard and dill creamy sauce, flakes of smoked herring, radishes, green peppers, baby pickled onions and bean sprouts!

Do you see what I mean?

Breakfast in Riga, Latvia.

The dish above (if you’re vegetarian or vegan, don’t look!) is a plate of grilled sausages, slices of bacon, peas, cucumber, peppers, sweet corn, radishes, onions and tomato ketchup.

This delicious wonder was part of the very generous breakfast buffet served by our rather lovely four-star boutique hotel  –  Hotel Justus. As I told you last week, Hotel Justus is located right within the architectural UNESCO protected area, and has just 48 rooms designed to embrace the architectural charm and historical delight of Riga.

Small enough to feel intimate and large enough to get all the benefits of a well-run boutique hotel.

Cost – Nothing at all. Included as part of the sleeping overnight fee!

A slice of toasty and a pasty in Riga, Latvia.

A slice of buttery toasty and a pastry.


Cost – A part of the breakfast package!


You all know how I very much like soup.

It was raining buckets and we found a tiny little bar/restaurant in which we were pretty much the only guests. Well, we decided to try something different.

Green soup from Riga, Latvia.

We had this green soup and a basket of brown bread.

It was absolutely awful. I felt as if I wanted to vomit and then I asked what exactly it was.

It was hemp! What the ?!&%!!


I didn’t choose another starter!

Cost – Between €1 – €2.00.

Shredded cabbage and pickles in Riga, Latvia.

We were introduced to the Riga Central Market and we absolutely loved it.

We liked it so much that we came back again the next day! Markets are such good ways to find the culture of a people. In fact, markets are really good ways to find the people! They’re all at the markets hanging out LOL!

Above you can see shredded cabbage and pickles.

Carrots, turnips, swede, spring onions, shallots and other strange vegetables found at the farmers’ food market in Riga, Latvia.

Carrots, turnips, swede, spring onions, shallots and other strange vegetables found at the farmers’ food market. Does anyone know what the purple round vegetable is, or is a beet? Beetroot perhaps?!

A basket of soft home-made herb bread with a sort of green olive sauce in Riga, Latvia.

A basket of soft home-made herb bread with a sort of green olive sauce. It was classified as “soup of the day” but was completely scrummy!

Cost – €1.50


Suckling pig in Riga, Latvia.

Oh yeah baby!

We went to this really nice place called Folkklubs Ala Sia.

Let me just tell you that the lip-smacking meal above is a 24 hour sautéed suckling pig! A suckling pig rolled onto crispy smoked pork potato mash, spring greens, crumbled traditional country cheese, oven baked tomatoes and a sautéed sauce.

Cost – €7.60.

Flounder fillet in Riga, Latvia.

Flounder fillet sprinkled with onions and bean sprouts combined with pan-seared asparagus and cauliflower puree served with creamy-Riga-sparkling-wine sauce!

Cost – €16.50.

 lovely meal of pork (?), red cabbage, some gravy in Riga, Latvia.This meal was from the little place that I can’t remember. There was nobody there but it didn’t really disturb us as by this time, we just wanted to find a place, chill out, eat and relax and the guy at the bar was pretty friendly so we did just that!

After the disgusting soup of hemp, we ordered this lovely meal of pork (?), red cabbage, some gravy and a side salad of felt salad which you recall in the Czech Republic, seems to be very common in this part of the world!

Cost – I can’t remember!


how much I like the sausage!

You know how much I like the sausage! Well, “The Tall Young Gentleman” had a wonderful meal of grilled pork sausages, white cabbage, mashed potatoes and a couple of tomato slices. Delish!

Cost – If only I could remember where we ate it!


a spicy tomato and cream dip!

Followed by a spicy tomato and cream dip!

Cost – Dip! Dip! Dip!


Because caviar. In Riga, Latvia.

Because caviar.

OMG. I don’t know if it was the real stuff but we constantly saw prices at the Riga Central Market that would pop your eyes out!

But look at that trout. See how fresh it is.

It was so fresh that we constantly saw batches of live seafood wriggling around, freshly caught.

The Music Producer was a little upset that the fish would feel the pain of life coming to an end, and would suffer. What do you think?

Cost for the caviar – You really don’t want to know. Even in Latvia! Cost for the trout – €7.90!



A cupcake and a muffin!

As I said earlier, we went back to the Riga Central Market and discovered a hell of a lot more delightful little things such as:

A strawberry cream tart covered with flakes of strawberry icing and a custard-covered muffin with a sprinkling of hundreds and thousands!

Cost €0.28 & €0.26 respectively.

Cream puffs in Latvia, Riga.

Pastry cones filled with cream.

Cost – €0.36.


Sugary puffs filled with clotted custard cream and covered with castor sugar in Riga, Latvia.

Sugary puffs filled with clotted custard cream and covered with castor sugar.

Cost – €0.26


Cupcakes in Riga, Latvia.

Not at the Riga Central Market but we had them for breakfast! I have included it here as cupcakes aren’t really for the first meal of the day unless you live on the Continent where they follow the philosophy, “If it’s nice. Include it in the breakfast buffet” school of thought LOL!

Cost – Dream on!



The delights of a Latvian brewery.

We went to a really jolly place called “Vina Teatris” or Peter’s Brewhouse. The brewery is known as the only one of it’s kind in the Old Town and is locally owned and operated.

It was our last night so we decided to go for it and really get into the delights of Latvian breweries.

I drink beer but I’m not a strong beer-drinker as one beer in the summer sun and I’m dancing on a festival float! Hand me one sugary glühwein and I go flat on the floor!

Just give me a couple of glasses of bubbly, nice fruity cocktails, a couple of ice-cold vodka shots and you’ve got a badge of approval by The British Berliner!

The Music Producer ordered the “Beer Tasting” set of three (3) beers which came with a huge bowl of aniseed.

We didn’t know what to do with it so we chewed it anyway LOL!

Cost – €7.50

My glass of wine and the seeds in Riga, Latvia.
My glass of wine and the seeds!

Cost – €3.60


The Latvian Balsam.

So Riga Black Balsam is a traditional herbal liqueur similar to the Czech Becherovka and is made with lots of ingredients mixed into vodka and other stuff!

I decided to “treat” my husband to the delights of a Latvian speciality – the Latvian Balsam. Now, I had heard so much about it in fact, Heather from Ferreting Out the Fun had even gone on a tour of how to make it. We didn’t have time to do such frolics so I thought taking a few shots would be the next best thing. We went to a “tourist” place called As Lido or Alus Sēta.

I was up for an adventure so the bar man gave me two varieties: the real balsam and the blackcurrant one.

I tasted the blackcurrant one and it was quite OK and then we decided to go for the original one too.


And oh no.

Not swallow!

Throw up!

I’m sorry to say this, but the original balsam was bloody awful!

We couldn’t believe it.

Was it an acquired taste like oysters? (I love oysters!).

Did you have to drink it in a particular way like tequila? Ha! I have stories I could tell. But not today LOL!

Or was it that we just didn’t like it?

Ah well!

Cost – €1.30


Riga Black Balsam.

Well, that’s it. I told you that the food in Latvia was fascinating. Go see for yourself and if you have any questions or need any help, let me know!

This article is not sponsored, but all opinions and the wonderful cupcakes and seafood that I was fascinated by, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you.

Stay tuned!

Next week, I’ll be writing about the very interesting Estonia and what we did in Tallinn, Estonia with the help of the Tallinn Card, what the view was like on the ferry crossing from Estonia to Finland with TALLINK SLJA LINE and what we thought about Helsinki in Finland!

Eddie Izzard will be back in Germany and will be front-lining a killer international night of comedy at the Admirals Palast on 08.05.15.

The Berlin Music Video Awards will be taking place from May 27.05.15 – 30.05.15. Anybody can apply!

The Berlin Fashion Film Festival will be taking place on 05.06.15.

I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you’re not in Berlin right now, then you ought to!

May is going to be exciting.

Watch this space!


A pig's snout!

Have you ever been to Riga? Would you ever try a pig’s snout or would you stick with Riga Black Balsam?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, or send me an Email:

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29 Comments on “The magic drink of Latvia is Balsam and I drank it!

  1. Oh come on, the balsams isn’t that bad! Granted, the original is rather, um, potent, but the currant version is a delight – I went in for seconds and added some to my cappuccino the next morning! (yes, that’s how I start my mornings on vacation).

    • Aaaaanna! It was awful althought the current balsam was somewhat manageable. It tasted a bit like blood tonic LOL! However, you have cappuccino to look forward to. I, on the other hand, don’t drink coffee. Somehow, I don’t think a cup of tea has that inner edge! 🙂

  2. Latvia is famous for its lampreys, sweet-and-sour bread, caraway cheese and beer –the beer made in Latvia is especially varying in its taste – no two brands are alike. –

  3. I did try to warn you about the Balsams 😉 I want a photo of your face at the moment you tried to swallow it!

    • Everything was delicious Phil, even if I say so myself! And yes, the sausage is king and I don’t blame ’em in the least LOL. 🙂

  4. You should have started with the original Balsam. After that bitter stuff, the currant version tastes like candy! LOL

    You certainly ate well while you were here!

    • You’re right Heather! Everybody warned us, but did we listen? Still, at least we tried it LOL! And re-the food? It was pretty good. Not as cheap as Lithuanian food but certainly far better quality. 🙂

  5. Congratulations with all the success of your Latvian posts. They are fascinating articles and it is great that you’ve caught the attention of so many.

    As for this one…yum yum yum. Yet again it is a feast for our eyes and your tummy. As for the drink, yes I think I’d stick with blackcurrant, I know I can handle that taste.

    • Thanks very much The Guy! Latvia was a wonderful surprise and so were the likes and shares. Amaaazing!
      Latvian food was really yum and even though balsam isn’t my type of tipple, I’m glad that I tried it LOL!

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