Black Balsams (sometimes called Riga Black Balsams after the Latvian town) is a digestif amaro invented by Abraham Kunze, an 18th century pharmacist. It is a blend of 24 secret herbs and spices -- including sweet flag, valerian, and birch buds, ages in oak barrels, and is 90 proof.
Black Balsams traditionally was used as a cold remedy. Catharine the Great of Russia was reputedly took Black Balsams and recovered from her illness.
During the Soviet era, the distillery was nationalized. The secret recipe was lost and was reformulated by Maiga Podračniece. This reforumlation was published.
Black Balsams is black in color and intensely bitter and herbal. It is slightly sweet.
Black Balsams is imported into the United States by the Baltic Trade Corporation of Denver, Colorado. For the cowardly, a 375ml bottle may be available in your area.
Some popular cocktails containing Black Balsams
- Midnight Ruby — Gin, Campari, Black Balsams, Grapefruit juice
- Schwartzwald — Gin, Black Balsams, Amaro Lucano, Lemon juice
- People's Instinctive Travels — Bourbon, Sweet vermouth, Meletti Amaro, Black Balsams, Crème de Cacao, Lemon peel
- Hemingway in Latvia — Rhum Agricole, Black Balsams, Maraschino Liqueur, Lime juice, Grapefruit juice