In celebration of the most needed happy hour of the week, we're launching a new column called “Monday, Five Thirty” that will take a look at different vices from around the world, specifically boozes and beers unique to a destination. For this inaugural run, we zip over to Estonia for a taste of its infamous Vana Tallinn.
Estonia is a relatively new country, having gained its independence from Russia just over twenty years ago in 1991. Its most wide-scale attraction, Old Town Tallinn, looks like it should be on the top of a wedding cake with its medieval castles, and our sis HotelChatter dished on some of its properties, including one where the KGB literally bugged the hell out of its guests.
We’re here to talk about booze, though, and the segue is in the name: "Old Tallinn" in Estonian is "Vana Tallinn," which happens to be the name of the country's flagship liqueur. It is marketed as if it is some ancient remedy, but the truth is that it was created in the 1960s, and there seems to be little historical context other than good marketing linking the drink to the city. Despite that, if you asked a resident what they think the local drink is, the answer will be Vana Tallinn 9 times out of 10.
A rum-based booze with spices of cinnamon, anise, and vanilla, it tastes to us like a cherry-flavored Sambuca and flows with a similar viscosity. You can drink it neat, on the rocks, in coffee, or as the locals like to do, with milk, especially after dinner. This results in a taste similar to a cherry-vanilla milkshake, and although we do enjoy it this way, we noticed it takes a lot more self control to sip – the milk makes it go down easy.
Three different octanes are available depending on how hard you want to party: 40% (80 proof), 45% (90 proof), and 50% (100 proof). Be careful with the latter -- most liquors (such as Sambuca) are between 80 and 90 proof. You can now find it in the States, but it certainly isn't easy to come by. According to its distributor's website, you can buy it in Illinois, New York, Colorado and Massachusetts, and via special order through state liquor stores in North Carolina and Washington State.
For those in the above regions, it's not a bad bottle to have on hand for your next dinner party.