A few years ago my American friend told me about this drink that you can only get in Kyrgyzstan. I was thrilled to try it, but that was before I knew what it was. We walked the streets of Bishkek, the capital city, and we approached a stand where the local drink is sold. “Makseem” is the name of the drink. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My friend bought me a small cup. I looked at it with a slight disgust. “Is it supposed to be brown?” I asked. “Yes, it is,” he answered, “You might want to drink it slowly.” I looked deep into the murky mystery liquid and took a deep breath. I tightened my stomach and took one small drink.
It was hard to swallow. The taste was sour, bitter, slightly chunky, fermented, and “brown.” I have never tasted anything like it. I looked at my friend with a confused look on my face. “People drink this?” I blurted out. “All day,” he replied. I was shocked, trying to understand that this was no joke. I looked all around and everyone around me had a cup of Makseem. I couldn’t believe it. I let the thought sink in as my tongue licked the roof of my mouth.
It’s been 5 years since I first tried Makseem. It took me almost 4 weeks to acquire a taste for it. It’s a drink that is served in local homes in Kyrgyzstan. The cup that I had is from a local company that mass produces it to sell in the streets and in stores. Now, every time I have a chance to drink Makseem, I never pass it up. It’s one of my favorite drinks in the world, oddly enough. One memory came to mind when I first drank this bizarre beverage. I remember joking with my friend and said, “We are not in America anymore, are we?” He looked at me with a huge grin on his face “No, we are not.”