Kumis, the Traditional Drink of Gengis Khan and Attila the Hun

Kumis ready to be served.

Kumis ready to be served.

The drink we’re gonna discuss today is a very special one: kumis and the stronger version arkhi. It’s the beverage of the horsemen of the Central Asian steppes. You probably know the savage warriors like Attila the Hun or Gengis Khan, they were raised with this stuff. And kumis is still a popular drink in countries like Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

Now first of all both drinks do not contain a high percentage of alcohol. But since it’s that different from all other drinks it is definitely worth a try. Starting with kumis. This is a fermented dairy product, originally made from mare’s milk. Therefor a good example of the lifestyle of the ancient residents of the Asian steppes. These people were surrounded by horses since the day they were born, and as a figure of speech they rode them before they could walk. In the bare wide plains these tribes depended fully on their trusted animals. For transportation, fighting, clothing and food and drinks.

Mare’s milk contains more sugar than sheep or goat milk, of which it’s cousin kefir is made. Therefor kumis has a higher percentage of alcohol. Although with a maximum of 2,5 percent this is still negligible. This is a natural process that originally was done by keeping the milk in a cow leather bag. Things get more interesting when kumis is distilled. The result is called arkhi. For those who are interested here’s a link that describes how to do this the old fashioned Mongolian way. This way your arkhi will have a percentage of around 10 percent.

Kumis and arkhi are very different from all other drinks you know since nowhere in the process grain or fruit is being used. The flavor will probably be quite strange at first to people from ‘the Western World’. Just remember that this same drink made some tough men. The ones who caused the Migration Period between 400 and 800 AD, cause all other tribes feared them. Also the Mongols, lead by Gengis Khan, created the largest empire in the history of the world. So can’t be bad stuff than, right?!

Micky Bumbar


More stories on history, folklore and mythology

in Drinks, Historic Tales. Tags: , arkhi, attila, attila the hun, central asia, dairy product, drink, genghis khan, horse, horsemen, kazakhstan, kumis, kyrgyzstan, migration period, milk, mongolia, steppes, tribes

19 thoughts on “Kumis, the Traditional Drink of Gengis Khan and Attila the Hun

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