Moonshine and wine is but a phone call away in Islamic Iran

on 27/03/14 at 11:38 am

Booze News

Iranian Kurdish men smuggle alcohol from Iraq to Iran, where liquor is banned“Have a shot of tequila first, cheer up!” Shahriyar tells guests gathered at his luxury apartment in Tehran.

His girlfriend, Shima, said they party every weekend.

“Shahriyar has one rule: bring your booze! We drink until morning,” she told Reuters on a FaceTime call, as lights flashed to rap music in the background.

Despite the ban on alcohol and frequent police raids, drinking in Iran is widespread, especially among the wealthy. Because the Shiite-dominated Muslim state has no discotheques or nightclubs, it all takes place at home, behind closed doors.

Some of the alcohol is smuggled in, but many resourceful Iranians make their own.

“My friends and I routinely gather to stamp down on grapes in my bathtub,” said Hesam, a 28-year-old music teacher in Tehran, asking to be identified only by his first name. “It’s fun, a cleansing ritual almost.”

Some take considerable pride in their results, to the delight of their acquaintances.

“I have a friend who makes wine for his own consumption but gives me around 30 bottles per year as well,” said 36-year-old Mousa, speaking from in the central city of Isfahan.

Only members of religious minorities – Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians – are allowed to brew, distill, ferment – and drink – discreetly in the privacy of their homes, and trade in liquor is forbidden. Catholic priests make their own wine for mass.

Yet wine-making has a long history in Iran. Scientists believe Stone Age settlers in what is now Iran drank wine with their olives and bread as early as 5,000 BC.

The renowned Shiraz variety of grape, named after the city in the south of the country, is said to have been brought back to Europe by the Crusaders.

Persian poets Hafez and Omar Khayyam extolled the virtues of the grape.

“What drunkenness is this that brings me hope? Who was the cup-bearer and whence the wine?” Hafez wrote in the 14th century.

In modern Iran, the Armenian community is the main source of home-brewed spirits, notably arak, a generic variety of vodka extracted from sun-dried grapes.