Jul 23, 2023 - Food and Drink

4 international drinks you can try in Chicago

A woman holds up a plastic bottle of Maksym.
Kyrgyzstan native Nurzhamal Mahkmatalieva says Maksym, "will kill thirstiness in hot weather and it's great with [sour yogurt balls called] kurut." Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Even though we've enjoyed a pretty cool summer so far, we know that could change in a minute.

  • So, just to be prepared, I talked to international friends and scoured the city to find secret weapons: global thirst quenchers that I'd never tried before.

Pennywort juice, Vietnam

A plastic cup of green pennywort juice.
Pennywort drink from Pho Loan. Photo: Monica Eng/ Axios

Where to get it: Pho Loan in Uptown for $5.

What it's like: This drink made with the leaves of the pennywort plant offers very sweet and slightly grassy notes in a drink believed to balance body heat during summer months.

Best for: People looking for a sweet, smooth beverage. To cut the sweetness, I added lots of lime and soda water.

  • Next time I might go with the salty Vietnamese lemonade called soda chanh muoi ($7) instead.

Doogh, Afghanistan

A glass cup of purple-colored Doogh.
Doogh at Helmand. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Where to get it: Helmand in Albany Park for $2.50.

What it's like: Popular in Iran and Afghanistan, this salty yogurt-based drink features strings of cucumber, a sprinkle of mint and sometimes a splash of fizzy water.

Best for: People who like tzatziki, buttermilk or plain kefir over ice.

Masala soda, India

A plastic cup of orange masala soda with fresh cut lines on the side.
Masala soda from Delhi Darbar. Photo: Monica Eng/ Axios

Where to get it: Delhi Darbar for $3.49.

What it's like: The drink starts with a Sprite-like South Asian soda that can be custom garnished with black salt, cumin, lime and a mix of spices called "chaat masala."

Best for: People who enjoy sweet and salty Gatorade-like drinks with South Asian spices.

  • I personally found it too sweet and want to try it with plain seltzer instead of a sweet soda next time.

Maksym Shoro, Kyrgyzstan

A milky jug of Maksym Shoro, next to a glass.
Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Where to get it: The Kyrgyz pop-up store in the Wrigley Building for $20 per one-liter bottle.

What it's like: Made of fermented corn, wheat, barley and millet, this popular Kyrgyz drink delivers fizzy, salty and refreshingly sour top notes with a roasted — almost burnt popcorny — finish.

  • Often made at home or for bazaars, Maksym in this big commercial form was considered one of the entrepreneurial success stories of post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan.

Best for: Adventurous drinkers who like plain kefir and other salty grainy fermented beverages.


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