Legally speaking, yes! You can chug down any alcoholic beverage in Azerbaijan, besides a few exceptions (as long as you’re older than 18). Azerbaijan is a predominantly Muslim country; however, this secular nation is acclaimed for its hospitality and inclusiveness.
In fact, the country has a rich history of brewing, and there are many excellent alcoholic beverages you can relish in the nation. In this guide, we will dive into the legal and social aspects of drinking in Azerbaijan and look at some of its historically noteworthy drinks.
The Government’s Stance
The State of Azerbaijan has a neutral stance on drinking, with only a few critical regulations. Like most countries, it requires retailers to ask for ID from their customers so minors can be kept in check. The legal drinking age is 18 years old for both men and women.
Alcohol is a common beverage, widely available at restaurants and stores nationwide. However, to sell alcohol, these businesses must first acquire a license.
Furthermore, the government exercises strict laws regarding public safety hazards caused by drinking, so tread cautiously if you plan to drink. Some notable predicaments to stay away from are:
Driving Under the Influence
Most countries worldwide will allow you to drive with a BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) of less than 0.08%. In Azerbaijan, having even a tiny amount of alcohol in the blood can have legal consequences (yes, even a BAC of 0.02%).
Disorderly Conduct while Intoxicated
The people of Azerbaijan are very upright with their public decorum. So refrain from getting highly drunk, conducting yourself inappropriately, and troubling others with loud and aggressive behavior, public fighting, public urination, indecent exposure, harassment, and vandalism. These acts are likely to trigger people to call security on you.
Disobeying Local Laws
It is imperative to be aware of and adhere to rules and social norms that apply in certain places. Religious grounds, like mosques, are a few places to avoid drinking or carrying alcohol inside.
Social Norms and Beliefs
Although Azerbaijan is a Muslim nation and drinking alcohol is against the people’s religious beliefs, religion is mainly seen as a private matter. In fact, a considerable chunk of Azeris do not describe themselves as religious. However, avoid gifting alcohol when visiting someone in the country, as it seems presumptuous and might offend them.
Where to Avoid Drinking in Azerbaijan
Although we have established a general idea of the social norm of the country, here is a more thorough list of no-go zones for drinking alcohol in the country.
Religious Sites (Mosques and Religious Schools)
The country is known to respect people’s choice for drinking. Thus, it is essential to not consume or carry alcohol in religious settings, as this may be seen as offensive toward the beliefs of some people.
While the urban areas are often green zones for drinking, certain villages in the country still follow a strict religious code, which means you need to be extra careful about the local customs of these areas. It is best to research the area before visiting to avoid altercations.
Social norms for sobriety are often stressed in educational settings, and it is best to avoid taking intoxicants inside these areas (Schools, Universities).
Public Spaces during Prayer Times and Ramadan
It is advisable to refrain from drinking during prayer times as it may offend some people. Additionally, during the holy month of Ramadan, sobriety norms are to be upheld to a higher degree. This is observed with many stores and restaurants ceasing to provide alcohol during the month.
Popular Beverages in Azerbaijan
The country’s population has impeccable taste in alcoholic beverages, with most stores and bars boasting a vast range of alcoholic drinks with diverse roots. Take a look at the following choices popular in the country.
Buza or Boza (Beer)
A traditional drink popular in the South Caucasus, especially in Azerbaijan, Buza is a fermented beer with a relatively low ABV (alcohol by volume) of 1% to 5%. It is a popular drink in the country; most people pair it with traditional cuisine. It is manufactured from processing grains (like wheat), giving it a characteristic tangy hint.
It truly represents the country’s flavors when it comes to alcohol, being served on festivities and special occasions, symbolizing gratification, evident of the country’s rich history of winemaking.
Azeri Chahar Chahur – Azeri Wine
A unique Azeri beverage made with crushed fruits, like figs and mulberries, is fermented for forty days and should be consumed in the following 40 days for optimal experience. Interestingly, “Chahar Chahur” translates to “40 and 40,” signifying the brewing process.
The Azeri wine is often shared as a symbol of friendship and hospitality, helping people foster new relationships and bonds. Additionally, it also holds cultural significance, usually being served in rituals and ceremonies like weddings, birthdays, and social gatherings.
The Soviet/Russian influence in Azerbaijan led to the adoption of numerous Western-styled drinks, including vodka. While less ingrained in the culture than other options on our list, it is nonetheless prevalent.
Popular brands distributing vodka in the country include Xirdalan, Khirdalan, and Gygol Sharab.
Another customary drink in Azerbaijan, Araka, is a distilled spirit that holds significant cultural value in the country. It has a unique solid flavor, often attributed to its high alcohol content with an ABV of 40% to 60%.
Comparable to the Italian Grappa, this beverage is made from traditional fruits like grapes and has many local variations in the country, with every brewery offering something unique to its customers.
Western Styled Alcohols
In the contemporary world, the country has seen quite an increase in the flow of foreign beverages, catering to the general population as well as the people visiting from the outside.
You can usually find popular Western beverages such as whiskey, rum, and spirits side by side with the traditional options.
The country of Azerbaijan is known for its many exquisite alcoholic beverages like Araka and Buza, with unique flavor profiles. These beverages are often served at local stores, bars, pubs, and diners, despite religious beliefs.
The country’s drinking habits are primarily shaped by its geographics, with Russia and Turkey playing a significant role. While the government keeps religion out of legal matters, it is vital to be considerate of the beliefs of the native people and avoid altercations by causing inconveniences for the locals.
I am a passionate beer connoisseur with a deep appreciation for the art and science of brewing. With years of experience tasting and evaluating various beers, I love to share my opinions and insights with others and I am always eager to engage in lively discussions about my favorite beverage.