TIME FOR A TOAST
A critical element of any Georgian feast is the making of toasts, led by a toastmaster called a tamada, where alcohol is often served in a horn known as a kantsi. It usually contains the national drink, chacha, which is a sort of brandy made from the grape residue after winemaking, not unlike grappa. Flavours include tangerine, fig and—but of course—tarragon. As for the strength, figure a hefty 40% for bottles in the shops or a mind-blowing 65% for homebrew. As to the taste, Anthony Bourdain was clear when he visited Georgia: “It sounds innocuous enough. It’s not. It hurts.”
The toasting is serious business and can make dinners last for hours, as there are seemingly countless people and traditions to raise a glass to. Another element not to be missed is the beautiful, slightly melancholic polyphonic Georgian singing, predominantly by quartets of men singing a cappella. Their vocal ranges are extraordinary and many of the melodies sublime.