Airag "Mares Milk"

Airag, or Ayrag, is the traditional Mongolian fermented mare's milk. Mongolian traditional making of Airag is listed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List. 

Horses have always been one of the most vital parts of the Mongolian nation. And as you can see, they are not only used for riding. Since ancient times, Mongolians have found a way to make an alcoholic spirit from the milk of mares, and this drink has quickly become one of our most popular ones.

Traditional technique of making Airag in Khokhuur and its associated customs includes the traditional method of making airag – a fermented beverage made from mare’s milk – and the related equipment, such as the khokhuur (cowhide vessel), buluur (paddle) and khovoo (kibble), associated with the social customs and rituals. 

The khokhuur and related equipment are made by individuals with centuries-old knowledge and skills, and the skills required for preparing and maintaining the yeast are also particularly important. A nutritious and easily digestible beverage, airag is an important part of the daily diet of Mongolians and has also been proven to be effective for curing certain diseases. It also plays an essential role as a symbolic beverage in the daily lives of herders and various social celebrations: airag is used and served as a key holy drink during various fests and in offerings and ritual blessings. Bearers and practitioners inherit the related traditional practices and knowledge from their parents, which has kept the tradition alive for thousands of years.

The basic airag-making technique consists of milking the mares, cooling the fresh milk, and repeatedly churning it inside the khokhuur – over 500 times – with starter left inside to assist fermentation.

Mongolians make this delicious low percentage (2%) alcoholic drink by filtering the mare's milk through a cloth and pouring it into an open leather sack called Khukhuur. This is the usual, traditional method, but sometimes, Mongolians use a vat from larch wood called Gan, or they simply use plastic.

The next step is to stir the milk with Buluur – a wooden masher. The stirring needs to be repeated many times throughout the day for one or two days. Traditionally, the Mongols place the Khukhuur next to the entrance of the ger, so anyone entering or leaving the ger can give the drink a stir.

You can purchase a traditional mares milk from our partner in Chicago, click here.