What you’re drinking: Kava with a kombucha back. The powdered roots of the kava plant are used as a supplement to treat anxiety and insomnia, or to get you a little loose the way a low-grade muscle relaxer might. Those are my words and definitely not those of anyone working at Kulture, where they’ll take pains to tell you not to mix kava consumption with alcohol.

How you’re drinking it: Montana state law forbids a barista (kavista?) from preparing kava for customers, according to the nice person at Kulture who told me about the available options. What they will do at Kulture is sell you a bag of powdered kava ($14 for four servings, or $15 for a small glass bottle of kava tincture) and provide you with slightly tepid water and a scoop so you can mix your own.

kulture kava

Why would you do this: If you’re familiar with herbal tinctures like motherwort or skullcap, and you find them effective, you’ll understand the appeal of kava. At coffee shops in other college towns, kava is occasionally served in a communal bowl, making it, I don’t know, the hookah of beverages. It’s like smoking clove cigarettes or taking kratom or other ancient head-shop rituals. I’m just glad such things still exist in this crazy world.

So how’s it taste? As I told a coworker, it was like spicy herbed mud, which we both agreed didn’t sound terrible. Either you’re into that or not. It will slightly numb your lips the way Szechuan pepper will, and have a pleasant mild sedative effect if you drink it on an empty stomach as recommended. I was complimented on my choice of pineapple Nourishing Cultures kombucha as a chaser, and would recommend it as a good accompaniment to the spicy herbed mud.

Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, email editor@missoulanews.com.

Staff Reporter

Susan Elizabeth Shepard lived in Missoula from 2008 to 2011 before returning in 2017 to work at the Independent. She is also a two-time resident of Austin, TX, and Portland, OR, with an interest in labor, music and sports. @susanelizabeth on Twitter.

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