There are two major stereotypes that exist about Iran today. One is the stereotype of the apocalyptic ‘merica hating Islamic Republic, which bears little or no semblance to reality. And the other is the stereotype of the binge drinking, designer drug using, sex crazed, %70 under the age of 30 atheist Iran, which bears way fucking more of a semblance to reality than the previous stereotype, even if it’s blown considerably out of proportion.
Like any other country there is a plethora of different lifestyles that exist in Iran, some more alcohol friendly than others. However, there is no question that a large slice of the Iranian population loves the sauce, the higher end the better (it is a country full of rock stars after all). The only problem is that alcohol is illegal in Iran. This makes life a little difficult, and expensive for Iran’s highly active party maniacs and casual Black Label conniseurs. So if you’re going to venture into Iran (which I highly recommend you do, as you’ll never meet a friendlier cluster of people), it might be worth knowing the ins and outs of Iranian alcohol consumption
First off, allow me to reiterate: ALCOHOL IS ILLEGAL IN IRAN (that’s why this article is interesting). No matter how ‘normal’ alcohol may seem to you, possession of alcohol in Iran carries heavier legal penalties than some drugs. So consider consuming and possessing alcohol in Iran to be just as risky as consuming and possessing illegal narcotics in any other country. And, while considering this, remember that while Iran is quite possibly the most welcoming country on the planet, its prisons might be some of the most un-welcoming on the planet, so be careful. Also, trafficking of alcohol carries the death penalty (sorry you duty free bargain hunters), so don’t even let the thought cross your mind to take home some of that home-made-in-the-bathtub-with-questionable ingredients Armenian brandy.
Know an Armenian
This now brings us to the alcohol itself. If you’re hanging with a bunch of students, about to go to an underground rock show on the outskirts of Tehran and you’re looking for a quick fix for a somewhat reasonable amount of money (like say 30$), the students will probably tell you to “call your Armenian.” Basically what this means is call Hayk or Surouj or whatever the hell that Armenian dude with the 20 bathtubs in his house’s name is.
Know a Kurd
If the whole homemade alcohol thing isn’t doing it for you and you want a little more quality in your glass, you might want to dial up a friendly contact from Iran’s Kurdish ethnic minority (you know, the guys with the really baggy pants). While most Kurds are officially “Muslim” under the laws of the Islamic Republic, they have a geographic advantage when it comes to obtaining alcohol: the Kurdish regions of Iran border the Kurdish regions of Iraq, where high quality alcohol is sold everywhere and is cheaper than a lot of places in Europe. Factor in a few donkey’s, some crates, a porous unmarked mountain border, and official corruption and voila you have yourself an underground alcohol smuggling network.
This underground network means that high quality alcohol like Johnny Walker Black Label whiskey or Grey Goose vodka is easily available with the right contacts and the right amount of money (like say $80-$100+). Even if you don’t want high-end stuff (it can be nice to drink anything from a sealed bottle and not risk alcohol blindness) you can call your trusty Kurd. From what I’ve seen, buying black market alcohol in Iran is a lot like chipping in to buy illegal fireworks or a dimebag with your friends in high school. Everyone pools their allowance and one of the more badass friends calls his badass older brother, who then calls his ‘friend.’ 5 allowances and brown bag later you’re sitting in the forest shitfaced. If that sounds too high school for you, don’t worry, they can deliver to your door. This is one of the most preferred methods in use today and somehow one of the most reassuring.
Be aware, however, that at the end of the day, the underground network is a criminal network, even if you and I don’t consider buying and selling alcohol criminal. Some of the characters you would be purchasing from are not the most savory of people. In reality, they will quite likely not even be Kurdish, even if the bottle was initially smuggle by a Kurd, or his donkey. By the time the bottle makes it to Tehran, Esfahan, or fucking Qom it is probably being hustled by some savvy gangster or moonlighting police officer who it’s best not to be friends with. Mind the illegality.
Know a Jew
However, while Iranian Jews are allowed to openly consume alcohol I would recommend looking elsewhere. Iranian Jews are not particularly into the alcohol trade and probably wouldn’t appreciate a nosy foreigner asking the rabbi for some kosher firewater. If you must, there is apparantly a Jewish antiques dealer in Tehran, a guy named Moses Baba, who (apparently) loves feeding vodka to foreigners and showing them pictures of bikini-clad women (also outlawed by the Islamic Republic). But beyond that, take your search elsewhere.
Know 4 out of 5 people
If you meet the right people (again, a very easy thing to do) you will likely find yourself thrust into an underworld of parties, live shows, creative music, and yes, alcohol. If you go about it this way, you minimize the risk to yourself and those around you and you also enjoy the company of drinking buddies. It is quite frankly straight up retarded to find an Armenian, Kurd, or Jew on the street and ask them if they have alcohol. It’s dangerous for you and them. Leave it to your new Iranian friends and always proceed with caution.
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