For Ukrainians traditional beverages are as important as their authentic foods. Ukrainian cuisine gives a large variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
History of Ukrainian drinks
First Ukrainian drinks were homemade, of course. People used everything that their plentiful land gave. Ukrainians had two favorite drinks – kvass (non-alcoholic) and mead (alcoholic). Mead was used for special occasions (Christmas or wedding celebrations); kvass was a beverage for everyday occasions.
Beverages made of fresh or dried fruits and berries (apricots, apples, pears, raspberries etc.) were also popular in Ukraine. In order to make all the family members healthier and stronger mistresses made herbal infusions (using mint, tutsan, and chamomile).
Milk drinks were also a part of Ukrainians’ daily ration (ryazhenka – fermented baked milk, baked milk).
The range of beverages has been broadened with the sugar introduction. Ukrainians began to drink fruit nalyvkas, nastoyankas, horilkas.
Thanks to productive natural settings wine making was developed in Ukraine.
Non-alcoholic Ukrainian beverages
Among the most popular Ukrainian soft drinks are:
- kvass and syrivets;
- baked milk.
Kvass and syrivets are sparkling beverages brewed from sugar, yeast and dried rye bread. Kvass can also be brewed from beetroot, fruit, berries, tree sap, but dried bread is the most popular ingredient. Syrivets and kvass have sour-and-sweet taste.
Uzvar is the most common drink on Ukraine’s territory. It is made of fresh fruits and berries in summer and of dried fruits and berries in autumn, winter, spring. A small amount of honey can be added to uzvar to make it sweeter. This soft drink is known as a daily drink and as a drink for a festive table.
Ryazhanka is fermented baked milk. Homemade ryazhanka is prepared in several stages. First milk is baked in a stove till it got golden color. Then it is cooled down, one or two tablespoons of sour cream are added to it. The pot with the milk is placed in a warm place for about 12 hours.
Baked milk (or pryazhene moloko) is milk with a light caramel flavor and creamy color. In order to make baked milk one should simmer milk for at least 8 hours on low heat.
Ukrainian alcoholic beverages
The range of Ukrainian alcoholic drinks is also quite large:
- nalyvka and nastoyanka;
Mead (medovuha) was popular from the times of Kievan Rus’. In the medieval period mead was one of the main drinks on festive table, but because of beekeeping decay production of the drink had greatly decreased. In the beginning of XX century mead could be hardly found on Ukrainians’ tables. This homemade alcoholic beverage is made of water, yeast and honey, its flavor depends on honey type, method and time of aging, yeast characteristics. Alcohol content depends on production method.
Wine was produced in the southern part of Ukraine (Crimea) from 4th century BC, though in the northern part (Chernihiv and Kyiv) vine cultivation started only in 11th century. During the USSR times Ukraine was the largest supplier of wine in the Soviet Union. In 1986 one third of the vineyards were destroyed as consequence of a campaign against the overconsumption of alcohol. Only in 2000 the production of the Ukrainian wines increased. Ukrainians consume wines made in main Ukrainian vine-growing regions (Crimea, Bessarabia, Massandra, Balaklava, Carpathian Ruthenia; Odessa, Kherson and Dniepropetrovsk Oblasts) as well as homemade wine.
Nalyvka and nastoyanka are homemade alcoholic drinks made from different fruits and berries (most often cherries, gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries, plums). The main difference between them is alcohol content – nalyvka is low-alcohol beverage while nastoyanka is strong alcoholic beverage. Production methods are also not the same. To make nalyvka one should mix fruits or berries with sugar, but to make nastoyanka one should mix them with 20% abv horilka. Some families made nastoyankas from medicinal herbs. Nalyvka and nastoyanka are still very popular among the Ukrainians.
Horilka is known as Ukrainian vodka with about 40% abv. Home-distilled horilka is called samohon. It is one of the common alcoholic beverages in the country. Horilka is mainly distilled from rye or wheat, but sometimes it is distilled from sugar beets, honey, potatoes. There are many variations of this drink, but one of the most popular and authentic is Ukrainian pepper vodka (horilka z pertsem). The production of horilka developed in Ukraine in XVI-XVII century (from the times of Zaporozhian Sich).
Beer is a popular Ukrainian low-alcohol drink made from barley and malt. This homemade beverage was common in the medieval period, but with the appearance of breweries in XIX century homebrewing decayed. There are many manufactures of Ukrainian beer, most of them export their products to many countries of the world.