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Mint bread kvass | © Mr. Icon / WikiCommons
Mint bread kvass | © Mr. Icon / WikiCommons

7 Drinks You Can Only Try in Ukraine

Picture of Maria Sibirtseva
Updated: 13 January 2018

It is no secret that Ukrainians carefully preserve the authenticity of local cuisine, its particularities and diversity. Such a practice applies not only to the food, but also to drinks. Traditional beverages in Ukraine have their own unique recipes and characteristic flavors and remain a part of everyday life up to today. 

Alcoholic beverages

Horilka

Before 1936, horilka was known as an infusion of herbs, berries or roots in strong alcohol. However, the modern meaning of horilka as a solution of water and purified alcohol is the right one. Due to its composition, the drink is recognized as the purest alcoholic beverage in the world, and therefore one of the most beloved ones. It is a universal drink that will fit any event or feast. Nonetheless, it is important to observe the main rule: it is better to drink horilka chilled, having kept it in the fridge for 2-3 hours. But once the beverage is too cold, you can get drunk too fast, since the water will freeze on the walls of the bottle, and then you will be drinking practically pure alcohol.

Spotykach

Spotykach is a sweet Ukrainian alcoholic beverage that is distinguished by the original manufacturing technique of the heating of ingredients. Being created in the 18th century, the drink was constantly improved and reached its top form in the following century. Spotykach is a drink prepared with berries, spices, and vodka and infused for two weeks. There are four different kinds of spotykach: berry, lemon, mint, and rowanberry. In addition, it has a particular physiological impact, in that those who try it become totally relaxed and stumble (spotykatusya in Ukrainian).

Medovukha

This drink originates from the times of Kievan Rus. Those who have visited Western Ukraine at least once know that medovukha is the most popular beverage there. A low-alcohol drink, obtained through the fermentation of honey, it has different methods of preparation. One can add spices, hop, berries, or even exclude the vodka. Because honey contains a large number of minerals and vitamins, medovukha has healing properties and a beneficial effect on the digestive system.

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Varenukha

Varenukha is another drink that consists of vodka and spices. However, its peculiarity is in how it’s made, having appeared in the 16th century on the territory of Central Ukraine. It involves taking dried fruit, putting them in clayware, and pouring vodka over it, and then adding a mixture of spices, particularly a bit of hot pepper, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and a spoonful of honey. The drink is completed by putting the mixture into the oven on low heat and cooking for 10-12 hours. After that, just strain the liquid and enjoy it both hot and cold.

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Soft drinks

Kysil

Kysil is the favourite drink of children in Ukraine. Perhaps this is because of its consistency, which varies from thick jelly to a liquid beverage. Many years ago, it was even considered to be a fully fledged dish, resembling Italian panna cotta. Kysil can be made almost from anything, from fruit to milk. Its jelly is achieved by adding a large amount of starch or oatmeal. The secret is that the drink should always be boiled. In addition, due to its viscosity, the drink has a beneficial effect on the stomach.

Uzvar

Uzvar is a traditional Ukrainian drink that forms an integral part of the Christmas feast. This drink is usually served along with kutia – a dish made from wheat, barley or rice, seasoned with grated poppy seeds, nuts, honey, and nectar. Uzvar, in turn, is made from dried fruit and berries, which are not boiled but simply have hot water poured over them. The liquid is covered and left to rest. Only when the drink has cooled to a warm state, one can add some honey and serve it.

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Kvass

For Ukrainians kvass is not just a regular drink, but a whole tradition. It is so delightful to get a glass of this refreshing beverage during the boiling hot weather in summer. It has useful properties of increasing activity and boosting strength for work, and in the times of Kievan Rus it was considered to be a symbol of well-being. Kvass is made of rye bread and malt, sometimes adding fragrant herbs and honey. It is also used as a base for a cold soup called okroshka.

Ryazhenka

Ryazhenka is a fermented milk drink that closely resembles yogurt without any additives. Its recipe appeared in Ukraine hundreds of years ago. It was a mixture of milk and cream, cooking in the oven and becoming a kind of sour milk drink. Today, ryazhenka is very popular in Eastern European countries, because it is a real source of useful substances necessary for every organism. Despite the drink being quite high in fat, it has a positive effect on digestion.