Tuesday, 12 June 2007

sbiten - russian winter drink


Today is Russia Day, a celebration of national unity when, in 1990, Russian parliament formally declared its sovereignty.

For such a recently adopted holiday, it has changed its name a number of times. First it was called Independence Day, then to the catchy Day of the Adoption of the Declaration of Sovereignty of the Russian Federation (just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it!) and finally to the much more acceptable Russia Day. Yeltsin brought it in, but Putin was the first to make it a popular holiday.

Tomorrow I’m off to celebrate with the Russian Embassy so in honour of their national day, and in the vein of cooking my way around the world, I offer you this delicious winter drink: sbiten.

Made from honey, spices and fruit, this traditional winter drink is deliciously sweet and spicy and was been first recorded way back in 1128. Sbitenshchik (sbiten vendors as pictured in this old school sketch) would sell the drink in the streets where it transcended all class barriers, making it the most popular Russian winter drink until tea made a splash in the 1800s.

I’ve read that it’s making a bit of a revival these days and why not, since it’s ridiculously easy to make and is perfect on a cold day. The spices soothe sore throats and a shot of rum turns it into the perfect after-dinner digestive.

Anna’s very own recipe devised from internet searches. Serves 4.

1 litre water
150g jam (apricot or raspberry are most traditional, but I used rose hip)
50g honey
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground ginger
10 whole cloves
1. Bring water to boil, then add honey and jam.
2. Dissolve jam and honey into water.
3. After 5 minutes add spices and cook for a further 5 minutes.
4. Strain and serve hot.
Note: Can be stored in the fridge and reheated. You can also add a few cardamom pods and a dried chilli if you like.

According to Wikipedia, there are other versions which include:
* Tzar's Sbiten: honey, sugar, red bilberry, blueberry and blackberry; sweet clover, inula, salvia, thyme, spices.
* Sbiten Boyarsky: honey, sugar, cranberry, blackberry; melissa, sweet clover, thyme, spices.
* Sbiten Moscovsky: honey, sugar, red bilberry, blueberry; melissa, sweet clover, thyme, spices.



  1. Never heard of this before! Thanks for expanding my foodie knowledge!

  2. What..? No vodka? Just kidding - this sounds delicious, esp. with the cold weather we've been having. Thanks for the background infomation, interesting stuff.

  3. Fascinating - too bad LA is just starting to get hot. This drink sounds like a fab. way to celebrate my 1/8 Russian heritage when the holidays roll around. Also, I had never heard of Russia Day, so you really expanded my knowledge on many fronts.

  4. I will have to try this, it sounds like a remedy for colds!

  5. Glad midsommar!!!


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