What are Belarusian traditional beverages? What alcoholic drinks are popular today? What Belarusian liquors will make the best souvenir?
The oldest Belarusian alcoholic beverages were based on honey and beer. The technology of making drinkable honey from usual bee honey is similar to beer brewing, while many recipes included hop.
Grapes were grown only on small vineyards of wealthy estates, therefore wine drinking was not common and wine was used only in church rituals. Imported European wines were a luxury that only the nobility could afford.
The most common drinks served in the houses of Belarusian gentry were liqueurs, nastoikas and nalivkas (sweet and strong alcoholic beverages based on vodka and enhanced with herbs, berries, honey, spices and sugar). The most popular of them were called krupnik, zubrovka, krambambulya and troyanka. Today these ancient beverages are offered in restaurants and rural tourism estates.
The most popular Belarusian liquor is vodka (garelka, burnt wine). Vodka was first served in the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania at the end of the 15th century. As time passed by, it made significant inroads into the drinking patterns of Belarusians.
Vodka is served on special occasions.
Belarusian liquor producers offer a great variety of vodkas, including classic vodkas and vodkas with various additives like spices, buds, nuts. The most popular varieties are:
Nastoikas and balsams are very popular, too. These are strong alcoholic beverages with extracts of herbs, buds, berries, spices and honey. The most famous Belarusian liquors include:
Belarusian vodka is sold at shops, supermarkets, and hypermarkets. Many Belarusian alcohol brands have their own retail outlets. You can buy alcoholic beverages in decorated souvenir bottles: unusual bottles from glass and clay, canvas bags, leather bags, and designer boxes and wrappings.
You can taste the original alcoholic beverage – samogon (moonshine) – at Belarusian ethnographic museums and complexes.
Wine and brandy, champagne (sparkling wine), other types of strong alcoholic drinks (vodka, whisky, rum, tequila) imported from other countries are also popular with Belarusians today.
Belarusian companies and joint ventures produce their own brands using wine-making materials from the best European wine-growers or bottle ready-made alcoholic drinks.
For many centuries Belarus has had breweries - brovars – producing delicious malty drinks made to original recipes.
The brewing traditions are continued by Belarusian breweries that produce licensed brands and original Belarusian beer brands many of which have been recognized at different prestigious competitions.
The oldest Belarusian brewery – Alivaria – was founded in 1864. Today the 19th century building of the enterprise houses the Museum of Beer.
The exposition of the museum features a collection of beer bottles and tags from different years and antique pieces of beer-making equipment. The visitors can also learn about the modern production technology and taste beer.
Mini-breweries and brewing restaurants offering tasty unpasteurized and unfiltered beer are becoming increasingly popular in Belarus.
In the future, more and more mini-breweries will be opening at Belarusian culture and ethnography centers, national parks and reserves, farmsteads, and hotels…
Belarus’ traditional beverage – kvass – is made using natural fermentation of bread or cereal (barley, rye). In the old days it was a popular summertime refreshment.
Kvass to traditional recipes can be made at home.
In summer you can buy this naturally fermented tasty drink from mobile street vendors. Vendors offer kvass made by Belarus’ leading producers.
Bottled kvass, available in stores all the year round, enjoys high popularity today. The beverage made to traditional and original recipes is offered by several big companies.
Kvass festivals are a usual thing in Belarus with a variety of tasting and entertainment shows held during these festivals. The biggest of them takes place in the city of Lida (Grodno Oblast).
A well-known traditional drink of Eastern Slavs is sbiten. It is a hot drink based on honey or molasses mixed with herbs, spices, and sugar. The drink was mainly used in winter while kvass was widely used in summer.
Belarusian sbiten has its peculiar features. The recipe includes birch leaves, calamus, lime flowers. On the christening celebrations Belarusians added radish to the drink. Today sbiten is served in restaurants and farmsteads.
Belarusians also like drinks made of wild berries – cowberries, cranberries. Among popular spring drinks are byarozavik and klyanovik– birch and maple saps, and birch and maple-based drinks.
One more favorite homemade drink is compote. It is made of local berries and fruits which are boiled in a great amount of sugared water.
Mineral water enjoys high popularity as well. Mineral wells are found in pristine areas of Belarus, including national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
Almost every health resort in Belarus makes use of mineral water from local sources for drinking, inhalations, and baths.