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7 Traditional Slavic Alcoholic Beverages That Aren’t Vodka, Rakia, Wine Or Beer

Slavs and alcohol go way back. Nowadays our most popular national drinks are often considered to be the vodka and rakia/ rakija, but our ancestors have been brewing all sorts of different spirits for centuries, many of which are still traditional and preferred as the go-to drink next to the former two beverages.

Horilka/ Horincă – Ukraine, Romania, Belarus

http://www.stevensirski.com/ukrainian-horilka-part-1-history-procedures-protocols/

Through the ages the word horilka has become somewhat of a collective for vodka and other alcoholic drinks, but it’s actually a different type of alcohol, which originates in Ukraine. Produced from a variety of ingredients such as potatoes, sugar beats, chili peppers, honey, fruits, nuts and so forth, it has a strong flavor, around 40% alcohol and over a dozen brands under which it’s sold in Ukraine, Belarus, Romania and other Slavic countries.

Mastika/ Mastică – Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania

https://mk.wikipedia.org/wiki/Мастика#/media/Податотека:Мастика_-_Грозд_Струмица_01.jpg

Characterized by its strong alcoholic percentage (over 45) this spirit is easily distinguishable by the burning sensation it leaves in one’s throat due to the combination of strong anise flavor and high alcoholic concentration. Romanians drink it as a traditional wedding toast, Macedonians refer to it as a national cultural heritage and Bulgarians simply mix it with a mint-based liquor to whip up the Cloud cocktail.

Borovička – Slovakia, Czech Republic

https://en.rjelinek.cz/products/detail~65-slovacka-gin~.html

Slovaks and Czechs are fans of Borovička, the Juniper brandy. In a nutshell, this is a clear liquid that’s derived from the distillation of juniper berries, hence its name. It significantly differs from other alcohols that incorporate the juniper berries in their formula and tastes different than gin, even though it’s often marketed as a gin variation.

Pelinkovac/ Pelinovec – Croatia, Bosnia And Herzegovina, Montenegro, Slovenia

http://www.darna.hr/nasi-proizvodi/pelinkovac/?lang=en

Containing lower amounts of alcohol than most liquors (30% or less), the pelinkovac is popular in a large number of Slavic countries and sold under many brands. In terms of flavor it’s comes close to the ever-trending German Jägermeister, but it’s neither as sweet, nor as alcoholic as its German cousin. Both of them are herbal liquors, but the pelinkovac focuses on a crispier flavor, resulting mainly from the wormwood, which is among its primary ingredients.

Becherovka – Czech Republic

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Becherovka#/media/File:Becherovka_bottle.jpg

Another aperitif Czechs are particularly fond of is the becherovka – a gingery bitters that contains over twenty spices and herbs. Different variations of it have different alcoholic percentages (some are as low as 20%). Apart from drinking it as an aperitif or as is Czechs mix it with tonic water to form a cocktail known as Beton (literally meaning “concrete” in a paradoxical contradiction to the fact that even the undiluted spirit’s alcohol content doesn’t go above 40%).

Krupnik – Poland, Belarus

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krupnik#/media/File:2017_Likier_miodowy_Krupnik.jpg

A fun little fact is that unlike most types of alcoholic beverages on the planet, the Polish/ Belarussian krupnik can be heated prior to being consumed. A highly alcoholic spirit, it can vary from anywhere between 40% and 90%. What distinguishes it from vodka and other grain-based drinks is the notably expressed sweetness of the clover honey in it and tens of dozens of herbs used in its preparation. A lesser known fact is that the Polish krupnik isn’t the same thing as the Krupnik vodka, which is a totally different beverage.

Medovina/ Medovukha/ Gverc – Bosnia And Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Montenegro, Czech Republic, Russia, Belarus

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mead#/media/File:Trnavska_medovina.jpg

When you come to think of it, each Slavic nation has a variation of the honey-based alcoholic spirit that our ancestors have been brewing since time immemorial. It’s basically a type of mead with a highly varied alcohol percentage (from 3.5% to more than 20%). Sold under numerous brands and in every Slavic country, it can be still or carbonated, sweet or dry, transparent or colored with fruits, herbs and spices.

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