Sbiten-smitten; a Russian honey drink

It’s a holiday in Russia today apparently, the Day of Unity, celebrated with food and drink.  Any excuse for a drink – in this case the traditional Russian ‘sbiten’ which is a herbal honey drink I’d read about in Dostoevsky, traditionally sold by street vendors who carried it on their backs in big copper vessels.

I’m told sbiten is a cure for melancholy (perhaps Dostoevsky didn’t get that memo) so in today’s windswept chill I boiled me up some sbiten.  Half a teaspoon of dried mint left to stew for an hour in two glasses of boiling water. Then I added honey (6tsp) and lemon oil (2 tsp – probably too much) and a couple of pinches of nutmeg.

Variations of the drink use wine instead of water, add vodka, or a range of herbs and spices (ginger, cloves, chilli, tarragon, sage, St John’s wort) and even jam. Just reading those ingredients gives me a little glow. This is perfect winter comfort drinking that will go well with the fireworks tomorrow.

Elizabeth Gowing is the author of Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo

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1 Response to Sbiten-smitten; a Russian honey drink

  1. Pingback: The ten best recipes to make with honey? | One hundred days of honey

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