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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Honey Home Brew Is Fond Russian Memory

We Russians have some great authors who can write true-to-life descriptions of food. Take Alexei Tolstoy's "Pyotr I," for example. As I tried to visualize the various unseen and untried delicacies served by the thousands at a tsar's feast, my mouth started watering.

Trying to imagine the flavors of several meals was dizzying, but there is one honey drink described in the book that really can make your head spin -- medovukha, a type of sweet, home-brewed beer.

Russia's traditional drinks often are original and have no equivalents in other national cuisines. They include the ubiquitous kvas, or a slightly alcoholic drink made from rye bread, mors, a fruit drink served cold or hot, a strong honey beer called stavleny myod and the predecessor of tea in Russia called sbiten, or a spicy hot drink. Other incredible concoctions include whey and raisins and a drink made from pickled cabbage juice boiled with sugar.

Typically these fermented drinks are prepared in small amounts at home, and are all amazing hangover treatments. Most of them are now extinct because they are so much trouble to make and because modern tastes differ from those of the 18th century.

Originally medovukha was called medok, a historical name, but, according to some cookbooks, the new name appeared about 40 years ago. It is prepared from a combination of kvas, fruit juice or simply water and honey that is fermented with yeast and sugar.

Medok is typically prepared in the following way: Boil 250 grams of honey with 2 liters of water, removing the foam as it comes to a boil. Separately, boil 5 grams of hops in a little water. Set these aside. Heat a teaspoon of sugar and a few drops of water over the burner until the sugar becomes a caramel color. Combine the above ingredients and add 4 more liters of hot water, 10 grams of yeast and a bud of cardamon.

Cover the mixture with a cheesecloth and leave it at a temperature no warmer than 10 degrees Celsius until foam appears, a process that typically takes a few days. After the foam is removed, the medovukha is ready to drink, or can be preserved in bottles for a couple weeks.

During the recent wave of patriotism, Russian soft drink companies began selling bottled medovukha in addition to kvas. Monastyrskaya medovukha comes in plastic bottles and can be bought at any of Moscow's Russkoye Bistros. Unfortunately, it tastes a bit artificial.

When you open a bottle of medovukha, it foams like soda. At first, you may mistake medovukha's taste for that of lemonade, but it will soon give you the shivers with its yeasty, cough-medicine-like aftertaste.

If you're looking for better quality medovukha, the drink is served as an aperitif at Khlestakov Traktir near the Frunzenskaya metro station and reportedly tastes like it's homemade.

If you are puzzled over certain food items found in Russia, please e-mail Julia Solovyova at or fax her at 257-3211.