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Horilka – Ukraine’s “Burning Water”

14. October 2009 by Daniel 0 Comments

If vodka is one of Russia’s “national drinks,” horilka is the Ukrainian equivalent. In fact, some may argue that horilka is where vodka has its roots. It’s difficult to say for sure.

What is sure is that chemically horilka is not much different than vodka. It is usually distilled from grain, potatoes, honey, sugar beets and many other fruits and vegetables. Nearly all of today’s commercially produced horilka is 80 proof (40 percent alcohol) – double the alcohol content of traditional horilka.

If you drink it, be advised that it is not for the faint of heart. The word “horilka” itself is thought to be derived from a mixture of several different European languages, translated roughly in some instances as “burning water” or “burning wine.”

A harsh drink, it is best taken in one swig, along with some kind of food. Much like beer and wine, it is often consumed at parties and social gatherings. In earlier times, variants of the drink were even consumed traditionally at weddings and other celebrations.

When traveling through the Ukraine, if you are inclined to try some horilka, it is considered best practice to drink some that is manufactured in the area you are visiting. The local water and overall atmosphere are important factors that influence the effectiveness of the drink, so say the locals. Purchasing the drink in one location and traveling to another area to consume it will do you no good, they say.

So, when you go to visit your Ukrainian bride, be sure to ask about this cultural firewater. But make sure you can take the punch, before you take a swig.