Sbiten used to be a very popular beverage in Russia. Moscows taverns served it both cold and hot. Sbiten tastes a lot like a honey drink
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Sbiten used to be a very popular beverage in Russia. Moscow"s taverns served it both cold and hot. Sbiten tastes a lot like a honey drink. Among other ingredients were St.-John"s wort, sage, ginger, valerian and other herbs. As it was very cheap, it was consumed both at home and at various eateries. Practically no fair or carnival could do without sbiten. It was first mentioned in the 12th century and mainly defined as "a hot folk drink with herbs".
Then it was called "perevar", and later "vzvar" or simply "var" and served in samovars. Until tea appeared in Russia, it was arguably the only hot drink in Russia. There were stationary "sbiten breweries" located in crowded places. A big window served as a counter. They often added St.-John"s wort, sage, bay leaves, ginger and peppers. The oldest descriptions are found in Domostroy (XVI AD).
Its mass consumptions went down after the 1917 Revolution. Since 1990s attempts have been made to revive sbiten production in Russia.


125g honey
75g sugar
30g black tea
1g ground cinnamon
0.5g cloves
1g crushed nutmeg
30g celery stalk
peel of half-lemon

Stir honey and sugar in boiling water. Add tea brew (normally made with 1080 ml water), spices, chopped lemon peel and celery stalk, boil 10 min at low heat, leave 10-15 min in a warm place. Strain the beverage and bring to boil again. Pour sbiten in cups or glasses and serve hot right away.

Ancient Russian Sbiten

5 lb (1lb = 409g) honey
10 bottles water
juice from 2 lb strawberries

They combined the ingredients and boiled them at low heat for 2 hours, stirring and skimming. As flavourers, they added sage, mint and St.-John"s wort. Then the beverage was strained and served. Raspberry, black currant and other berry sbitens were made the same way.

Moscow Sbiten

500 г honey
6L water
750g white treacle

Stir honey in boiling water, add treacle and various spices: hop, mint, cinnamon pieces, cloves. Strain the sbiten and serve it hot.


6 tbsp honey
4 cups water
1 tbsp sugar zzhenka
bay leaves, caraway

To make zzhenka, heat sugar in a spoon at low heat until dark-brows syrup appears. Dissolve honey in 4 cups water and boil 20-25 min. Then add spices and boil another 5 min. Strain the mixture and add zzhenka as a darkener. Serve hot.

Sbiten "Great Novgorod"

1kg honey
4L boiled water
20g hop cinnamon stick

Dissolve honey in boiling water. Add hop and spices, boil 2-3 hrs at low heat, strain and chill down. Serve with ice cubes.

Raspberry Sbiten

1kg honey
3L boiled water
500g raspberry juice
1/4 yeast stick

Dissolve honey and raspberry juice in boiling water and boil 1.5-2 hrs stirring and skimming. Chill to 25 C, add 1/2 cup yeast dissolved in warm water and leave overnight. Then carefully pour sbiten in a barrel and put it on ice. Sbiten is ready in 25-30 days. Pour it into bottles and stock horizontally in the cellar or any cold closet. Serve cold.

Ancient Brew Sbiten

6L light honey drink
6L light beer wash
500g honey
50ml table vinegar
20g ginger
6g tormentil root
0.5 cup liquid yeast.

Combine honey drink with beer wash and honey, add a little vinegar and spices - ginger and tormentil. Stir thoroughly and boil 1 hour at low heat. Chill down and pour in a barrel. Add liquid yeast for further brewing. Do not close the barrel, but leave it for 6-12 hours in a warm place. Cork up the barrel and leave for 2-3 day in a cold place (fridge or cellar). Then strain and bottle sbiten.

Suzdal Sbiten

150g honey
150g sugar
15g each – cloves, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, bay leaves
1L water

Add honey to boiled water. Bring to boil and boil 20 min, then add spices and boil another 5 min. Strain and darken with burnt sugar.

Wine Sbiten

To make sbiten you need:
1L red dry wine
150g honey
0.1g each – cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg

Add honey to wine and bring to boil. Take off the heat. Add cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and leave for 30-40 min. Strain and serve hot.

Vladimir Sbiten

To make sbiten you need:
200g honey
5g each – cloves, cinnamon, ginger, bay leaves
1L water

Bring water to boil and chill it a little. Add honey and boil 20 min. Then add cloves, cinnamon and other spices and boil another 5 min. Strain the beverage. Serve hot.

Bon appetite!
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