Sbiten, considered by some to be the quintessential Russian cold-weather beverage, traces its history back to the 14th century. Traditionally served up on street corners from heated copper samovars, the beverage fell out of favour as coffee and tea became more popular, but it is now enjoying a resurgence, thanks in part to its delicious flavour and healthful properties. While this recipe is non-alcoholic, it’s not uncommon to find “spiked” Sbiten in Russia, with vodka, brandy and even red wine being the favoured alcoholic additions. Sbiten can be enjoyed warm, at room temperature and even chilled.
- 4 cups (1 L) water
- 1 cup (250 mL) honey
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 5 green cardamom pods, cracked
- 5 slices of fresh ginger root (each approximately ¼” / .6 cm thick)
- 1 tablespoon (14 g) whole cloves
- 2 dried chili peppers, cracked
- Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized heavy saucepan and slowly bring to boil over medium heat. Stir gently and often to ensure honey is melting evenly and combining well with the water.
- Once the mixture has come to a boil, remove from the heat and let steep for at least one hour or preferably until it has come to room temperature.
- Strain liquid through cheesecloth into an airtight container for storage and refrigerate for up to a week until ready to serve in small portions, either cold or gently reheated.
Makes about 4 cups (1 L) of Sbiten.