Whether your tipple of choice contains alcohol or not, there’s no better way of getting in the local spirit than by drinking and celebrating as the locals do, with these traditional Belarusian drinks.
Alcoholic Belarusian drinks
This 18th-century comeback kid is the national Belarusian drink. Krambambulia is a blend of red wine and various kinds of liquor, including rum, vodka or gin. It sounds lethal, but the Belarusians take it a step further, flavouring the potent combination with honey and spices.
When it first hit the drinking scene, nobles were interestingly the only patrons who could ‘enjoy’ it. At the time, Belarus fell under the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and imported spices were sold at a premium.
Belarusians have been brewing beer (brovar) for centuries, and the best place to trace that beer-brewing culture is during a visit to Minsk’s Alivaria Brewery Museum. Housed in a 19th-century building where the first Belarusian brewery, Alivaria, has its roots, the museum delivers an intoxicating history of beer from 1864 to date.
Like many parts of the world, the micro-brewery trend has also hit Minsk by storm. Consequently, patrons have a good choice of craft brews on the market in Belarus and can visit a range of bars dedicated to these Belarusian drinks.
Our personal recommendation when visiting Minsk is Craftman, said to have the largest number of craft beers on tap in the city.
GET INSPIRED BY: Best of Finland, Russia and the Baltic States
Did you know the word ‘vodka’ is a diminutive form of the Russian word for water? Made from rye, wheat bread or (you guessed it) potatoes, vodka remains one of the staple Belarusian drinks, as it does elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.
First served at the end of the 15th century at the time of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, there are varying reports of the origins of vodka. There are also several local Belarusian brands to sample, But the oldest is Vodka Belaruska, which has been satisfying Belarusian taste buds since 1898.
Non-alcoholic Belarusian drinks
Made with the sap harvested from silver birch trees, Birch Sap tastes a lot like water, only sweeter. Unlike water, however, extracting this refreshing liquid is quite a process. Not only must the harvesting be approved, but harvesters must also ensure that the sap is harvested sustainably.
The Belarusians have been following this process for centuries, not only to quench their thirst but also for the many health benefits derived from drinking Birch Sap. These include promoting kidney and liver health, reducing joint pain, aiding weight loss, boosting the immune system, promoting good digestion and even helping to improve oral health.
It really does sound like the cure-all for everything. Better still, it’s also among the most refreshing of Belarusian drinks.
RELATED CONTENT: 12 ways Minsk, Belarus’ progressive capital, will surprise you
Kvas, which means leaven, is the Belarusian’s answer to non-alcoholic beer. Brewed from dark rye bread, yeast, herbs, water and sugar, local Belarusians would buy kvas by the bucket load from barrel-trailers in the streets of Minsk during the time of the Soviet Union.
But, incredibly, the history of Kvas goes back even further than this, all the way to its mention in the Old Russian Chronicles in the 10th century. Legend has it that its invention was actually an accident. As the story goes, a bag of grain accidentally got wet and the grain started to grow. Since making malt was no longer an option, the grain’s owner decided to make bread instead. He added water, the liquid fermented and voila, kvas was created.
While this Belarusian drink does still have a low alcohol content (0.05 – 1.44%), the Belarusians consider it non-alcoholic.
It’s unlikely you’ve heard of this little-known non-alcoholic Belarusian drink. Kisel is made from oats which are boiled in water and baked on a stove, then thickened with potato starch.
Sounds a bit like breakfast, but wait for it… Before drinking, the Belarusians add wine, along with fruit, making it the perfect dessert to drink, or eat depending on how thick you choose to make its consistency.
The word ‘kisel’ comes from the Slavic word for sour. The Belarusians love nothing like a good story and so there’s another one to explain the origins of this unusual beverage too. The legend harks back to the 12th century when the inhabitants of a sieged city were starving and surrender was imminent. An old man gathered all the remaining wheat and honey in the city and cooked kisel in a pot he had buried. He invited the enemy into the city to eat his new concoction and, upon seeing the food scooped out from the ground, they abandoned their siege, saving the city and its residents from starvation.
Belarusian food to sample with your favourite new local drink
Pair these alcoholic and non-alcoholic Belarusian drinks with some of the tastiest Belarusian food in town. Devour platefuls of steaming draniki (potato pancakes), kletski (meat-filled flour dumplings) and tsibriki (fried cheese-filled potato dumplings) with your drink of choice.
The humble Belarus potato is the main ingredient for the country’s favourite dish. Grate potatoes and onions and mix this up (sometimes) with bacon, cheese or mushroom. Serve draniki with a generous dollop of sour cream and you have heaven on a plate.
Not unlike the favourite Polish pierogi, kletski are crescent-shaped meat-filled flour dumplings. The Belarusians boil these and serve them with sour cream or roasted onions.
A twist on potato latkes, tsibriki are bite-sized fried snacks that are filled with cheese. This favourite Belarusian food certainly isn’t on the Heart Foundation diet, but it pairs beautifully with a Belarusian brovar.
If you’ve been lucky enough to visit Belarus or its capital Minsk, share you favourite drink and foodie recommendations in the comments below.