We always have our radar up for new alcohol or booze that’s been around for a while, but hasn’t made its way onto our bar carts. Zivania falls into this second category, since it’s been around since the end of the 15th century.
Zivania is a pomace brandy made in Cyprus from a combination of grape pomace (the solid remains of grapes after they’ve been pressed for juice) and locally-sourced dry wines. It’s believed to have been around since the Republic of Venice ruled Cyprus, and production continued through the Ottoman and British rule of the island.
Similar to vodka, the spirit lacks color and usually has around 45 percent ABV, which explains its nickname, “firewater.” Zivania has no acidity or sugar and is known for having a light aroma of raisins. However, the alcohol’s production must adhere to strict regulations including grape quality and fermentation process.
Once the fermentation process is complete, the mixture is moved to the still. The first zivania that comes from the still has the highest alcohol content, and the last has the lowest. The finished product is typically stored in clean wooden or galvanized metal containers.
But zivania is more than just an alcoholic beverage – in Cyprus, it’s used to treat all sorts of wounds, massage sore body parts, remedy colds and toothaches and to help warm up in the cold winter months. So, basically everything Americans use whiskey for?
As zivania ages, it develops a stronger flavor and aroma, and makes for a special treat when entertaining visitors and guests. It’s traditional in Cyprus to welcome visitors with ice-cold zivania, dried nuts, Turkish delight, and other local appetizers.
You can buy bottles of the stuff in Cyprus, but many locals still make it at home. Reportedly, the mountain variety is the strongest you can get, so proceed with caution.
If you’re not quite ready to take a straight shot, try mixing zivania into this fruity cocktail.