Monday, April 2, 2012

Sbiten, a Spiced Honey Drink.


Note: Don’t actually drink this much sbiten.

Ok, a bit late. I have finally done what I didn’t want to do, submit a recipe for 52 weeks of cooking on the first day of the following week.

But I guess given how many people submit weeks afterwards, I should not be so hard on myself.

This week’s theme is Russian food by the way, which is something I’ve never ever really thought about outside of a James Bond movie, or hearing about borscht. I wanted to try something a bit different however, and I think I found the ticket on wikipedia: sbiten, a spiced honey drink akin to good old grog, scourge of scurvy. Actually given how little citrus is in this, I’m not sure it would prevent scurvy.

The most exotic thing about sbiten is cardamom. Unfortunately I was unable to purchase whole pods of it, but substituting ground cardamom seemed to work fine so long as you were careful with serving.

I found the recipe on and it is a pretty simple recipe. In this instance, I halved all of the proportions for a smaller batch.

It called for sugar, honey, whole cloves, pods of cardamom, a cinnamon stick, water, ginger, mind and lemon zest.


I used few slices of ginger, a few leaves of mint, half a stick of cinnamon and a single whole clove. The recipe called for double what I have here.


A scant half teaspoon of ground cardamom substitutes for the four pods the original recipe called for.


A quarter cup of honey.


Is then combined with two cups of water and a quarter cup of sugar. I would actually add a bit more water, as detailed later.


Oh, I almost forgot the lemon zest, a half teaspoon in this case. Actually this is probably a lot more, but it did not hurt.


Combine well and bring to a high simmer. Once you see a big bubble, turn off the heat and cover.


Let this steep for at least 15 minutes.


Strain it.


And then serve it warm or chilled.

Having tried this once. I would add as much as an extra cup of water to tone down the cloying sweetness, or perhaps tone down the sugar to two tablespoons. Or I would try the alcoholic variant, adding some more vodka and brandy (a quarter cup with these reduced measurements) just as the water begins to simmer up to the point where it starts to bubble. Then cover and steep as directed earlier.

I actually haven’t tried it yet, but I will report the results tonight.

Edit: Tried it with the brandy, and it is still quite nice and sweet. Still a bit too sweet actually, may need to up the alcohol and water content.


Sbiten recipe (halved version and adjusted from original recipe):

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4cup honey
  • 1 clove
  • 2 cardamom pods or a scant half teaspoon
  • 2-3 thin slices fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
  • (optional) 1/4 cup brandy or vodka Directions:
  1. Combine all ingredients with 2.5 cups water in a saucepan with a lid over medium heat. If using alcohol, add just as the liquid begins to simmer. Bring almost to a boil.

  2. Cover and turn off heat; steep for 15 to 20 minutes.

  3. Strain out solids. Reheat and serve, or chill and serve cold.

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