How much do you know about Ukrainian drinks?
Spoiler alert: it’s not just about vodka shots and obligatory toasts—I’ve never been good at those, anyway.
Ukrainian drinks defy the clichés, and display a wide variety of flavors and skill—from the renowned horilka, rooting back to the Cossack era, to the intricate artistry of making medovukha, a honey-based beverage.
One glass at a time, let me show you the real, unfiltered essence of Ukrainian beverages.
15 Most Popular Ukrainian Drinks
I’ll share with you both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages popular in Ukraine. #1 is the real deal so I won’t further postpone its beauty with long intros.
Horilka (sometimes referred to by the dialect word horivka), or okovyta (from the Latin “aqua vitae”—”water of life”) is a strong alcoholic drink made from purified alcohol.
This traditional Ukrainian spirit is distilled from grain or potatoes, is shared on joyous events and has a flaming warmth.
Horilka made at home is called samohon or samohonka (moonshine). The main modern raw material for making it is sugar beet or beet sugar.
Medovukha is a popular Ukrainian drink made with honey, widely used since the days of Kyivan Rus’.
This fermented honey drink similar to mead is a delicious alcoholic beverage with a smooth, sweet taste.
Kvas is a traditional fermented drink and a summertime staple in Ukraine, known since the times of Kyivan Rus’.
It’s made mainly from rye flour or rye bread and malt.
I love the refreshing taste of kvas. It’s mostly produced commercially but also can be prepared at home.
My father makes a unique version of kvas with lemon, sugar and baker’s yeast. It creates a tasty carbonated drink that my family enjoys when it’s hot outside.
Ukrainian family gatherings aren’t complete without kompot, an elixir made with fruit.
This naturally sweetened drink is a perfect example of the homey, uncomplicated Ukrainian cuisine. It’s made by simmering a mixture of dried and fresh fruits.
My grandmother would always prepare it with seasonal fruits like cherries, plums, grapes and apples. I enjoy it most with sour cherries.
Ukrainian Christmas parties commonly feature the traditional compote of dried fruits, uzvar. But it can be served year-round!
Not only does it smell delicious, but the combination of dried apples, pears, and prunes in uzvar also provides a pleasant smoky flavor.
You can check out my collection of Ukrainian recipes for Christmas to discover more festive delicacies, including those served alongside uzvar.
Nalyvka, a type of infusion made with fruit or herbs, is an originally homemade alcohol drink.
It’s usually fruit and berry wine, which is now almost always fortified with sugar, and sometimes with horilka (vodka/moonshine).
Piana Vyshnia is a moderately sweet tincture on brandy alcohol and selected cherries.
The first establishment of Piana Vyshnia appeared in Lviv on Rynok Square in 2015. It’s the best Lviv tincture and an integral part of old Lviv.
My town also has a Piana Vyshnia store, and my friends and I are guilty of drinking it nearly every weekend. It can be served hot in winter, which makes it even more enjoyable for me.
The Kyiv Mule is a contemporary take on an old classic—a pleasant drink with a Ukrainian twist—made with traditional horilka, ginger beer, and lime.
This modern cocktail is a tribute to the ever-changing food scene in the capital of Ukraine.
Kysil is a thick dish or drink made of berry or fruit syrup, milk, etc., with an addition of starch.
It can make a refreshing and slightly acidic dessert beverage to be enjoyed on hot summer days.
Kysil can also be served as a light sweet treat so you can find it on my list of popular Ukrainian desserts.
I love this apple cider drink so much that I had to put it on my list of must-try drink specials in Ukraine!
“Zhyvchyk” is a commercial brand of non-alcoholic juice drinks produced by the Ukrainian company “Obolon”.
The drink is both delicious and healthy thanks to the echinacea extract and natural juice from carefully chosen Ukrainian apples.
An old favorite, baked milk is a dairy treat that turns regular milk into a decadent caramelized delight.
Simmering milk over low heat for a few hours yields the desired consistency. The natural sugars that emerge in simmering milk give it this surprise flavor without the use of added sweeteners.
Riazhanka, a cultured milk product resembling yogurt with a unique Ukrainian flavor, is a decadent dairy treat.
It’s created by the lactic acid fermentation process from baked milk.
Its mild tang and creamy texture make it a versatile ingredient tasting great on its own or used in baking or pancakes and waffles.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is rich in probiotics. To make it, kefir grains are added to animal milk.
It has a pleasant sour flavor making it a delicious drink on its own or in place of milk in recipes.
I don’t often drink kefir but when I do, it’s usually accompanied by a sweet roll or bread. It makes a great breakfast.
Feel free to click here for more Ukrainian breakfast ideas!
Syta is honey diluted with water or honey decoction on water. It has long been used as a traditional sweet drink, as well as to sweeten ritual dishes like kutia and kolyvo.
Unlike mead or medovukha, syta isn’t fermented and does not have an alcoholic content.
Varenukha is a traditional hot drink from Ukraine that combines Ukrainian vodka or liquor with dried fruits, raisins, honey, cinnamon, and other spices.
It’s an ancient drink that has lost its popularity over the years, but can still be found as part of authentic Ukrainian cuisine.
I hope you liked this assortment of drinks from Ukraine and found something new to try. Enjoy your glass while I go and drink something too!
15 Authentic Ukrainian Drinks: Alcoholic & Non-alcoholic
- Piana Vyshnia
- Kyiv Mule
- Baked Milk