Georgia is a compelling country located between Western Asia and Eastern Europe. Besides a rich culture, mouth-watering cuisines, and beautiful sceneries, Georgian drinks are worth writing home about. Though not as diverse as the cuisine, the country boasts of several drinks unique to the state.
Drinking forms an integral part of the Georgian culture as the most ancient evidence of making wine was discovered in the country. Georgians attitude to alcohol is similar to the Spanish where drinking is associated with food and not a pastime. When visiting Georgia, expect wine offers from the incredibly hospitable locals.
Most houses in the Georgian countryside have grapevines in their yards, and it is a common practice for the households to make wine for their consumption. The drinks come at a reasonable price as well, hence perfect gifts to carry back home if you are visiting. Be sure to try these unique drinks when you visit Georgia.
With 40 percent alcohol and commercially produced at 65 percent for homebrew, Chacha is a strong bright alcoholic drink in Georgia. The popular brandy is a product of wild or unripe grapes combined with mulberries, oranges, tangerines, and herbs. Locals may also use figs, pears, peaches, honey, among others, to make the drink.
This potent local brandy derives its name from the Georgian word of grape pomade that refers to the solid remains obtained after pressing wine grapes. Traditionally, the drink was destilled at home. Today, many local distilleries produce it and sell in stores throughout the country.
Also known as grape vodka, vine vodka, or Georgian vodka/grappa, the drink is clear in color. Locals claim that it has medicinal properties and use it to cure stomachaches by applying on the abdomen, alleviate some ailments like ear blockage, indigestion, and face aches.
Before indulging in this vine vodka, it will help to inquire about its origin. Kakhetian Chacha makes one slowly drunk while Gurian Chacha provokes high spirits almost immediately. The Georgian vodka from the highlands needs extra caution as it may make you forget the fun at the feast if you take more than necessary, and the Megrelian throws one off balance fast.
To counter the alcohol indulgence of its people, Georgians discovered Khashi soup. The ingredients may sound weird as the soup ingredients are from animal organs, which are the heads and hooves. The feet are depilated, cleaned and soaked in cold water to rid off the bad smell, then boiled in water throughout the night to obtain a thick broth. The meat separates from the bones after the boiling.
Depending on an individual’s preference, one may add garlic, salt, lemon juice, or vinegar to taste. For substance, some people crumble dried lavash into the broth. The soup is served hot in the morning along with either yellow or green peppers, radishes, pickles, cheese, cress, and fresh greens. In Georgia, milk, salt, onions, and vodka make perfect Khashi accompaniments.
Georgian men use it to treat hangovers.
This is another traditional Georgian delicacy that is gaining popularity outside the country. It has a rich flavor and is exceptionally delicious. Traditionally, the soup is made of the rich chunks of beef brisket or chuck. The fattiness is part of the soup character. Kharcho soup is unique, thanks to the special spice mix and traditional sour plum called Tkemali added to balance out the richness. In some cases, red wine vinegar or tomato puree work as Tkemali substitutes.
The Georgian spice mix known as khmeli-suneli that will make you appreciate the traditional Kharcho flavor in its depth is today available in Russian and Caucasian grocery stores, as well as Amazon. It contains dried basil, ground coriander seeds, dried dill, a pinch of red hot pepper powder, a strand of saffron, and dried marjoram. A full version of the mix also contains bay leaf, mint, fenugreek, parsley, and celery in equal parts.
Kharcho preparation involves slow cooking over a gentle heat. The meat cooks until it is tender to melt in one’s mouth, then the other ingredients added before simmering for longer. Authentic Georgian Kharcho awards you one of the most amazing textures and tastes you will ever experience in this lifetime.
Ladgize water was created in 1887 from natural syrup and soda by Mitrophane Ladgize. The idea was to use fruit, natural syrup, and herbs to develop flavors instead of chemical flavors. In 1990, Ladgize and his brothers began blending proprietary flavors made from herbs and fruits that were unique. Mitrophane set off to Germany and France in 1902, where he studied new mechanisms and technologies.
In 1906, the first Ladgize brand water was set up in Tsibili, which became a trendy spot for the people of Georgia. Unesco added this lemonade making method in its Intangible Cultural Heritage List of Georgia.
Most establishments in the country mix the drink from the soda fountain in a glass right in front of you, making the whole experience uniquely and authentically Georgian.
Tarragon flavored lemonade
Though lemonades are common throughout the world, tarragon flavored lemonade is uniquely Georgian. This distinctive green color carbonated soft drink loved by Georgians was popular since the Soviet era. Its production process involves mixing tarragon syrup with carbonated water. Many soft drink companies in Georgia today produce lemonades with natural flavoring. The original lemonade has a taste of the tarragon leaves; however, you can get other flavors like lemon, vanilla, grape, chocolate, and pear.
You will find tarragon lemonade in different parts across the world with some tweaks. If you visit Georgia, make a point of tasting the real tarragon lemonade.
Georgia enjoys the blessing of several natural springs. Many companies take advantage of these God-given resources and produce refreshing brands of carbonated mineral water. Though every beverage is unique in carbonation strength and taste, Borjomi is the most popular mineral water in Georgia.
This drink is from Borjomi Gorge springs in the Bakuriani Mountains, located in the heart of Georgia. The imperial Russian military discovered the natural spring in 1920. Its unique and robust sulfur taste sets it apart from others. Borjomi water will give you the feeling of a divine beverage, thanks to its purification process and natural source.
Qvevri wine is Georgia’s most exquisite wines traditionally produced within home set-ups. In the village communities, there are unique varieties of grapes grown, which form the main ingredients of the Qvevri wine. The drink is made, aged, and stored in an egg-shaped earthenware vessel known as Qvevri. Experience and knowledge of this wine-making are passed down by the Georgian community that entails families, neighbors, friends, and relatives.
In Georgia, children master the art of tending the vines, pressing grapes, fermenting wine, and making the Qvevris at a tender age through observing elders.
Juice obtained from the crushed grapes is poured into the Qvevri together with grape skins, pips, and stalks, then sealed. The oval earthenware is then buried in the ground for five to six months to ferment before it is ready for consumption. Part of its magic taste and the amber color is a result of soil temperature.
Qvevri wine-making forms part of Georgians cultural inheritance and identity, as well as defines the lifestyle of people in the villages. In most homes, wine cellars are considered the most sacred place. According to studies, wine-making in the country dates to over 8,000 years ago, making Georgia the birthplace of wine.
Betqondara herbal tea
Tusheti Mountains, a historical region in the northeast of Georgia, is the home of Betqondara flowers. Besides decorating nature, this plant makes authentic tea in Georgia. Most local guesthouse or cafes will brew you a cup if you want.
Betqoranda herbal tea refreshes the body and mind and is ideal to consume after enduring an exhausting day, according to locals. Some Georgians use herbal tea for medicinal purposes, like curing diarrhea.
Though mainly associated with traditional slavic beverages, in particular, Russian Kvass, Burakhi (or Boza) has been brewed in Georgia since antient times. This is a fermented beverage, from rye bread or fermented flour and malt. In Georgia, a variation of Burakhi, Boza was made of millet as well. Rye bread is baked of flour from rye grain in various proportions. Burakhi color depends on the type of grit and coloring agents used.
Sometimes the drink is flavored using berries, fruit, and raisins collected at the start of the spring. While the Burakhi production process is similar to making beer, it has a low alcohol content of 0.05 – 1.44%, hence considered a non-alcoholic drink.
Burakhi is considered a healthy drink and features among the most popular Georgian drinks. Some scientists found many dangerous microorganisms dying inside the beverage in the 20th century. Besides its probiotic qualities, Kvass is rich in vitamins B and E that are useful for metabolism. It contains 27 calories in 100 grams, which makes it an excellent choice for weight watchers and those keeping fit.
Raspberry tea with chacha
The preparation process for this drink is simple. In a hot cup of water, add two teaspoons of raspberry jam, one teaspoonful of honey, and two teaspoons of chacha and drink it hot.
Raspberries are rich in oxidants and phytonutrients that are effective. These elements are known to reinforce the immune system and help the body fight against diseases. Georgian Chacha, on the other hand, warms up the entire body instantly, killing bacteria and viruses.
If you catch a cold while in Georgia, get this drink for immediate relief.
Georgian craft beer
Though having made its entry recently, craft beer in Georgia is gaining popularity fast. Several bars are serving the beer, though you can grab a bottle at the supermarket. The quality is top-notch, but the producers are still working on getting terms like Pale Ale and Stout into the Georgian beer vocabulary.
You will most likely come across Black Lion (Shavi Lomi) often and choose between APA, Black style, Hoppy Pilsner, or IPA.
Another biggest craft beer bar is Mta – which means nine mountains in Georgia – located in Tbilisi. The bar makes a wide variety of craft beers.
Megobreri is a craft beer with the brewery in the far south of Tbilisi, which is distributed in Georgia. You may, however, not find it the Georgian stores.
Tsinandali is a white wine from Georgia made from Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes, which come from the Kvareli and Telavi area of Kakheti. The wine is fermented at cool temperatures and matured for two to three years. To adopt a nutty bottle-aged character, Tsinandali can be aged further five.
This white wine is a pride of Georgia and bears a soft, delicate, and exquisitely fruity bouquet taste. It takes a light straw color, and the production dates back to 1886. Tsinandali wine combines the ancient vine and wine-making cultures of Georgia with modern technologies producing a high quality semi-dry white wine. Its distinctive soft aroma of immature grapes with sweet and sour disposition sets it apart from most wines you have tasted.
With an alcohol content of between 10-12%, this drink is worth tasting.
Apart from the snow-capped hills and breathtaking architectural heritage, Georgia has a rich and unique drinking culture. Georgian drinks offer visitors a wide range to choose from, leaving you spoilt for choice. Known for rich home-made wine, it is likely that any visitor will receive an offer of this traditional drink. Declining is impolite, according to Georgians.
Georgians are hospitable and accommodating. The country offers a variety of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks in its authentic range depending on which side of the divide you fall. At any time you visit Georgia, do yourself a favor and have a taste of their fine brewed wines.