When you visit a destination, local drinks are probably the last thing on your mind unless, of course, we are talking about spirits. Georgian people are passionate about their history, culture and of course their traditional cuisine. When you are on a visit to Georgia, you have the chance to taste some of the best drinks you can ever come across. That is why Georgia is such a compelling country.
In the following article, we are going to introduce different kinds of Georgian beverages, from mineral waters to hot cocktails:
Some archaeologists claim that Georgia is the birthplace of wine. It is true because winemaking there dates back to 5,000 years ago. So wine is one of the most popular drinks in Georgia. Of course, there is Chacha (a kind of brandy) which you can find almost everywhere, but it is not all the story, and there are other kinds of alcoholic drinks too.
The Georgian word for wine is “ღვინო” /ghvino/. You cannot imagine Georgia without wine. Wine is an inseparable part of the traditional Georgian feast, making it the number one drink among other Georgian drinks.
Below is a list of famous wines of Georgia which are popular domestically as well as internationally.
Georgian wine makers are proud of this white wine. It bears a light straw color with a fine fruity bouquet and soft delicate taste. The production dates back to 1886. Tsinandali is made from 80% Rkatsiteli and 20% Mtsvane grapes. (Alcohol 10 – 12%)
Introducing a premium red semisweet wine with a bold fragrant bouquet and dark pomegranate color; it shows hints of chocolate. It has been produced in Georgia since 1958. it is made from Saperavi grapes. (Alcohol 11 – 12%)
This is a high-quality red semi-sweet wine with the intense color of overripe cherry. Its special smell delivers a mild smooth taste. Kindzmarauli is one of the most famous wines of Kakheti. (Alcohol 10 – 12%)
Perhaps the most often served of Georgian wines among international sommeliers, Saperavi is a dry red varietal of blurred red tone. Saperavi wine has been in production in Georgia since 1886. (Alcohol 10.5 – 13%)
This is a semi-dry white wine. Tbilisiuri boasts a sweet and sour disposition with the soft aroma of immature grapes. This is made from a combination of grapes from the Kartli region. (Alcohol 10 – 11.5%)
This is from the western region of Racha in the Rioni valley. It is semi-sweet and made from Tsololikouri grapes. It is light amber with a fruity bouquet and a soft palate. (Alcohol 10 – 12%)
This wine type is considered being among the top 5 Georgian wines. This varietal made from exclusively Kisi grapes grown in vineyards no less than 50 years old. The wine is aged on skins. It possesses odd smoked pork tones and is garnished with wood spice. (Alcohol 12.5%)
This natural dry amber wine has been made in Georgia since 1948. The wine possesses a golden color, full-body, and distinctive fruity nose. (Alcohol 10.5%)
1.1.9 Alazani Valley:
Firstly, this kind of wine has two varieties, White and red. White one is a semi-sweet wine. It is characterized by its maize color, aromatic bouquet, and mild fruity palate. It is made from Khatsiteli grapes. (Alcohol 11.5%) The red variety is a semisweet, ruby tinted wine with a hint of wild berry. Both red and white varieties have been produced in Georgia since 1977. (Alcohol 12%)
This is a pink semi-dry that is made from the Saperavi, Cabernet, and Rkatsiteli grape varieties grown in East Georgia. This wine has been produced since 1984.it has a rich fruity taste. (Alcohol 9-11.5%)
Although there are different types of spirits produced in Georgia, the most popular and strongest drink is Chacha. The Georgian brandy is a real beauty of Georgian restaurants today and pairs well with various gastronomic delights. That is why we begin this section of Georgian drinks by Chacha:
Chacha is a Georgian pomace brandy. It is very clear and strong (ranging between 40% alcohol for commercially produced to 65% for homebred). You may also hear some people call it other names like “vine vodka”, “grape vodka”, or “Georgian vodka/grappa”. It is made of grape pomace (grape residue left after making wine). The term Chacha is used in Georgia to refer to grape distillate. It may be also produced from unripe or wild grapes. Other common fruits or herbs used are figs, tangerines, oranges, mulberries, or tarragon. Many Georgians claim Chacha has medicinal properties and suggest it as a remedy for some ailments, including ear blockages and indigestion. Also, it is said to cure stomachaches by applying it to the abdomen. It is also said to cure acne by applying to the face.
You might be offered Chacha at Georgian feasts, but be careful, as its drinking requires a special awareness. First of all, you should make a little inquiry about its origins. If it comes from the Georgian highlands, be extra cautious because one too many and you’ll forget all the fun you had at the feast! Kakhetian Chacha can make you drunk slowly, Chacha from Guria can provoke a high-spirited mood, while their Megrelian ‘colleague’ is good at making people lose balance fast.
When it comes to Georgian traditional drinks, every single person will name wine or Chacha, but what if we told you that there are more interesting drinks produced from grapes in Georgia which are not wine or Chacha?
1.2.2 Honey Spirits by Midamo:
This is not vodka; it’s a honey distillate made from four different types of honey. With 40% alcohol, Midamo should be served just like whiskey and rum, without ice. For the proper tasting, take a glass of whiskey or wine.
1.2.3 Etno (Apple Brandy):
Etno is an apple brandy, produced with Calvados production technology. The organic 65-70% alcohol, obtained by double distillation of cider, produced in the village of Manglisi from ecologically pure mountain apples. There are two types of brandy: aged brandy from oak barrels and crystal-clear from glass vessels. As the high alcoholic drink enthusiasts suggest, it is better to drink Calvados warm, before or after dinner.
1.2.4 Quince Spirit by Tsinandali Estate:
This pure fruit distillate is made from the hand-picked fruit of strong aromas with 42% alcohol. Moreover, the drink has an exceptional aroma, gentle and soft palate with long, fresh quince aftertaste.
Wine is not the only product that Georgians can be proud of. Beer also plays an important role among drinks available in Georgia. As prof. Eldar Nadiradze has mentioned in his essay “Georgian Beer”: “Beer as a brewing culture was introduced in Georgia from the countries of the Old East, Ancient Egypt, Iran, and Mesopotamia, recognized as the earliest places where people started brewing it.” In the mountains of Georgia, where grapes are rare material, Beer was a rather welcomed alternative, quickly becoming the number one drink from Georgian highlanders.
1.3.1 Local Macro Brews:
The most common will be Natakhtari, which you can have on tap for as cheap as 1 lari (about 30 cents) for half a liter if you know where to go. Natakhtari is a delicious pilsener-style beer. There are also Argo and Kasris in bottles, and you can enjoy them both. Kazbegi is another major brand but goes to the end of the list.
1.3.2 Georgian Craft Beer
Recently, craft beer has enetered Georgia. There are going to be new breweries and bars serving the beers, and you can conveniently grab them at supermarkets too. The quality is excellent; they’re still working on getting the terms “IPA,” “Pale Ale,” and “Stout” (a kind of strong, dark beer brewed with roasted malt or barley) into the Georgian beer vocabulary.
Black Lion (Shavi Lomi) is the one you’ll come across most often. You’ll typically have a choice between an IPA, APA, Hoppy Pilsner, or Black style, and they’re all fairly good!
One of the biggest craft beer bars in Tbilisi is Mta (which means “9 mountains” in Georgian). They make a wide variety of craft beers.
Another craft beer available is Megobrebi which is a brewery/taproom in the far south of Tbilisi. Although their beer is distributed here and there in Georgia, it’s hard to find in stores.
There are others such as:
- 2Tons, Underground Microbrewery (UMGB)
- Golden Mug producing craft beers which defiantly worth trying.
If you are interested to know more about drinks in Georgia, and much more, make sure you check out the wonderful articles here: https://terranovantica.com/category/food-and-drink/
1.4 Hot cocktail
If you are heading to Georgia in winter, these delicious drinks will keep you warm in cold winter days as well as help you stay healthy and avoid catching a cold.
Gluehwine is the most popular and beloved hot alcoholic drink that you can find anywhere, and Georgia is no exception. You can try mulled wine at Georgia’s winter resorts in Gudauri and Bakuriani or winter markets. You can use either red dry or semi-sweet Georgian wine in making it.
1.4.2 Grog with honey
This is very popular in many countries. Georgians also enjoy its spicy flavor and often serve it in various café-bars. You can prepare it in advance, pour in the thermos and take with you when hiking or skiing in the country’s winter resorts.
1.4.3 Cocktail Old Tom
This interesting and delightful British cocktail is good for whiskey lovers. Yet if you were not able to find it in Georgia’s café-bars you can prepare it very easily together with your friends and have some fun. It consists of whiskey, hot water, honey, and a little lemon juice. Two basic ingredients you need are Georgian honey and Georgian produced whiskey Jimsher. Place cinnamon stick and cloves in boiling water, then add whiskey, a little bit of sugar, few drops of lemon juice and honey. Before serving, put a lemon slice in a glass.
1.4.4 Homemade raspberry tea with chacha
Raspberry tea with Georgian chacha and honey is what you need if you have already caught cold. Raspberries are rich in effective antioxidants as well as phytonutrients. These elements proficiently reinforce your immune system and help your body to fight diseases. Interestingly enough, Georgian Chacha instantly warms up your entire body and kills bacteria and viruses. For the preparation, you just need to add two teaspoons of raspberry jam in a hot cup of water, add one teaspoon of honey, two teaspoons of chacha and mix well. Drink it hot.
1.4.5 Irish coffee
This is a women’s favorite drink with whiskey flavor balanced by tender cream. It includes hot coffee, brown sugar, Georgian whiskey, and heavy cream.
There are a couple of non-alcoholic beverages unique to Georgia. Here’s a shortlist of the local drinks you shouldn’t miss when in Georgia.
2.1 Mineral water
There are a lot of natural springs in Georgia, so several companies produce naturally carbonated mineral water. Every beverage is different from the other with taste and carbonation strength. The most famous mineral water in Georgia is Borjomi. This particular beverage is from Borjomi Gorge springs (Bakuriani mountains), located in the central part of the nation. Besides Borjomi, you can try Nabeghlavi, Likani, and Sairme.
2.2 Soft drinks
It is a traditional fermented Slavic beverage commonly made from rye bread (Rye bread is a type of bread made with various proportions of flour from rye grain. It can be light or dark in color, depending on the type of flour used and the addition of coloring agents). The color of the bread used contributes to the color of the resulting drink. This drink is sometimes flavored using fruit, berries, raisins collected in the early spring. While the production process is similar to beer making, Kvas has very low alcohol content (0.05 – 1.44%) and it is considered a non-alcoholic drink. The main ingredient of true Kvas is rye bread.
lemonades are popular all over the world, but tarragon flavored lemonade is unique to Georgia. It is another carbonated soft drink that Georgians love and was very popular during the Soviet era. It has a distinctive bright green color and a taste of the tarragon leaves. The beverage was made by mixing carbonated water with the tarragon syrup in the nineteenth century. Today, many soft drink factories produce typical lemonades with natural flavoring. You can buy this type of lemonade at any local shop across the country. If you are not into tarragon, you can try other flavors, such as vanilla, lemon, pear, grape, and chocolate.
2.2.3 Lagidze Water:
Lagidze Water is created from soda and natural syrups. Traditionally, it’s mixed in a glass from the soda fountain in front of you, that is a unique and authentic experience. In 1887, Lagidze experimented with the idea of using natural syrups instead of imported flavored essences to make lemonades. It was in 1900 when he and his brothers began to blend unique proprietary flavors made from fruits and herbs. Finally in 2014, this method of making lemonade was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List of Georgia.
2.3 Hot drinks
Tea is a drink of choice for many people around the world. However, opinions on how to properly make, serve and drink it vary wildly. Generally, Georgians largely drink black tea with lemon.
To sum up, as we mentioned above there is a big variety of drinks in Georgia. In fact, wine and Chacha are the most famous traditional drinks there. So if you don’t have time to taste all of them, make sure not to miss these two at least.