Zivania – a legendary spirit
With an alcohol content ranging between 40-60%, it is no surprise that the island’s national drink of Zivania is also referred to as ‘firewater’! The history of zivania goes back in centuries as it was first encounter in Homer’s Odyssey, where it is referred to as “Zivanon”, a drink consumed by the Cyclops. Zivanon is the grape pomace (remains such as pulp, peel, stalks and seeds) which is mixed with high-quality dry wines made from the indigenous grapes Mavro (red) and Xynisteri (white), then distilled and mellowed for a long period.
The production of this pomace spirit dates back to the Venetian times in the 14th century and it is still produced in the same traditional manner. Distillation takes place in a cauldron (‘kazani’) with three different processes giving us different qualities and intensity of the drink. The resulting liquid is clear and strong and is usually enjoyed as a digestif – best served cold from the freezer. As zivania ages, it becomes more aromatic, hence old, preserved zivania is often saved for special occasions. A red variety of zivania is also available, though less common, with its colour gained from cinnamon. Red zivania is highly aromatic and was first produced by the monks of Kykkos Monastery. It was offered as a welcoming drink to important visitors of the monastery and as a present along with a bottle of Koumantaria and a bottle of red wine.
Before modern medicine, zivania used to be an essential and versatile first-aid instrument in every Cypriot home. It can be used to treat and sterilize wounds, to massage sore body parts, to numb toothache, to ease coughing or to warm the body from cold. It is still particularly appreciated as a warming tonic in the Troodos mountain villages, where temperatures drop far lower than in the flat and coastal areas.
Zivania can be served as a digestif or as the main ingredient in a cocktail. The new trends introduce traditional flavors presented in alternative, more creative and contemporary ways. Zivania cocktails are refreshing, delicate, enchanting, sturdy and summery. Don’t hesitate to ask your bartender for a Zivania cocktail, even if it’s not on the menu. It’s a drink you will never have in any other place on Earth.
Join the Zivania festivals around the Heartland of Legends that take place every November. Get an insight view of zivania production and enjoy a wonderful day out in the countryside.