First mentioned in Slavonic chronicles in 1128, it remained popular with all strata of Russian society until the 19th century when it was replaced by coffee and tea. It is being revived in the 21st century as a mass-produced drink in Russia.
Like mead and medovukha, sbiten' is based on honey mixed with water, spices, and jam. One recipe of sbiten' is described in the 16th-century Domostroy. Compared to kvass, sbiten' is very simple to prepare. In some recipes, honey and sbiten' flavor (spices, juices) are boiled down and then these two parts are combined and boiled again. In other recipes, all the ingredients are combined and boiled at once. The drink can also be made alcoholic by substituting red wine for water. It can be garnished with mint leaves or cinnamon sticks.
It can also be served cold during the summer.
Sbitenshchik (Russian: сбитенщик) was a sbiten vendor in old Russia. The tradition began in the 12th century.
“On the lower floor there were shops with horse-collars, ropes, and cracknels, etc., and in the corner shop, or rather at its window, sat a sbiten seller, with a samovar of red copper, and a face as red as his samovar.” (Gogol, “Dead Souls”, 1837–1838, Chapter I)
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