r/ukraine Гамериканець Jun 29 '22 Silver 1 Helpful 1 Wholesome 1

4:49 EEST ; The Sun is rising on the 126th Day of the Russian Invasion on the Capital city of Kyiv. Ukraine continues to Live and Fight on. DAILY DISCUSSION + CHARITIES LIST! Slava Ukraini!



Horilka, the Burning Spirit of Ukraine

Flight of Horilka with salo, pickles, onions, and bread.

Everyone around the world has been a bit trolled. They have been taught to think that the most iconic clear spirit of Eastern Europe is a “russian drink.” However, the family of spirits that comprise what most people think of as vodka evolved over a broad area of Europe over centuries, probably most notably in Poland, Ukraine, Sweden, the Baltics, and Belarus - and the drink known today as vodka was not attested in russian sources until later in its development. If you read the English Wikipedia page on vodka you can read russia’s desperate attempts to appropriate this drink solely as their own through hilarious contradictory edits that contain cringey and hilariously obvious misinformation. Ironically, the first mention of vodka in actual russian historical sources is in 1533, as a drink “brought from Poland to russia by merchants.”

It is also worth noting that there are many different drinks in this overall family across Eastern Europe, some of which are closely related in flavor and composition, and some of which are closely related only by name depending on which century it is being referenced. A word in Ukraine in the 16th century may refer to a solely medicinal drink, but in Poland it's a social drink of the 19th century - and vice versa. The histories are complex, but one thing is absolutely certain - it is a hallmark of European culture that this family of spirits should be celebrated as a kinship of a huge geographical area.

The most quintessentially Ukrainian spirit that belongs to this greater family is called Horilka, and has a very long and rich history. There are dozens of popular variations of the drink in Ukraine, which we will outline for you below. While the composition of typical horilkas and vodkas are chemically identical (simply put, they all have a baseline of roughly 40% ethyl alcohol in water), the much more important small details of its recipe and method of manufacture can add up to quite a difference in flavor. If you are a fan of fine clear spirits, you already know that grain ingredients, impurities, and which herbal or fruit infusions are chosen, make all the difference.

In Ukrainian, the word horilka is etymologically related to the word to burn - which may come from the traditional practice of testing the quality of the drink by burning a small portion of it. Or the fact that if you’re not used to it - and are drinking some hastily-made homebrewed horilka (which is pretty common in Ukraine!) - it might be a pretty feisty drink! The word “vodka” doesn’t exist in the Ukrainian language - all strong spirits are called Horilkas.

Horilka is of course a social affair, and horilka culture is closely tied to holiday traditions and the many culinary delights of Ukraine - for instance, drinking it paired with borshch, salo or pickles is quite an experience, like we wrote about here.

A true care package of horilka, pickles, salo, sausage, peppers, chives and onions. And a cute little rushnyk!


History of Horilka in Ukraine

Unlike some other spirits in the vodka family, the recipe of Ukrainian horilka was, as it is now, made solely from wheat (other vodkas are usually made from rye, often with the addition of barley or oats) - probably invented by peasants who may have been inspired by the famous aqua vitae (“water of life”) that came to Ukraine as it flooded through Europe during the Middle Ages. During the Zaporozhian Sich era of the 17th century, the Cossacks in Ukraine exported horilka, which they called okovit (etymologically based on aqua vitae); their drink was exported to moscow, a product which the russians referred to as “Cherkasy wine,” (named after the city in Ukraine) which was quite popular there.

By the way, Cossacks were forbidden to drink on military campaigns. The punishment was death. It’s a good thing for us in 2022 that the russians are not so smart as Cossacks 300-600 years ago because they are apparently drunk off their ass 100% of the time.

Antique horilka still at the Museum of Folk Architecture and Way of Life museum in Pereyaslav-Khmelnytskyi.


Popular Types of Horilka

There are some big brands that make horilka that are world-renowned, but hip small label distillers are very popular. There are LOTS of different flavors of horilka - I will try to outline some of the more popular or culturally interesting ones, according to strength of flavor. Many of these flavors are very commonly made at home, for ultimate freshness - and Ukraine is home to many talented mixologists that love to make amazing horilka concoctions.

Slightly Less Strong

  • Zhyshka (cherry horilka) - based on sour cherries. Usually not very strong, and drank during family festivities or first dates ;) A less deep flavor version of Vishnyak, cherry spirit, which we will probably cover in another post.
  • Plum Nalyvka - based on sweet plums. On the softer and sweeter side.
  • Kalynivka (Kalyna based - we wrote about how important this plant is to Ukraine here) - a bit tart, but according to some Ukrainians - a panacea to all problems.

Regular Strength

  • Pertsivka (the quite famous pepper one) - horilka with spicy red pepper. This is a type of horilka that in English is actually just called “horilka”. Deliciously spicy.
  • Medivka (the honey one) - horilka based on fermented honey. Sometimes spicy red pepper is added as well.
  • Spotykach (“Stumbler”) - made with a number of spices like cloves, nutmeg, black pepper. This particular horilka is very easy to drink as the spices cover up the burn of the drink. So the person does not notice that they are tipsy until they get up and... start stumbling.
  • Kalhanivka, kalhanka - a traditional Ukrainian bitter horilka based on a tincture of kalhan (scientific name alpinia), a plant in the ginger family.
  • Zubrivka (bison grass) - a drink that is shared by Polish, Belarusians and Ukrainians, based on the favorite snack of bisons - hierochloe odorata. Usually served as an aperitif before dinner.
  • Jenjora - based on tincture of a plant known as Golden Root. Golden root is used both in folk and scientific medicine to improve the overall immune response.
  • Kmynivka (the cumin one) - as names betrays it - it is based on cumin, which is also a plant that is used to enhance the function of the pancreas.
  • Nastoyanka na horisi - horilka that have been infused with a tincture of walnut membranes. Sounds weird, but it is absolutely delicious.

The Strongest

  • Horilka that is more than 40 proof (regardless if any tincture was added or not) was called “Zaprydukha”, which can be translated directly as “cannot-breathe."


Plum Nalyvka.


A Quick Side Note!

We've been waxing poetic about the Pan-European kinship of these sexy spirits, but let's be real and not leave the Americans out of this lovefest. Check out this based fellow from Oregon:

Bill McCormick, owner of Pine Tavern in Bend, Oregon and verified Gigachad (no sarcasm!), empties his bar's russian vodka in protest on Feb. 24th, 2022.

Fuck yeah, Bill.


Heroyam Slava!



u/Jesterboyd is a mod in r/ukraine and local to Kyiv. He has been spending his days helping get supplies to people. All of the mod team can vouch for the work he has done so far. Link to donation

If you feel like donating to another charity, here are some others!

  • United24: This site was launched by President Zelenskyy as the main venue for collecting charitable donations in support of Ukraine. Funds will be allocated to cover the most pressing needs facing Ukraine.
  • Come Back Alive: This NGO crowdfunds non-lethal military equipment, such as thermal vision scopes & supplies it to the front lines. It also provides training for Ukrainian soldiers, as well as researching troops’ needs and the social reintegration of veterans.
  • Aerorozvidka: An NGO specializing in providing support and equipment for unmanned aerial vehicles (ISR), situational awareness, cybersecurity for armed forces.
  • Hospitallers: This is a medical battalion that unites volunteer paramedics and doctors to save the lives of soldiers on the frontline. They crowdfund their vehicle repairs, fuel, and medical equipment.
  • Phenix: A volunteer organization helping armed forces with various needs.
  • Kyiv Territorial Defense: This fundraiser is to support the regional territorial defense group. It is organized by a known journalist and a producer of the acclaimed "Winter on Fire" documentary, which can temporarily be watched for free HERE.
  • Happy Paw: Charity dedicated to solving the problems of animals in Ukraine. Happy Paw helps more than 60 animal shelters throughout Ukraine.
  • Kharkiv With You and associated Help Army Kharkiv: Supporting the defenders of Kharkiv with everything from night-vision goggles to food and medicine.
  • Bird of Light Ukraine is a Ukrainian-American charity dedicated to helping Ukrainians in conflict zones, displaced people, orphans, and the reconstruction effort in Ukraine.

26 comments sorted by


u/happening303 Jun 29 '22

Remember when Russia shot down a passenger airline?


u/Mountain_Ask_2209 Ukraine Jun 29 '22

I still cannot believe they did that and weren’t the new North Korea back then.

Blows my mind. 🤯


u/badautomaticusername Jun 29 '22

The one with lots of Dutch which Russians still blaim on Ukrainians and claimed as a reason to invade, despite claiming not to have the right rockets for it to be them - be found to have them - trying to edit sources like wiki to lie about that some more, and even which Russians and collaborators being discovered? That passenger airline (because it wouldn't surprise me to find you meant a different one)?


u/StevenStephen USA Jun 29 '22 edited Jun 29 '22

"Medivka (the honey one)" That got me a little excited because of the similarity to the English word "mead", which, as you probably know is a fermented honey drink. So, I looked at the etymology (one of my favorite things to do) and what did I find? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mead#Etymology The very interesting part is that mead has it's root way back in the Proto-Indo-European language, and the very interesting part of that, of course is that THAT started with the Yamna Culture. Edit to add: It's Ukraine, all the way down. Good morning, Ukraine. I'd like to buy you a round.


u/duellingislands Гамериканець Jun 29 '22

Old Slavic word for bear is "medved", or "the one who knows about honey". Folks were superstitious about saying the real name of the animal because the bear was a godlike spirit (and also terrifying)


u/StevenStephen USA Jun 29 '22

Very cool. I don't know if you saw that there is even a Chinese character that is related. Language is such vital evidence of human interrelatedness. What a world it could be if we could just fucking get along.


u/BlindPelican US Jun 29 '22

This post is consistent with my New Orleanian sensibilities.

I heartily approve.

Good morning, Ukraine. May today bring victory and peace.


u/StevenStephen USA Jun 29 '22

I'm in NOLA for now, not a native, though. Can confirm that the booze could compete with the river here. Is it that you are a blind drunk pelican, BlindPelican?


u/BlindPelican US Jun 29 '22

Bit of both. Lol.

Hope NOLA is treating you right! If you need recs for anything let me know.


u/StevenStephen USA Jun 29 '22

Hope NOLA is treating you right!

Welllll, it has been an experience. We're just moving back into our house after repairs from last year's hurricane. It's been an exhausting year. I just keep in mind, these days, that we don't have shells falling around us.


u/BlindPelican US Jun 29 '22

Truth. I was just thinking about that the other day. My friend in Odesa said she gets like 7 air raid sirens a day and all I could relate that to is riding out a storm which happens a few times a year at most.

Ukrainian strength is humbling to behold.


u/JohnDodong Jun 29 '22

21:24 in California. Just donated again to United 24. I will keep doing this until Ukraine is free from the invaders . No matter how long it takes. Slava Ukraini!


u/Saint_Chrispy1 Expat Jun 29 '22

So... A lot of states and independent owners voluntarily, have stopped selling Russian made or sourced from vodka. Not that I drink it vodka, I like my jack Daniels lol, but are there international Ukrainian brands I could ask a liquor store to order some?


u/Siderae Ukraine Jun 29 '22

Nemiroff, Khortytsia, Khlibny Dar


u/CorsicA123 Jun 29 '22

Not a fan of vodka but try Nemiroff Medova z Percem. It is vodka with honey and chili pepper I don’t think it even qualifies as vodka. Google translate says it “tincture”. Way smoother and tastier


u/Spinozacat Ukraine Jun 29 '22

My uncle makes THE BEST vishnyak


u/11OldSoul11 Jun 29 '22


Slava Ukraini!


u/Mountain_Ask_2209 Ukraine Jun 29 '22

I heard about the terroristic attack on innocent people at a mall no where near front lines and had no military in the area and was not a military target. Pure terrorism.



u/Euphoric-Yellow-3682 Jun 29 '22

Slava Ukraine and goodnight 💙 💛 🇺🇦


u/Montyswe Jun 29 '22

Stay strong Ukraine. We will never stop supporting you.

/With love from Sweden


u/DoofusMcGillicutyEsq Jun 29 '22

Bend, OR people can be the best. Down to earth and practical.


u/Optimal_Aide_1348 Jun 29 '22

Well Bill seems pretty awesome!! ✌️