…from the California Happy Hour Bar
How you doin’? When you travel to Ukraine it isn’t like any place in the United States. A few years ago, Joan and I were working on a project in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. It was an independent country then and were involved in their elections process. Sadly, as I write this Russian troops are poised take over the county.
One of the memories of that trip was how well Ukrainians can hold their liquor—they love to drink to celebrate. They celebrate the rising of the sun, a full moon, when the clock strikes any hour… you get the idea… any moment of the day is cause for celebration.
Our client introduced us to horilka (Ukrainian vodka) at an Azerbaijan restaurant featuring folk music and a 50-year-old belly dancer for entertainment and lots and lots of food. Eldar (our client) loved his horilka served from a block of ice with a beer chaser. Most Ukrainians will tell you, when you start to drink horilka don’t mix it with anything else. I’m here to tell you it was one of the strongest vodka-like liquors I’ve ever had.
Ukrainian tradition has produced various derivatives of horilka. Some of these are available as commercial products, but most are typically homemade. This includes various kinds of fruit infused liquor. Fruit-flavored horilkas are dangerous as they are inconsistent in alcohol content and can really creep on up you.
Most of these preparations are aged with fruit for several weeks or months, then strained or decanted. Some recipes call for the jars to be placed on the rooftop, for maximum bleaching and steeping by the sun. Many include the addition of homemade syrup for a stronger liqueur, others yield a very dry, clear spirit. Some involve the fermentation of fruit as well as addition of horilka. There are even preparations which are baked in an oven, in a pot sealed with bread dough and are called zapikanka, varenukha or palynka.
My recipe for this White Ukrainian Cocktail uses Ukrainian horilka, but if you can’t find it at your local liquor store you can just use inexpensive American vodka. It uses a lot of other ingredients including milk (to sort of pad your stomach). Today, nearly all industrially produced horilka is 40 percent (80 proof). Try this concoction on a night when you are not driving.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Yield: 2 cocktails
1 ounce of Ukrainian horilka (vodka)
1 ounce of Kahlua coffee liqueur
1 ounce of Malibu coconut rum
1 ounce of Bailey's Irish Cream
1 ounce of Frangelico hazelnut liqueur or 1 ounce of amaretto almond liqueur
6-10 ounces of milk
ChefSecret: Straight Horilka plays a role in traditional weddings in Ukraine.
Quip of the Day: Overheard from the bride’s father. “Bring us a lot of horilka, but not any of that fancy kind with raisins or with any other such things—bring us horilka of the purest kind. Give us that demon drink that makes us merry, playful and wild!”
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