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Horilka (Ukrainian: ) is Ukrainian vodka. Horilka is usually distilled from grain, potatoes, honey, sugar beets etc. The word horilka may also be used in a generic sense in the Ukrainian language to mean whisky, or other strong spirits and etymogically is similar to the Ukrainian word for burning - hority. Home-distilled horilka, moonshine, is called samohon (Ukrainian: , literally self-distillate or self-run).

Left: Ukrainian horilka with red peppers.

It is believed that horilka was not as strong as today with about 20 percent (40 proof). However, today nearly all industrially produced horilka is 80 proof.

Ukrainian tradition has also produced various derivatives of horilka. Some of these are available as commercial products, but most are typically home-made. This includes various kinds of fruit infusion, nalyvka and spiced spotykach:

  • malynivka made with raspberries,
  • tertukha (strawberries),
  • agrusivka (gooseberries),
  • ternivka (blackthorn berries),
  • kalynivka (snowball tree),
  • shypshynnyk (rose hips),
  • horobynivka (ashberries),
  • zubrivka (bison grass),
  • vyshnyak or vyshnivka from cherries,
  • slyvyanka (plums),
  • morelivka (apricots),
  • tsytrynivka (lemons),
  • mokrukha (oranges and cloves),
  • mochena (citrus rind),
  • kontabas (blackcurrant buds).

Horikhivka is flavoured with nuts. Horilka is also made with honey, mint, or even milk. In some cases whole fruits of red peppers (capsicum) are put into the bottle, turning horilka into a sort of bitters; it is then named horilka z pertsem, or pertsivka. (One should be mindful of the usage: horilka z pertsem refers to horilka bottled with hot chilli peppers, whereas pertsivka typically refers to horilka spiced with the essence of pepper. Horilka z pertsem always refers to a Ukrainian spirit. Pertsivka or Pertsovka may refer to Russian vodka.)

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 by the sun. Many include the addition of home-made syrup for a strong liqueur, others yield very dry, clear spirit. Some involve the fermentation of fruit as well as addition of horilka. Preparations which are baked in an oven, in a pot sealed with bread dough, are called zapikanka, varenukha or palenka.



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