Ryabinovka

Ark of taste
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Ryabinovka

Рябиновка, настойка из рябины

Ryabinovka is a vodka infusion made with the wild berries of wild rowan or mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia). This tree grows along the banks of the Oka River and the surrounding forests in the Moscow, Kaluga, Tula and Ryazan regions. The fruits are mainly spherical, sometimes apple-like in form, up to 1.5 cm in diameter and weighing 0.5-0.6 grams. The fruits are bright red, orange or yellow in color. Their taste is bitter or astringent. Fruits ripen from September through December; however, in arid years, the fruits may mature even before these dates. Mountain ash is a durable plant, living 100-150 years, sometimes even up to 200 years. Regionally, the fruits of mountain ash are traditionally used to make jams, compotes, homemade sweets (fresh or dried berries, sprinkled with powdered sugar), vodka infusions and other liquors.

To prepare ryabinovka, whole berries without any damaged spots or imperfections are used. The berries are cleaned and washed, then stored in glass jars. The high-purity alcohol is mixed with spring water and local honey and then poured to cover the berries. The jars are thoroughly closed and left in dark place in room temperature for two weeks. The rowan gives all its taste and flavor to the alcohol. The “first” ryabinovka will be 18-20%. The procedure is repeated one more time and the “second” ryabinovka is 35-40%. Then the two versions of ryabinovka are mixed to obtain a 25% final liquor. The color of the ryabinovka is dark-orange and translucent. The taste comes from the berries and is a bit bitter and astringent, with a sweet note due to the added honey.

Ryabinovka is a true Russian national drink. Families have long carried on the traditions of carefully collecting fruits and recording their secrets to produce various types of infusions. The drink and the tree are even part of Russian proverbs and sayings, such as: “No rowan – a boring autumn” and noting that for a good harvest of rowan means a rainy autumn and harsh winter. It is also mentioned in the song titled, “Рябиновая.”

Today, it is estimated that about 1000 liters per year of ryabinovka is produced annually, sold in local restaurants and restaurants in Moscow and Serpukhov. The traditional recipe uses wild berries and other natural ingredients like honey. This makes ryabinovka rare, as there are many competing industrial liquors made from cultivated berry varieties with the addition of artificial ingredients like colorings or aromas.

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