Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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Russia was famed in medieval times for its wild hives, so abundant that travelers tell tales of honey dripping right from the trees. See honey. Although sugar eventually supplanted honey for preserving and baking, the Russians remain devoted to honey’s taste and nutritive powers.

The Domostroi, a sixteenth-century book of household management, describes several different types of mead, all fermented from wild honey: boiled, white (made from light, clear honey), honey (with a greater proportion of honey to water), ordinary, boyars’ (the honeycomb was left in for the initial fermentation), spiced, and berry. See mead. Berry meads offered the further advantage of preserving large quantities of perishable summer fruits. Another old honey-based drink is sbiten’, for which honey is heated with water and spices, and sometimes fortified with vodka or brandy.