It’s a good time to honour the fabulous alcoholic beverages that have become synonymous with Cyprus. From a cocktail made especially for a king to one of the oldest wines in the world that was once proclaimed the wine of kings, Cyprus has plenty to be mighty proud of! Here are three proudly Cypriot drinks that should go down a treat next time you find yourself in this idyllic location.
Brandy Sour has become somewhat of a national cocktail in Cyprus. The drink is a mix of Cypriot brandy, undiluted lemon squash, a few drops of Angostura bitters, and then topped up with soda water. Cyprus brandy in itself is rather light, with an alcohol content of around 32% and a slightly sweet aftertaste.
The cocktail was first thought up in the Forest Park Hotel in Platres in the 1930s, made for the young King Farouk of Egypt, who often stayed in the hotel during his frequent visits to the island. But what many don’t know, is exactly why the barman decided to come up with the concoction.
King Farouk was rather fond of his alcohol, but being Muslim, could not be seen drinking it. Therefore, the hotel came up with a plan to serve the king something which appeared to be an iced tea, but was actually an alcoholic beverage that he would love. In this way, he successfully managed to disguise his preference for western-style cocktails. News spread across the island and before long, everyone was talking about this great new alcoholic drink, which fast became a hit with locals and foreigners alike.
Richard the Lionheart once boldly proclaimed Commandaria to be the “Wine of Kings and King of Wines” while gulping away at the sweet Cyprus dessert wine. Today, the glorious tipple stands as the world’s oldest wine still in production, dating all the way back to 800 BC, while its name dates back to the Crusaders of the 12th century.
A sweet dessert wine made from indigenous sun-dried Xynisteri and Mavro grapes, Commandaria is recognized and loved by connoisseurs the world over. It is enjoyed (like port) as an after-dinner wine and is fabulous with good strong cheese and fresh fruit. It’s usually served chilled (6-9ºC) in a short-stemmed wine glass with inward sloping sides to retain the wine’s rich bouquet.
This local ‘firewater’ is a potent distillation of the leftover grape skins and residue (pomace) from winemaking. Certainly not for the faint-hearted! A few swigs of this tipple will leave you feeling on top of the world. For the brave and the brave at heart, this white spirit contains a whopping 45% alcohol and is usually enjoyed as an ice-cold shot.
In the past, a glass or two was enjoyed as an aperitif by the man of the house after a hard day’s work in the fields. Today, most Zivania-making is regulated by the government, so it’s not as strong as it used to be, but it still serves as a punch. Plenty of village folk still make it at home and the mountain variety can be seriously strong. Be warned!