Locally known as ‘firewater’, Zivania is the island’s traditional drink. Unless used to it, Zivania is definitely not for the faint hearted. The drink has been produced for centuries and it still plays an important role in Cypriots’ everyday life. Zivania is served iced cold with meze, appetisers, or sweets. It is now protected by EU regulations as a product unique to Cyprus.
Zivania is a distillate alcoholic beverage. The drink is produced from a mixture of grape pomace (the residue of pressed grapes during the winemaking process) and a mixture of local dry wines. In particular, wines exclusively produced from the indigenous grape varieties Mavro and Xynisteri. Distillation is carried out in a special apparatus. It is colourless and is particularly characterised by its taste and its light smell of raisins. Zivania is a strong drink with a high alcoholic content. Typically the alcohol content of this drink is 45% although it may sometimes vary. Zivania does not contain any sugar or acidity.
As Zivania ages, it gains a stronger flavour and aroma. Thus, aged Zivania is highly valued and used in special occasions and celebrations. Locals welcome visitors with a serving of Zivania and dried fruits, nuts, soutzoukos, or small appetizers. Some villages also add cinnamon to Zivania.
Apart from being enjoyed as an alcoholic drink, Zivania is used for several other purposes. The drink is also used to treat wounds, as a remedy for colds and toothaches, to massage sore body parts or to regain consciousness. It is also simply used as a warming drink during the cold winter months especially in the mountain villages of Troodos.