Armenian Cuisine - Beverages
Traditional Drinks in Armenia
Armenia highly appreciates the culture of consumption of traditional drinks. Among the Armenian soft drinks the most popular are local Jermuk mineral waters as well as matsun, an analogue of kefir. After an abundant repast the Armenians prefer to have “surch”, i.e. coffee. The most popular national alcohol drink is cognac made from selected grape varieties, grown in the Ararat Valley. In addition, the traditional alcohol drinks are represented by mulberry vodka “Artsakh” and Armenian wine.
Famous Armenian Cognac
Speaking of Armenia, one could not but mention the famous Armenian cognac. As early as in year 1900 the Yerevan Wine & Brandy Factory (known also as Shustov Factory) product obtained an official permission to be called “cognac”, which was an honorable privilege for a producer located outside France at that time. These days, specially for cognac production, Armenia grows six grape varieties, one of which is Georgian rkatsiteli, famous all over the world. The Armenian cognacs are divided into ordinary, vintage and collection ones, depending on the method and period of cognac spirit aging. The most valuable collection cognacs are the ones produced by an additional aging of vintage cognacs. The world-known and recognized Armenian cognac brands are “Ararat”, “Great Valley”, “Mané” and “Armenika”.
Owing to the climatic conditions favorable for winegrowing, Armenia produces unique dessert and “sherry” wines. The Armenian grapes contain high level of sugar which makes the wine stronger and the alcoholic concentration high. The winemaking center “Ararat-Trust”, located in a gorge cut in a rock, has a unique museum with a collection reckoning more than three thousand varieties of wines, aged for several centuries. Such amplitudinous wine warehouses, apart from Armenia can only be found in two countries: France and Italy.
One of the Armenian best-known drinks, saving the cognac which is known by all, is vodka “Artsakh”– the strongest drink aged on white mulberry and produced in Nagorny Karabakh. “Artsakh” is produced in the same way as any other classic berry brandy but with the help of local processing methods, necessitated due to some specificity of the raw material. The distillation of the drink, which takes place in small-sized copper cubes, adds a special flavor to the end product. Later on, along with Spanish broom, other berries and fruits such as cornelian cherry, apricot, grape and plum were used in production of this vodka. But an Armenian traditional ancient drink is mulberry vodka. In spite of its strength it has a tender taste and good berry flavor; it is easy to drink because one cannot smell any spirit at all. Consumption of this drink in small quantities is believed to affect favorably the heart state and metabolism. It is proper in Armenia to drink alcohol drinks reasonably; as a matter of fact the Armenian language does not have such word as hang-over.
Matsun is a popular fermented milk product among the Armenians, produced in Armenia mainly from sheep milk. Matsun is a product highly respected by the Armenians and is one of the drinks they have most often every day, it is beneficial for health and slaking thirst well. Furthermore, it is a traditional drink on the table at Armenian shrove-tide and normally served with rice pudding “katnov”. Another sort of this drink, kamats-matsun is the same matsun but aged for about a week, and then filtered through a piece of cloth (normally a special linen bag is used). Kamats-matsun, free of excessive water is thicker by consistence and tender by taste with a slight sour taste. The Armenians not only drink matsun and kamats-matsun as any other fermented milk product, but also use them in their cuisine to make a salad dressing and cook cold soups.
Jermuk Mineral Water
Jermuk mineral water is another indigenously Armenian drink. This natural gas water is taken from ancient mountainous sources of Jermuk province; it is sold in glass and plastic containers. Jermuk waters posses healing quality: they are recommended for people, who suffer from gastritis and gastric ulcer, diabetes, diseases of the nervous system and even depression. Chemically, Jermuk mineral waters are identical to those of Karlovy Vary and Zheleznovodsk.
Coffee and Tea in Armenia
Besides, the Armenians like coffee, which is customary cooked “a la Turc”, i e., boiled in a coffee pot on live embers or red-hot sand. The resulted coffee is very strong and should have a scum. It is served with a glass of ice water to remove bitter aftertaste of the drink. As for tea, it does not enjoy great popularity among the Armenians. They drink it very seldom, preferring a local sort, infused on dried herbs: thyme, hypericum, mint, rather than the imported ones. They drink such tea, mainly, in winter, when they get cold, enriching it with canella, cloves, ginger and sugar.