Zivania is a traditional Cypriot alcoholic beverage. It is colorless with the light aroma of – in my opinion – grapes and/or raisins. The alcohol content varies, but typically it is around 45% by volume.
It is a very strong beverage. It has also and other uses in Cyprus like treating wounds, massaging sore body parts and curing colds. Zivania contains no sugars or acidity.
It is a drink that everyone in Cyprus knows, have tried and most of them claim that it keeps them strong.
The most important factor to make a good zivania is the quality of the grapes. Good quality grapes are a must.
The grapes can not be blemished or under ripe when picked. At Kalamos Winery we prefer them to be a little more ripe than normal because this means that the grapes will have a higher sugar content. More sugar content, means a great alcohol content and more aroma.”
Traditionally, zivania was made with the local grapes in Cyprus, these being the “xinisteri” and “mavro” grapes. At Kalamos Winery, the “zivania” is made with the white grape “malaga”, otherwise commonly known as “muscat of alexandria”. “Malaga” grapes, when properly ripened, have an intense aroma of grape and this makes the zivania ultimately more aromatic. All bottles of zivania must have the type of grape used to make the zivania clearly labelled on the bottle.
The production of zivania is carried out in large stainless steel cylinders. There is a corner where a small stream of clear liquid is pouring out. “That is zivania”.
The production of Zivania with the “old-fashioned” way is described below:
Inside a large black distillation apparatus called a “kasani”, the grapes are being boiled. This creates bubbles and the bubbles create steam. The steam produced then rises and makes its way through a large pipe which connects to a distiller, a large cylinder filled with cold water and more pipe. Inside the cold tank is a winding “cooling condenser” pipe where the hot steam condenses into liquid zivania.
At Kalamos Winery the zivania is made from the grapes itself, not the residue of grapes that had been crushed when making wine which consists of the leftover grapes and skins. The former method produces a much better quality of zivania, whereas the latter approach is the method commonly adopted when making zivania at home. The grapes are run through a machine that crushes the grapes and everything is put together (save for the stems) into large blue barrels. The grapes are kept in these large blue barrels for around 10 days.
Inside the yeast eats the sugar from the must and these creates bubbles, carbon dioxide, which become trapped. When you shake the barrel, the carbon dioxide escapes, which is what produces the fizzing sound.
Once the liquid starts to come out the distillation apparatus, it is tested for alcohol content. Zivania must have an alcohol content of 45%. When the liquid first comes out, the first 2 to 3 litres are very high in alcohol content. In fact, the liquid that first comes out is methanol. So to ensure that the right alcohol content is obtained, the first 5 litres are discarded or put to the side to be sold on as methanol. Even after the first 5 litres come out, the alcohol content of the zivania produced isn’t exactly 45%. It may be higher, but it is collected and distilled water added to bring the alcohol content down to 45%. In addition, no zivania is collected once the alcohol content drops below 40%, because it is not of good quality.