by elissamichelezacher on 02/05/12 at 8:15 pm
Move over Zivania, Commandaria and Brandy Sour – there is a new drink on the isle of Aphrodite!
Zivania: Image via Wikipedia
In Cyprus, an island in Homer’s “wine dark sea”, I was introduced to three of its most famous alcoholic drinks: Zivania, Commandaria wine and the Brandy Sour. Zivania is potent stuff – it takes one’s breath away, literally. My mother was advised to drink some to cure her pneumonia (when we visited the Sodap distillery) – it did. Zivania is distilled from the remains (pomace) of grapes previously used to make wine: the pulp, seeds, skins and stems. Zivania has been made in Cyprus since the late 15th century. Commandaria wine, a sweet dessert wine, has been made on the Mediterranean island since antiquity and may be the oldest wine still made today. There is even a representation of Cypriot wine-making on a piece of potter that is 4000 years old! In its antique roots it was used for religious rituals and was then known as Mana, according to the Greek poet Hesiod, meaning “mother”. It may have even been mentioned by Homer in his works. It was the wine of choice at Richard the Lionheart’s wedding to Berengaria in 1191; “wine of kings and the king of wines.” he called it. When he sold the island of Cyprus to the Knights Templar, they took over the wine making. The name Commandaria dates from this time, for the knights’ districts were called commandaries, one of which was the wine producing area at the foot of the Troodos Mountains. The Brandy Sour is a drink invented for the visiting king of Egypt, King Farouk, in the 1930s. The Cypriot barman, at the Forest Park Hotel in the hill-resort of Plátres, cleverly made up the Brandy Sour of Cypriot brandy (KEO VSOP or Haggipavlu Anglias brands), Cypriot lemon squash, Angostura bitters and finished off with lemonade or soda water. It is designed to look like ice tea – no one who was watching Farouk was any the wiser that he was imbibing forbidden alcohol. Best had after a dip in the Mediterranean not before – just trust me on that one – it is a sly fox, the Brandy Sour.