Ivan Savelyevich Varenukha

The theater manager at the Variete. The name Varenukha comes from a vodka based berry drink.

Varenukha: Ukrainian Hot spiced vodka

Unlike the Russians, who insist on chilled vodkas, the Ukrainians prefer warm brandies and vodkas, which as they so quaintly put it "make a carnation bloom right inside your stomach." For centuries varenukha - which means "boiled" - was the favored tipple of the fearsome Cossacks, fueling their warrior bodies by day and making them merry by night. It should be served warm.

  • 3 tablespoon honey
  • 1 liter vodka (4 cups)
  • 3 ounces dried pears
  • 3 ounces dried apples
  • 3 ounces dried prunes
  • 1 piece (1 inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 piece (1/2 inch) fresh ginger
  • 4 white peppercorns

1. In a nonreactive saucepan, combine the vodka and honey and bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the honey.

2. Preheat the oven to 125°F.

3. Select and ovenproof pot with a very tight-fitting lid. Pour the bodka in it and add the dried fruit and the spices. Bake for about 5 hours.

4. Strain thoroughly and transfer to a bottle. Serve slightly warm.

Makes 1 quart

From Please to the Table, by Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman