It brings people together, fires the appetite, has antidepressant properties and is the main ingredient in unique, signature cocktails. the benefits of zivania, the Cyprus’ traditional aperitif, are far more than one could imagine...
Text: Kleanthis Kleanthous
The drink of Giants
Zivania is an exceptional spirit, rich and unique in flavour. Available in several varieties with distinct aromas, it is categorically robust with pronounced flavours, characteristics that have made it one of the most popular spirits in the world. In 2004 zivania was granted special recognition within the EU as a product unique to Cyprus. With an alcohol content varying between 40 to 99 percent, zivania belongs to the same family of potent spirits as raki and tsipouro. Its origins are inextricably intertwined with Cypriot tradition and history. According to the Archeological Department of Cyprus, the earliest known references to this liquor can be found in Homer’s “Odyssey”. In particular, when Odysseus was passing by the island of the Laestrygones (cannibalistic giants from ancient Greek mythology), the giants destroyed his fleet while being intoxicated by zivania!
Fire in The Belly!
Zivania is a staple at get-togethers. Always best when chilled, is usually served as an aperitif and accompanies several appetizers before the main meal. This spirit pairs perfectly with Cypriot charcuterie such as smoked “lountza” ham and the traditional Cypriot “posirti”, “tsamarella” and “soutzoukos” as well as with cheese, dried nuts and fruits.
Beloved by Bartenders
Nowadays, leading bartenders, both in Cyprus and abroad, are experimenting zivania, using it as the base for a number of exquisite cocktails. One of the most popular ones at the moment is “Pattiha (watermelon) Martini” by Costas Nicolaides, which received an award at the Pancyprian Authentic Cocktails Competition in 2011.
November is known as the “Month of Zivania” on Cyprus, a time when many festivals are organized to honour the island’s native liquor. Most notable are the festivals held in the towns of Pelendri, Alona and Pedoulas. These events among others attract swarms of locals and tourists annually. Revelers can observe firsthand the traditional techniques involved in the making of zivania, enjoy live Cypriot music and dancing, and sample delicious warm “palouze" paired with plenty of the island's most celebrated aperitif, chilled of course!
Cyprus’ Zivania Museum, housed in an old mansion in the village of Vasa Kοilaniou offers visitors a comprehensive tour of the traditional methods involved in producing, distilling, storing, maturating and consuming zivania. One can also find a distillery in the museum used to represent the traditional distillation process of zivania.
The natural antidepressant
Not surprisingly, zivania is endowed with medicinal properties, most notably as a natural antidepressant. The Oenology Department at the University of Cyprus, in collaboration with the Cyprus Wineries Association, presented a study in which their findings indicated that moderate consumption of zivania was associated with a decrease in depressive symptoms. Researchers found that, on average, 4 to 8 shots of zivania per week helped keep depression at bay.
One spirit, many uses!
Zivania is much more than a delicious aperitif. Cozitrorol, one of the many ingredients found in zivania, is known for its anti-aging properties and was even used in spices by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Cozitrorol is currently used in a number of beauty and weight management products, with findings pointing to a reduction of 3 grams of human fat with with just 2mg of cozitrorol!
Zivania is also very helpful in treating the common cold. The spirit can be warmed and massaged into the back and neck area to relieve cold symptoms. Another study carried out at the University of Cyprus found that two to three servings of zivania prior to engaging in rigorous academic activity helped some students to focus more intensely on their work. Finally, the alcohols contained in zivania are unique in their kind, making this spirit a particularly effective cleansing agent and potent ally in ridding one’s home of dust and stains.