The work of Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin "The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Heroes" ends with the phrase: "And I was there, drinking honey beer, flowing down my mustache, but did not get into my mouth." It is probably difficult for a modern reader to understand what kind of honey Pushkin drank? And many centuries ago in Russia honey drinks were an indispensable attribute of princely feasts. But the common people, indeed, did not get such a drink in their mouths. This was due to its high cost and complex production technology.
The preparation of intoxicating drinks based on honey was a whole art, which was done by the masters - medical staff. They were cooked according to unique recipes typical only for Slavic peoples. And the production of drinks itself took more than one year. As a result, "put honey" was obtained.
To begin with, two parts of honey were mixed with one part of berry juice: raspberries, lingonberries, cherries, currants. The main rule is not to add a drop of water. There was a natural fermentation process. The use of such drinks saved the feasts from the unpleasant consequences - a hangover. For some time the mixture fermented in open containers, it was poured several times from one container to another. Then they poured them into oak barrels, ground them tightly outside and buried them in the ground. For several years.
The process was called "medostavom". hence the name of the drink itself.
They were in no hurry to get honey out of the ground. The cooking process did not tolerate fuss. It was believed that the minimum period of "medical treatment" was eight years. But, in this case, the drink was called "young", not infused enough. It did not become fully ripe until fifteen years later. But, in some, especially solemn cases, the barrels were opened only after several decades. Sometimes it happened that honey, which was prepared by the grandfathers, was given only to the grandchildren. Sometimes in legends they even mention "hundred-year-old honey".
The first information about the preparation of "put honey" in Russia dates back to the 9th century. It was the favorite drink of the Slavic heroes. He gave them strength and vigor, protecting them, as already mentioned, from a severe hangover. The epics even provided information that the honey drink helped Ilya Muromets to get back on his feet and acquire phenomenal strength. There were always large stocks of honey drinks at the princely courts.
"Put honey" was, of course, a drink remarkable in its properties, but it was not very cheap, and it took years to wait for the final output of the product. If the princes and their retinue could afford it, then the commoners had to look for cheaper substitutes. Already in the XI century, "boiled honey" appeared in Russia. And this drink was not prepared by medostavs, but by mead brewers. Boiled honey was prepared with the addition of water and hops, which significantly accelerated the fermentation process. the drink turned out to be stronger, but of lower quality. And the cooking process itself took only a few weeks.
At princely feasts, such drinks were served not for the prince and his retinue, but for the "younger" people. Was it not about them that Pushkin mentioned? After all, they really did not get high-quality drinks available only to the nobility.
Gradually put honey turns into a luxury, it could be found only in the estates of influential boyars. Honey drinks, reminiscent of modern beer, are becoming more common. In the 17th century, honey brewing, not to mention staged honey, became a rarity. Even most of the recipes were irretrievably lost.
Vodka made on the basis of alcohol rather than honey is becoming more and more widespread. Back in the XIV century, Genoese merchants brought a gift to the Moscow prince Dmitry Ivanovich Donskoy - grape alcohol. It is difficult to say whether it was consumed at feasts or not, but alcohol at that time did not receive wide distribution in Russia. And in the 15th century, such a potion was generally prohibited from being imported into the Moscow state, recognizing it as harmful.
Mass production of alcoholic beverages begins under Ivan the Terrible. Realizing the great benefit for the treasury, the tsar ordered the opening of taverns everywhere, in which it was allowed to sell alcohol to representatives of all classes. There was no longer a need to spend years on the production of high-quality honey drinks, the increased demands could be satisfied quickly, and many distilleries appeared in the country. No longer mead, but vodka, they began to call our national drink.
Moreover, there was no single standard for the preparation of vodka. Most often, the term "vodka" was a collective term for all spirits. Moreover, the production of vodka was very cheap, it could not be compared with the long-term preparation of honey drinks.
The unified state standard for the preparation of vodka was adopted in the Soviet Union only on January 23, 1936. Since that time, the inscription "vodka" appears on the labels. Earlier it was called "bread" or "state" wine.