Play With Fire for a Spectacular Holiday Drink

jujonka (wife) looks like a series of typos and can be difficult to pronounce for non-Russian speakers. But zhzhyonka is a legend of pre-revolutionary Russian life. It’s not just a drink, it’s a relic of a long-lost culture and its customs.

So what is this unpronounceable drink?two letters same The first stand of the double heating process (burned is a cocktail famous for burning. Zhzhyonka is a mixture of different types of alcohol, made by heating both wine and stronger alcohol (rum and cognac). Hot sugar soaked with strong liquor is then drizzled over the alcohol mixture. This charred punch packs a double punch!

Its beautiful formulations and scents are the perfect literary expression of the Russian soul. Perhaps for this reason, burnt punch was the traditional drink of the Russian military’s elite light cavalry, renowned for their prowess and daring. It’s hard to imagine a hussar in tight trousers, a braided jacket, a fur cape over one shoulder, and a tall visored hat on his head, standing and lighting a cognac cauldron. No! Why not? They had just bathed the horse in champagne.

This hussar recipe was complicated and expensive. As Nikolai Popov remarks in his 1891 book Memoirs of an Old Cavalryman, a few bottles of his rum are poured into a copper basin or bowl, and oranges and spices are added. Topped. A large piece of sugar was placed on a saber blade placed over the cauldron and the rum was lit. When the sugar has completely dissolved in the wine, pour in the champagne or Château Lafite fine wine. The mixture was delicious, but dangerous. “One sip was enough to get you drunk. After two sips of this punch, weak subjects lost the ability to move their tongues, turning into meaningless squealing and cooing. After the third sip. , his limbs paralyzed and he fell under the table like a corpse. Stronger men experience a strange kind of ecstasy that awakens destructive and violent instincts. in them.

Feast of the Light Cavalry (fragment) by Mihaly Zichy, 1873
Wiki Commons Media

These scenes are repeated from one late 19th century memoir to another. Russian poet and prose writer Vsevolod Krestovsky (1839-1895) wrote the history of several lancer regiments and from 1877 he served at the headquarters of the active army during the Russian-Turkish War of 1878. but left a poetic description of zhzhyonka.

“The mustachioed major, a very experienced burnt punch brewer, crossed two saber blades over the cauldron. Started pouring golden brandy, then he crushed two vanilla beans into the cauldron, and the alcohol burst into a faint bluish flame. The mustachioed major took a bottle of red wine carefully, so as not to extinguish the flames. The fragrant hot hell of alcohol smoke made everyone’s heads swim…”

But it’s an evening romance so to speak. In the morning, life becomes practical. Too much of this burnt punch, made with red and white wines, cognac, sherry, rum, etc., had predictably very unpleasant consequences. was “The next day — headache, nausea. It is apparently due to the alcoholic mixture contained in Zijanka. The patient sincerely swears never to drink this poisonous drink again,” Alexander Herzen’s novel My Past and Thoughts,” said the protagonist.

This romantic drink predictably spread far beyond the military. It was the favorite drink of the “golden” youth of the capital, prepared for the holidays of wealthy families. However, it was too expensive for the general public. It would be wrong to think that zhzhyonka is simply a drink for men on military duty or a frivolous thing to drink at the dacha. This was served at a diplomatic reception hosted by Alexander his Chancellor Gorchakov in honor of the American delegation at the British Parliament in St. Petersburg in August 1866 (it was actually prepared at the table ).

Many recipes have been passed down to us. “Men’s club zhzhyonka”, “zhzhyonka for St. Petersburg gourmets” and “merchant zhzhyonka” are just a few versions of Ignatius Radetzky, the epitome of sophisticated metropolitan cuisine of the mid-19th century. One recipe is champagne, rum (Saint Petersburg gourmets preferred champagne, but only Veuve Clicquot kirsch and white rum.

Russian gourmets loved zijonka. ML Dubois-Uvarova he found six ways. These were mainly combinations of different types of alcohol, from Hungarian wines to spices and aromatics such as rum, sherry, cinnamon, orange peel, cloves and lemon. And, of course, the obligatory set of exploits with wine and fire.

Screenshot from The Hussar Ballad, 1962

Screenshot from The Hussar Ballad, 1962

The 1909 book Aid to Housewives by Sofia Dragomirova (wife of General Mikhail Dragomirov) offers a much simpler recipe.

“Pour two bottles of champagne into a pot, add chopped pineapple, a pound of sugar, a glass of rum and a glass of good brandy. Pour rum on top, light it, keep pouring rum as needed, and the zijonka will be hot.”

Alas, the days of hussars bathing their horses in champagne are over, and so is the era of Zizionka in Russian culture. In Soviet cuisine, zizionka is often the name for a syrup made from burnt sugar that was used to improve the taste and color of candies and gingerbread.

However, on Christmas and New Year’s Eve, there’s nothing stopping you from playing with fire and trying old-fashioned charred punch. Your guests will be thrilled.

Pavel and Olga Shutkin

Pavel and Olga Shutkin

Russian burnt punch


  • Sugar cubes: 1 ½ to 2 pounds
  • Champagne: 2 bottles
  • Cognac – 1 glass (4/5 c)
  • Muscat wine – 1 glass (4/5 c)
  • Dry white wine: 2 glasses (1 3/4 c)
  • Spices: 5-6 cinnamon sticks, 10 star anise, 10 cloves, 10 cardamom pods. (Please change the amount according to your taste.)
  • Fruit: Tastes of orange, lemon and pineapple.


  • Pour all alcohol except brandy into a 4- to 5-quart stainless steel or canned copper pot. Place it on the stove and bring the temperature to 70-75°C. Once it starts to heat, place a rack (preferably something like a grate) over the pan.
  • Place the entire sugar mass on the rack (or arrange the cubes). Sugar will absorb the smoke rising from the wine. When the wine is hot, remove the pan from the stove, pour the brandy over the sugar and light it. The sugar burns and melts and drips into the wine. When the sugar has completely burned off, stir the drink with a spoon and pour it into a glass. while it’s hot.
  • Adjust the strength of the drink by adding a little brandy or white wine, preferably sweet Muscat wine.
  • For those new to strong liquor, add fresh pineapples, oranges, or peaches to the alcohol as it heats.

Pavel and Olga Shutkin

Pavel and Olga Shutkin

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