Horseradish Vodka or Hrenovuha (Хреновуха) is a popular infused vodka, enjoyed in Russia for centuries. Easy to make, you've got to try this spicy, and sharp infused vodka for medicinal reasons... or not!
Hrenovuha Vodka History
It's said that Peter the Great recognized the great qualities of Horseradish Vodka. He was the Tsar of all the Russias (the Russian Empire) in the late 1600's. He issued a decree that all farm workers should have 5 quarts of Hrenovuha. This was especially for the hard farm workers and people who worked in the cold. As mentioned, this special vodka builds your appetite, and is great for warming you up from the inside out!
How to Make Horseradish Vodka
This horseradish flavored vodka is basically a savory tincture. That's where the extracts of the horseradish are extracted into the vodka, by infusing it over days or weeks. It can be taken medicinally, or not. 😂 In Russian, we call it a nastoyka (Настойка). You want to use the freshest horseradish root you can find, as it has the strongest bite or flavor.
There are a few different ways to infuse the horseradish into the vodka. I prefer thinly slicing the peeled horseradish and leaving it in the vodka in a cool, dark place for up to a week. Only the vodka and horseradish root. Give it a shake everyday. Strain through a cheesecloth, and mix in a bit of honey to mellow out the bite of the horseradish. Some people also add a bit of lemon juice (optional).
Another way is to mix grate the horseradish, add honey, lemon juice and vodka all at once. Shake to mix and allow to infuse for 5 days. Shake it at least once a day. Strain it through a cheesecloth, and it's ready to serve.
How to Serve Horseradish Vodka
I always joke that this must be medicinal because it builds appetite and warms you up. Plus horseradish is healthy, boosting the immune system and helps fighting infections, taken in moderation. So there is some truth to the medicinal benefits of horseradish, some even say it can help overcome colds. However, that's not always necessarily the case!
Horseradish Vodka can be served cold or room temperature, and in a shot glass. Sometimes it's served before a big Russian meal or feast, as it boosts your appetite. I think it's great as part of a meat platter with sausages, meats and pickled vegetables. It's often served with Holodets (an aspic or meat jelly). Za zdorovye!
Alternatively, people in the western world make it as a base for Bloody Mary's or for Caesar's (if you're from Canada). It's a savory infused vodka tincture, so it's up to you how you want to use it.
Horseradish Vodka Variations
You can add many different herbs and spices when making Hrenovuha, it's up to you to experiment. Here are some suggestions, the sky's the limit! Remember that the main ingredient of this recipe is horseradish, so anything you add, keep in moderation not to overpower.
- Add a tablespoon or two of lemon juice to soften the bite of the infused vodka
- Mix in a bit of ginger. The ratio of horseradish root to ginger is maximum 2:1, so add half the amount of ginger than horseradish.
- One garlic clove
- A single quill of cinnamon
- 2 cloves (spice)
- ¼ chili pepper to make it spicier
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, or allspice, or mustard seeds
Vodka Infusion Recipes
- filter the vodka infusion through a coffee filter if you don't have a cheesecloth
- grating horseradish can make you cry, just slice it!
- sliced horseradish makes a clearer horseradish vodka than grated
- any sediment in the vodka will settle in the bottom of the jar, allowing you carefully pour into another jar for a clear Hrenovuha
- add a bit of lemon peel or lemon juice with an extra tablespoon of honey into your tincture, and adjust to taste
- use Russian or Eastern European Vodka (not corn based vodka or rice based vodka)
Horseradish Vodka Hrenovuha (Хреновуха) is a tincture you can take medicinally, or just for the great flavor straight up, or part of a cocktail. Homemade infused vodka is easy to make, with unique flavors you can't buy in a store. Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
- 750 mL Vodka
- horseradish root a few thin pieces
- 3 tablespoons honey
- Peel the horseradish root and slice into round pieces
- Place into a clean jar and pour vodka over the horseradish. Close the jar, shake and place in a cool, dark place for 5 days. Give the vodka mixture a shake daily.
- Strain the vodka through a cheesecloth. Mix in the honey and allow to sit for a day or two to mellow before serving.
- Serve chilled (or at room temperature) with your next Slavic or Russian feast.