Tbilisi City Guide

Drinking in Georgia

more than a year ago
Drinking is an important part of Georgian culture. After all, the oldest evidence of wine making was discovered here. Wine is far more important than any other alcohol. Wine is associated with cultural and religious traditions, beer is secondary and holds no ritualistic connotations. Georgians are incredibly hospitable, and wine plays an essential part in that hospitality. You should expect to be offered wine when spending time with Georgians. Be prepared to drink at least one glass, refusing the first glass might be considered impolite. You can say no after that, but you might need to negotiate your way out of a heavy session.

Drinking alcohol, but particularly wine is rarely a pastime in itself. For Georgians drinking is closely associated with food. In that way it is more similar to the Spanish rather than the British attitude to alcohol.

Supra is core part of Georgian culture. Essentially it is a simply a gathering, a social event with food and drink. A supra can formal or informal, happy or sad, a birthday, an anniversary or a wake. It might just be a group of Georgians friends, celebrating the simple fact that they are alive that day. But it will never be merely a night out. It will be a Supra, with all the gravitas and tradition that implies.

Every Supra has its tamada and it will usually be a man. Roughly speaking, they are the toastmaster, but their role is far more complex. They will be the person making toasts, but the subjects they choose will often direct and dictate the flow of conversation. They will also regulate the intensity of the supra by speeding up or slowing down the drinking. Georgians don’t usually sip wine; they drink a glass together after each toast. Every supra will start with a series of traditional toasts that might include, to the reason for the gathering, to the homeland, to family, to mothers, to deceased relatives. The tamada will often talk about the topic before the actual toast. The others raise their glasses but do not drink until the tamada has finished talking.

Chacha is also an important drink. It is the Georgian high-octane alcohol, a distilled spirit made with the mash left over from wine production. It can be a smooth sophisticated spirit or it can be evil - stuff to strip the plaster as well as the paint off a wall.


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