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Sit down for a meal in Georgia, and you’ll find a table covered in food and drink. Plate after plate of delicious dishes, sometimes stacked on top of each other, plus Georgian wine & local sodas called lemonades. You’ll also often find a container of clear liquid. Your immediate thought might be that this is a bottle of water. But take one sniff, and you’ll quickly realize this is not for hydration. Meet chacha, the spirit of Georgia.

When you visit certain countries, you haven’t really visited until you’ve had the local drink. In Georgia, the national spirit is called chacha. Visitors will encounter it everywhere, from roadside stands to the best local wineries. If you want to have a truly Georgian experience, don’t skip the chacha.

What is Chacha?

Chacha is a distilled spirit made from grape pomace. Pomace is what’s left of the grapes after winemaking, including the skins, stems, seeds, and pulp.

Nothing is ever wasted, so once the winemaking is done, the rest is used to make chacha, which is also sometimes referred to as grape vodka or grape brandy.

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After fermenting through the winter, the pomace is distilled. The resulting spirit can range anywhere from 40% to 85% ABV. While generally clear and unadulterated, chacha can also be infused with other flavors and/or oak-aged. It’s generally served chilled, often as an aperitif or digestif.

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Similarly made spirits are all over the world, including grappa, tsipouro, and raki.

Drinking Chacha Around Georgia

If you spend more than 10 minutes in Georgia, there’s a good chance someone will offer you chacha. While it’s an integral part of the country’s feasts and toast-making culture (known as supras), it can also be offered as a greeting.

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My first chacha experience was at one of Tbilisi’s excellent cocktail bars, Chacha Time. It served as a great introduction to the Georgian spirit, as the bartenders were happy to tell us about it & introduce us to some great producers.

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Little did I know, I wouldn’t need to try hard to find more chacha. I had it with khachapuri & khinkali. I even saw it at the Tbilisi Airport lounge.

When I was in Georgia, I took a few day trips to wineries (Iago’s Winery, a Kakheti wine tour, and a Kakheti & Signagi wine tour). Thanks to Georgia’s rich winemaking tradition, each winery produces excellent wine, and the wineries also all make their own chacha, so nothing goes to waste.

Winery chacha is the best quality chacha in Georgia. These spirits use the most professional distilling setups with the most control. This chacha tends to be on the “weaker” side, at “only” 40-50% ABV, while homemade chacha can be pure rocket fuel at 80% ABV or higher. At Giuaani Winery, I was offered the opportunity to taste a 72% chacha straight from the tank. How could I refuse?

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I also enjoyed Burjanadze Wine Cellar Winery’s oak-aged chacha.

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However, not every Georgian chacha is professionally produced. In fact, historically, it has been most often produced at home. As a result, many chacha encounters include drinking from unmarked bottles and jugs.

On the same tour, where I tried a few professionally made chachas, a gentleman at a roadside stand offered me a shot. How could I refuse?

These chacha vessels can look just like water, making for some potential confusion & interesting times at Georgian meals for newcomers.

Georgian feasts, known as supras, are another key time when chacha is central to the experience. Supras are hosted by toastmasters, known as tamadas. The tamada helps guide the meal while offering toasts & incorporating everyone into the experience.

At random intervals, the tamada or any other guest can propose a toast. Most often, it is done with chacha (though some will toast with brandy or wine). These toasts can be plentiful, so note that the amount of chacha you drink with each toast can be flexible. Do a full shot of chacha with each toast, and you’ll have the experience of a lifetime (but one you might not remember). Gamarjos!

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Thanks to being on several tours, I had multiple supra experiences in Georgia. Those experiences ranged from some of the best restaurants in Tbilisi to lunches and dinners at the homes of local Georgians from Kakheti to Svaneti.

Each was special in its own way, but all had one thing in common. Chacha warmed me to the spirit of Georgia.

Here are some other great Tbilisi tours & activities.

Need a place to stay? Check out these Tbilisi hotel options. I enjoyed my stay at the Moxy Tbilisi, and the Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel is another excellent option.

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