Vappusima recipe

Every year on the 1st of May we celebrate Vappu here in Finland. Many European countries have some version of this holiday (Walpurgis Night), but in Finland it’s commonly recognized as one of the four major holidays (along with Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Midsummer).

There is one specific drink associated with Vappu: sima.
Sima is a type of fermented mead, traditionally seasoned with honey and lemon. It may contain low levels of alcohol, although most commercial simas these days don’t have any.

Here is a recipe/guide on how to produce your very own Vappusima!

Before you begin

The brewing process will take between 3-7 days, depending on your specific conditions. However I recommend you reserve at least 4 days for optimal results.

This recipe will yield 10 liters of product, and can be adjusted to meet your needs.

This recipe uses the metric system. No conversions to any other systems of measurement will be available - you’ll need to handle that part yourself.

Sima produced by this recipe will have a fair bit of alcohol in it (~8-10%).

Equipment and ingredients

Things you absolutely need to follow this recipe:

Optional things to make your life easier:

Choosing the right bottle

You can technically use whatever bottles you want, but there is one important thing to keep in mind: the pressure inside the bottle will keep building up as CO2 is generated during the cold fermentation process.

For plastic bottles, either leave the caps a little loose, or open the bottles up periodically to allow some of the CO2 to escape. If you don’t, they will explode all over your refigirator - you have been warned.

In my opinion the best choice are these glass flip-top bottles as they leak very little CO2, making the end product nice and bubbly, and won’t suddenly burst open during the cold fermentation.

Step 1: Cleaning the equipment

Many online resources state that unless you use purpose made disinfectants to clean your equipment, and spend an hour scrubbing every inch of your workspace, the end product of your brewing efforts will inevitably be spoiled, if not outright toxic; this is false, and frankly a bit psychotic.

Simply wash your equipment (this includes your hands) with soap and hot water, and make sure to rinse them liberally afterwards, as you don’t want the sima to taste like cleaning products

Step 2: Preparing the mead base

Start by heating up 3 liters of water in a large pot. Dump in all the sugar and honey, and whisk until dissolved. Add the cinnamon sticks, and let simmer.

pot filled with simmering liquid

1. Dissolving honey and sugar into water

Peel some rinds off of the lemon and oranges, and thow them into the pot. Cut the lemons and oranges in halves, and squeeze the juice into the pot through a colander. Put the mangled citrus fruits to the side for later.

Cutting board with citrus fruits and cooking utensils

2. Harvesting lemon and orange peels + juice

After simmering the liquid on low heat for 10 minutes, dump it into your brewing vat. Do this through a colander to catch the cinnamon sticks and rinds.

Add cold water to the vat in such a way that there is exactly 10 liters of liquid, and the temperature is suitable for your choice of yeast (between 25-40°C is usually fine). If you don’t have a thermometer to check the temperature, aim for a liquid that is warm to the touch: as long as it’s not too hot for the yeast to die, it’s fine.

Add the yeast, and give the liquid a good stir to incorporate.

If you are using a brewing pouch, fill it with the cinnamon sticks and citrus pulp, and throw it into the vat. If you don’t have a pouch, just skip this step.

Close the vat, and let the mead base ferment for 1-3 days in a warm place. Fermentation time depends on the type and amount of yeast used, but i think 2 days is a good default choice.

To help with the bottling process, I recommend you move the whole vat to somewhere cool for 12-24 hours before bottling, so the yeast has time to deactivate and fall to the bottom.

A brewing vat filled with sima

3. A brewing vat filled with sima sitting on the floor

NOTE: If you are using an open faced container (e.g. a bucket), remember to wrap the top tightly with plastic foil.

Step 3: Bottling and cold fermentation

Once the base has fermented, it’s time to bottle it and move it into a cool place (e.g. a refigirator) to ferment for additional 1-4 days.

When bottling the sima, make sure to shake the vat as little as possible as not to disturb the sediment at the bottom. If you have a siphon at your disposal, now is the time to use it. If not, I recommend ladeling (or pouring if you are brave) the liquid into a different container, leaving as much of the thick, yeasty mess in the bottom of the vat as possible.

siphoning sima from brewing vat to other containers

4. Siphoning sima from the brewing vat into some pots

Before bottling, taste the sima and see if it needs any additional sweetening. Depending on how active the yeast has been (i.e. how much sugar it has consumed), the sima might be a little dry and boozy. I ended up adding a teaspoon of cane sugar per 5 dl of liquid when bottling (honey is also a good choice).

bottling sima on a kitchen counter

5. Sima being bottled


Congratulations, you should now have about 10 liters of delicious sima. There are a lot of variables at play here, and depending on the type of yeast, as well as temperature + time fermented, the end product might be a little different.

Drink responsibly, and have a good Vappu!

sima bottle and glass sitting on a table

6. Delicious sima basking in the sun