Until I moved to Moscow, I never really drank Vodka. To me it was like drinking turpentine that burned all the way down. Now if you come to my home, we have at least 5-6 different kinds of vodka and at least 2 in the freezer at all times.
Today I counted the different vodkas and our store stocked 87 different brands ranging in price from $6- $200. The more expensive one was a glass replica of an AK-47 in a wooden box filled with vodka. Not too sure of the quality of the vodka but it makes for an interesting gift.
The US ATF defined vodka as an odourless and tasteless liquid, boy how wrong could they get. Discounting all the flavoured vodkas, you can generally tell what is the main ingredient. Grain based vodkas tend to be on the smooth side while vegetable based vodkas have more of an after burn and medicinal quality. The other interesting thing we just recently became aware of is that good Russian vodkas are not diluted with water like some of their European and North American counterparts. Place a true Russian vodka in the freezer along with a good quality non Russian one and you will find that the non Russian one develops ice crystals. Russian Vodkas get thick and syrupy.
Purists will tell you that vodka should be drunk just above room temperature. I’m not interested in coughing when I inhale and almost choking from the fire in my oesophagus as I swallow. I want to enjoy the cool shot followed by the pleasant buzz so that is why I drink mine straight from the freezer like most Russians. After all, they are the connoisseurs! And don’t forget the “zakoovska” or vodka snacks. Typically these snacks consist of dill pickles, pickled herring, blini with caviar and my favourite “salo” (lard cut very thin). The salo is usually served on black bread with russian mustard. Don’t forget that the Russian cure for a hangover is pickle juice.
There is vodka etiquette to consider when partaking with a traditional Russian.
The first shot is always downed in one gulp.
If you make the toast, then you down it.
If a woman makes a toast, you down it.
If the toast is made about a woman, you down it.
Remember that drinking is a synchronized event, we all drink at the same time
In other words, vodka drinking is a chugging sport.
Don’t get caught cheating( substituting water for your vodka). The penalty is usually drinking twice as much on the next drink.
We all think that we know the Russian phrase for drinking “Na Zdorov’ya”. Unfortunately we are mistaken, that is what one says when you thank someone for a meal although there is a similar phrase in Polish that is a toast. Russians love to make their toasts a bit longer and more complex. Because Russian is a complicated language, say, “Za Vas! (to you!)