Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How to Drink Like a Russian

The majority of Russians enjoy drinking.  It's a fact known around the world.  But there is a very, very specific set of rules and regulations in the Russian drinking tradition, and in the name of science and cultural awareness I've endured countless torturous dinners being force fed pig butt and vodka to report the following to you.  And so, I give you, How to drink like a Russian.

#1 - Beer is not Alcohol.  In a 12 oz. beer there is (on average) 5% alcohol, or 0.6 oz. of alcohol.  In a 1 oz. shot of vodka, there is 40%, or 0.4 oz. of alcohol.  This doesn't matter.  Russians don't believe you can not get drunk off of beer. I kid you not - if you have two shots of vodka with dinner, they will not let you drive home. but four beers?  Let's put him in charge of the unbuckled infant car pool bus to Disneyland. 

They'll protect, but only if the bartender's serving

#2 - The higher the % alcohol, the more adventurous.  Similar to Americans and beer, Russians enjoy discovering vodkas that have very high alcohol percentage.  "Vasya and Petya brewed samagon and it came out 90%.  Can you imagine? 90%.  Zis must be wut warm summer day feel like."  Yes, warm summer day with acid.  All over your body.  Because samagon is like moonshine, only moonshine mixed with what I can only imagine is liquid Schwartz. 

Liquid Schwartz: Jet fuel? Or alcohol strong enough to melt your face off?  You decide

#3 - Only alcoholics drink alone.  This doesn't only apply to people drinking in their closets listening to emo music and putting on eyeliner.  When taking shots, you cannot drink without someone else drinking simultaneously.  It's considered rude and entirely in bad form.

The only thing wrong with this is picture is that they're not drinking in unison

#4 - In continuation of #3, There must ALWAYS be something to toast to.  There is a strict order of toasts that are given at every meeting of friends.  You must at the very least raise your glass, but if you want to be friendly and social, you should tap the glass of every single person at the table. The first toast of the night (barring any special situations that might require toasting, like a birthday, or wedding, or Vasya finally getting his samagon above 90% alcohol) must be to the fact that you all gathered.  Then, it's to health.  After this, I get kind of fuzzy on the order, but I think it's to family, love, gathering again, friendship, literature, love again, then to the women (and the men must stand for this one), family (did we do family yet?), love, good food and finally, family.

"To sexually suggestive facial expressions!"

#5 - Drinking without food is blasphemy.  The only culture that will drink heavily without food is the Americans.  We will sit at the bar drinking with only pretzels or nuts to fill our stomachs.  The Russians consider people who drink without eating to be either alcoholics or idiots.  This is why dinners will last five to six hours, and a dinner party will usually devour all the food in your house.  If it doesn't, there wasn't enough vodka.

#6 - Certain drinks go with Certain situations/foods. Beer, because it's non-alcoholic, can be had while going into the 200 degree Russian sauna.  It is to be had with salty dried fish.  Vodka is special, treat it as such.  Only drink it during dinner, and don't abuse it.  It is best chased with pickled cucumbers, tomatoes, and other briny substances.  Cognac is pretty much the wine of Russia - to be savored and tasted for flavor and can be sipped throughout dinner.  And champagne is for celebrating only.  There is no reason to ever have tequila or whiskey.
#7 - Know when to stop.  Don't compete.  You have no idea who you're dealing with.  Competing with the Russians in drinking is like competing with Bear Grylls is a pee drinking/live fish eating contest.  You're not going to win, and nobody's going to be happy about the fact that you tried.

Poor grandma - her first question of the morning: "Where did this donkey come from?"
 And like all good Russian boys, I know when to stop.  Which is why #7 is the end of the post.


  1. As I read through the list, I'm checking off how my Russian manfriend drinks. Each point is so very true, I have to laugh.

  2. So true! And I loved your captions!

  3. I laughed all the way through this. David would die if he hung w more Russians.

  4. Oh, this is just like my family! Except instead of vodka it's either whiskey or, more usually, moonshine. Which tastes like poisoned lighter fluid.

    Your post makes me want to have a party.

  5. Whenever I've had dinner with Russian friends, there is always Vodka, Champagne, and Cognac on the dinner table. I've never been partial to any of the three, but that doesn't matter. It has been poured for me and I've complied with the suggestion that I drink it. I do not understand how anyone can tolerate this combination, but they do. And mostly, they don't even seem drunk. I didn't have enough to get drunk; but I did have enough to get merely nauseated. The food's marvelous though.


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