Is there anything more Russian than vodka? And in Russia, vodka is served straight, no chaser (and no ice – just a chilled glass). Read on to see if you can stomach the cultural habits that surround the consumption of this spirit.
- DO drink your entire shot in one go. If you’re worried you won’t be able to stomach it, just ask for a smaller portion. It’s socially acceptable to do so and Russians often expect that of foreigners.
- DO make a toast before each shot – and keep your glass raised the entire time. Drinking without a reason is a big no-no, so you have to dedicate each gulp of vodka to someone or something (it really doesn’t matter as long as it’s positive). You’ll be making a lot of these, so you don’t necessarily have to be creative every single time. Something as simple as ‘To your health!’ will usually suffice – especially as the night wears on.
- DO use food as a chaser. Most likely there will be a selection of snacks on the table ranging from pickles to potatoes to bread to caviar to herring to… well, you get the picture, there are a lot of different dishes. Take a bite after you take a shot to get the taste out of your mouth and line your stomach. (Russians don’t just scarf their food down right when it comes out – they pick at it through the night, so there should be a chaser there after each drink.)
…And the Don’ts
- DON’T expect a mixer. Vodka is always drunk straight – no sipping or cocktails allowed.
- DON’T drink alone. Russians hardly ever do as they consider vodka consumption a social activity.
- DON’T top up your glass without first filling the glasses of your companions, as it’s seen as rude.
- DON’T overdo it. With these traditions, it’s no surprise that lots of Russians have a high alcohol tolerance. If you feel yourself getting sick or way too drunk, take a break and switch to water. There’s no worse way to end your night than vomiting in the loo or ending up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning
Now when you head to Russia for your next holiday, you’ll be keeping up with tradition and chugging vodka with the best of them.