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10 Signs You Learned to Drink in Russia

Russia Travel
by Marina Vinogradova Apr 15, 2015

1. You have high tolerance for alcohol.

“You must drink a lot of vodka!” is the first sentence I hear after I say I am from Russia. I have to tell the truth: Russians do drink a lot, but vodka is just one option of many. We have many traditions about drinking vodka (and some tricks, too), but Russians drink whiskey, brandy, rum, tequila and everything else as well. Being in the top five consumers of spirits in the world, Russians developed high tolerance for drinking and can down a hell of a lot of alcohol. Many times I’ve seen a fragile Russian girl stay sober for a longer time than her friends from other countries. This is neither genetic nor a miracle: if you rarely drink or don’t drink at all, being born Russian won’t help. But if you learned to drink in this country, the chances that you are going to be the most sober person in the party are strong.

2. You think kvass is not alcohol.

It is not even a question. Kvass is our traditional drink fermented from rye bread, and technically it has 0.3-1% alcohol. But we ignore that fact and drink it like lemonade (it’s so good to have cold kvass in summer heat!)

Kvass is sold to under-18s, but you are not allowed to drive after having a glass.

3. You know there’s no eating after the first shot.

After finishing your first shot, you shouldn’t immediately reach for food. As far as tradition goes, the first shot is just for warming up, and before you can start eating, you have to have another one. This might not be true for going out, but at a home party you will definitely hear that rule. This applies only to liquors though.

4. You know there’s no rest between the first and the second.

To not keep guests hungry, an interval between the first and the second shot is very small.
Both of those traditions are more popular among older generations (my parents still do it, but my friends — not really).

5. You eat pickles between shots.

If you have a low alcohol tolerance, pickles can save you. Every truly Russian table offers you a choice of pickles for snacks: pickled cucumbers are the most popular, but we also like tomatoes, mushrooms, pumpkins, etc. They go especially well with vodka: spices and salt soften it and improve the taste. Brine from the pickles is also a popular hangover cure — yucky and absolutely magical.

6. You drink your vodka quick.

One drinking rule you learn first in Russia: the shot has to be finished in one go.
But that applies only to vodka. There’s no need to choke on your pint of beer.

7. You keep vodka in the fridge

It is appreciated if the bottle of vodka is served cold. That makes it taste better and also quick and cold drinking style keeps your mind clear, while drinking slowly makes you drunk almost immediately.

Now you know all the secrets, so try it the Russian way: quickly finish the shot of ice cold vodka and have a bite of a pickled cucumber. Nice!

8. You throw home parties instead of going out.

Russians sometimes go to pubs, bars and clubs, but home might be the most popular venue for a drinking party. Going out is very expensive, and supermarkets are affordable to everyone. A bottle of brandy costs 10-15 dollars, and at a bar you pay that for two or three shots of the same brandy. Same applies to other drinks. The solution is easy: invite your friends to your apartment! Don’t forget your mom’s home made pickles in the fridge.

9. You love giving toasts.

Russians love saying toasts. Drinking in silence is pathetic, there must be reasons for us to rise glasses! Most popular toasts are: to friendship, to peace in the world and just “to us!” – all those who gathered at the table. The famous “Na zdorovie!” is something you will never hear. We can only say: “Tvoe zdorovie,” which means: “to your health.”

10. You drink “na pososhok.”

My favourite among all the toasts is “na pososhok”. It is the last toast of any party. Just before the guests leave, they drink “na pososhok” with the host — one for the road. Pososhok is a Russian word for a staff or a walking stick that supports a wayfarer. Ironically, “pososhok” also totally knocks some people off their feet.

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