This is a poster for the famous Sov 1961 comedy Самогонщики (Samogonshchiki: The Moonshiners)… click here and watch it (along with another short that comes first)… there’s no dialogue… just fun. Have a drink (or two) and smile!
With the New Year just around the corner, the chance of visitors to Russia not being asked to join the locals for a few celebratory drinks is extremely slim. However, what steps should you take to make sure a traditional vodka session doesn’t leave your head spinning by midnight? RBTH offers useful tips on how best to prepare for a New Year’s feast and avoid its less welcome side effects. When it comes to stereotypes about Russia, there are few more potent than the natives’ supposed attachment to drinking vodka. Foreigners often wonder, “Why do Russians love vodka so much?” Still, with New Year celebrations upon us, another question becomes more topical, “How should you drink vodka with Russians?”
Some attribute Russians’ supposed extraordinary ability to drink a lot of vodka to genetics. However, Russians themselves say that this ability has nothing to do with biology; in fact, it’s rooted in Russian traditions. Often, Russian businessman Artyom Minayev invites foreigners to Moscow restaurants to discuss business; he’s concluded that foreigners don’t know how to drink vodka, saying, “The biggest problem with Europeans, Americans, and the Chinese is that they drink and don’t take any food immediately after. So, after a second or third shot it’s no longer possible to talk to them about work! Russians love vodka because it really does warm you up and because it goes so well with Russian cuisine. When you drink vodka, you should do it with some fatty foods, even if it’s just sour cream! You can have boiled or fried potatoes with it, bread, sausage, cheese, or oily fish. There are numerous snacks that are not at all expensive and that’ll prevent you from getting drunk”.
There are Other Secrets, Too
Many Russians, before sitting down to their New Year feast, consume a raw egg. They say that it’s the best way of making sure that one will last the whole evening and leave the table sober. However, doctors are categorically opposed to this method because raw eggs are the easiest way of contracting salmonella. If you have concerns on that score too, you can just drink a tablespoonful of sunflower oil. On his first visit to Moscow, Santiago Fonseca from Mexico made some thorough preparations for the New Year party he was going to have with his girlfriend’s friends, fearing that otherwise he wouldn’t be able to make it through the night. He said, “I’d read that fat prevents alcohol absorption, so, I drank several spoons of oil and ate two potatoes. It’s hard to believe it, but I remained sober… even having drunk a whole bottle of rather dubious vodka!” Having said that, it’s also very important not to overeat and not to eat too many starchy and sweet foods, despite the fact that fat helps you to stay sober, as they generate more work for the liver and pancreas, making it more difficult for them to process alcohol.
Vodka Etiquette and How to Avoid a Hangover
Anastasiya Knezhevich sells numerous varieties of vodka at her shop and spends a lot of time explaining to foreigners how people consume vodka in Siberia, where she’s originally from, saying, “I think the problem with foreigners is that they mix vodka in cocktails and sip vodka slowly. I keep telling them that you have to drink vodka in one go and exhale through the nose and not the mouth. That’s why Russians are capable of drinking a lot of vodka and remaining alive afterwards”.
According to Minayev, at a Russian dinner party it’s important for a foreigner to show that they’re a friendly person. To that end, it’s necessary to drink the first two or three shots, after which it’s possible to take a break to save energy for more to come. He observed, “When a foreigner is ready to have another shot of vodka, they need to take the bottle and fill the glasses of all those present. Once, I was at one dinner where a Japanese guest kept pouring vodka only into his own glass. It was so tactless that nobody wanted to invite him ever again. Incidentally, he never managed to sign the important contracts that he had come to Moscow to sign”.
If none of the recommendations above proves useful in your case, here is another piece of advice from RBTH… first thing the next morning, drink a glass of salty water or pickle brine. This is the most effective ancient remedy against hangovers and headaches… many Russians swear by it.
31 December 2014
Russia Behind the Headlines