Top 5: Russian drinks

What do Russians drink? Vodka, and sometimes … more vodka! If you think so, then this top is for you! There is a big variety of drinks that can only be found in Russia and its neighbors or foreign drinks that Russians adopted. Some are quite good, some are … quite strange for those who are not used to it, but I will leave you the judge of it (as Russians say “for taste and colors there are no comrades”). So here are some of the most popular drinks you can ( and must ) experience in Russia.

  • vodka

Let’s start with the obvious one… Yes, vodka is the most appreciated strong alcohol in Russia, but there are way more interesting things to say about this drink (even if you don’t drink). First of all, “Vodka” comes from the Slavic word “Voda”  (water) and can be translated by “little water”. It started spreading in Russia and in eastern Europe in the 16th century. Vodka is usually obtained from the distillation of grain like wheat or rye, but you can also find some (few) from potatoes or even grapes. In Russia, it used to be quite common for people to make their own vodka called Samogon, but it’s dangerous because it can contain methanol and it is now forbidden.

There is also a legend saying that the great Russian scientist Mendeleïev is the “inventor of vodka” having proven scientifically that the perfect percentage of alcohol is 40°C. Unfortunately, this rule was introduced in Russia in 1843….. when Mendeleïev was 9, quite young to be interested in vodka, even for a Russian.

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Vodka usually comes with something to eat, here salted cucumbers
  • Kompot

The word “Kompot” comes from the French word “compote”, but that is the only French contribution to this beverage. It’s a very old way of conserving fruits that used to be called “ouzar” until the 18th century. It is obtained by boiling fresh or dry fruits in sugar water and served fresh. But Kompot is not specific to Russia, it’s a very popular drink in all central and eastern Europe. It is quite common to find glasses of kompot in every cafeteria or “stolovaya” in Russia.

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Kompot made with dry fruits
  • tea

Tea is not from Russia, but they like it for sure! If you ever work in Russia, you’ll experience the “tea break” (it’s basically a coffee break but you drink tea instead of coffee). When invited by Russians to their house they will probably offer you some tea with pastries. Nevertheless, Russians still have their own way to drink tea. Back in the day, the Samovar was very common, but its use declined with the arrival of modern electrical kettles. Nowadays, Russians usually prepare one very strong teapot that they can use during the whole day.  They pour a certain amount in the cup then dilute it with hot water. No need to wait for your cup to get cold then forgetting it, here you can control the temperature!

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The king of glass tea is served in Russian trains
  • Russian soda

Why is it here you might say? Soda is basically water, sugar, and bubbles with some taste… Well, in Russia they have some of the weirdest sodas I tasted in my life (Haven’t been to Japan thought but I heard it’s quite weird there too). Those tastes are the reflection of what Russians like. For example, you can find some cucumber taste soda! Having seen how much Russians love cucumbers I’m not surprised that they made it real. Another one quite interesting is a neon green soda perfumed with… Tarragon!! It was first thought of as a remedy against stomach ache by the Georgian pharmacist who invented it (maybe that why it taste like a medicine to me). There are so many other strange sodas in Russia that I don’t even know how to describe them, so I’ll just tell you to go and taste.

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A street vendor with different soda types (very colorful)
  • Kvass

Last but not least, Kvass! This might THE Russian drink. It is an ancient fermented beverage which origins come as far as the middle ages (and maybe even further). This traditional Slavic drink is usually obtained by the fermentation of rye bread in water and is comparable in some way to beer. It can also sometimes be flavored with fruits or berries. Homemade Kvass was (and is still in some ways) quite popular and the internet is full of receipts if you want to try it yourself.

During the Soviet Era, it was quite common to see Kvass vendors in the streets. The drink was then quite popular and cheap. When the Soviet Union collapsed, new sodas from the west arrived (we’re all living in America), but nowadays, Kvass is regaining popularity, and a very famous soda company from America (like very, very famous) created their own brand of kvass.

Funny thing, due to its low level of alcohol (around 0.7% to 1.2% usually, compared to around 9% for wine) Kvass is not concerned by the alcohol legislation in Russia!

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A glass of Kvass with rye bread, rye bread is very popular in Russia and known as black bread

Do you want to try those drinks? Then come to Russia and discover more of this country with your guide on Tsar Visit!