Drinking In Russia With Russians, Things You Should Know
Along with the traditional food Russians have their favorite drinks that made them so famous. I guess everybody has heard about Russian vodka but this is not the only drink that is largely appreciated in Russia.
Let’s start with water. Russia has an enormous variety of water sources and supplies. But most of them are not considered safe for drinking and that’s why it is better to consume bottled water if you occasionally find yourself in Russia. The local population living outside of large cities uses water wells as a primary source of water. If you’re a western traveler you need to know that ice is not usually added in soft drinks but most locals and bars have this product and will serve you if you request so.
Tea is a very common drink in Russia. Traditionally tea was brewed in a special tea pot called samovar. The samovar is a unique pot that is found in a restraint number of cultures such as Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey. In the modern era samovars used to be electrical but those made during the Russian Empire period used coal as fuel to heat and boil water for tea.
Starting with the XVIII century a new culture of drinking tea has been developed in Russia. Using samovars or other tea pots Russians produce a small quantity of very strong tea called zavarka, which is then poured into tea cups. After that each person can add hot boiled water in order to get the taste and the strength that he desires. To get a sweet tea Russians use sugar or honey. Tea was always accompanied by traditional Russian snacks like blini, oladi, pirogi and other sweets. Nowadays tea is served during breakfast and between meals in the first half of the day. The most appreciated varieties of tea are those produced in India, Sri-Lanka and Georgia but also Russians have their own produced tea in the region of Krasnodar.
It is commonly accepted to invite friends and to have gatherings with relatives where Russians sit at a table full of traditional food and where there is always served a cup of fresh and hot tea. Tea is the best drink to have in the winter season after spending some time outside, on the road. Russians also use tea for curing common health problems that occur in the cold season. Especially used for this purpose is the chamomile tea. Indifferently of the occasion or the need, tea is the number 1 hot drink in Russia.
Vodka is a traditional Russian alcoholic beverage which is produced from water and grain alcohol. Usually is sold in 0,5 liter bottles with a 40% pure grain alcohol. Vodka has destroyed more lives than any authoritarian regime in Russia and has been the cause of many families falling apart, but Russian seems to love it. Back in the days of the Soviet Union there was even a period when the authorities over stimulated the consumption of vodka with the purpose to increase the budget but with dramatic consequences for health of the population.
The history of vodka has its roots in the days when the Slavs struggled to form a consolidated state which is now known as Kievan Rus. Russian traditional vodka doesn’t have any special or strong flavors and was mainly consumed for enhancing the taste of the food and to increase the appetite. Vodka is consumed on different occasions, gatherings with friends, holydays and birthdays. Russians use to drink vodka as it is and don’t like to mix it with other drinks to reduce strength or to add flavors.
Always when drinking vodka Russians say a toast such as: Za nas! (For us!), Za vache zdorovie! (For your health!) or Budi zdorov sto vekov! (Be healthy 100 centuries!). There are also a large number of toasts in a more artistic and fun format meant to entertain the audience and to chase away the tension between guests.
After drinking vodka Russians use to eat something for example a pickle or a slice of sausage. If you never had the occasion to deal with vodka it’s better not to exaggerate and not trying to compete with your Russian friends because in a very short period of time you won’t be able to get up from the table.
Being widely consumed, vodka has become in the past decades a subject of many counterfeits and illegal business activities. So for this reason you should buy the liquor from authorized stores and choose the most famous and respected brands. Otherwise you risk getting an intoxication or even bigger health problems due to the chemical ingredients that are often found in counterfeit vodka.
Beer is on the second place after vodka when it comes to alcoholic beverages in Russia. It was just recently included in the alcoholic drinks category. Russians distinguish several types of beer regarding its color and not its fermentation process; blonde, dark, brown etc. There can be found even beer with 9% alcohol which is very popular. The consumption of beer rises in the hot season when this drink is used as a cooler and serves as a great beverage for outdoor activities like picnics, gatherings with friends and sport events.
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