Russian Zakuski Part IV: Vodka

Russian Standard Vodka & Shot Glasses

Russian Standard Vodka & Shot Glasses

In the 10th Century Prince Vladimir the Great of Kievan Rus’ wanted to abandon paganism in favour of a more modern religion.  In the Primary Chronicle it is said Vladimir sent emissaries out to investigate alternatives.  When the emissaries returned and relayed what they had found out about Judaism, Christianity and Islam it is believed Vladimir rejected the option of Islam saying, ‘Rus’ loves to drink, we cannot be without it.’

Mead, kvas and beer met the imbibing demands of the Kievan Rus’ until the late 14h Century when spirits became available, probably via the Baltic.  However, there is some confusion over what exactly was available, vino being used to describe sprits distilled only once (unlike vodka) and also wine.  According to one Soviet historian, there seemed a complete absence of information on drinks like present-day vodka and if one is to believe written sources, only spread to Russia in the 16th Century.
Vodka became the single most important item in the peasantry’s festive diet, being present at every celebration and church festival.  However, with the spread of drink-shops, drinking on non-festive days became the norm.  The most important linking-factor between politics and society, this tipple even became a key bribe in local elections during the 19th Century.  Unlike other countries, the government’s greed for the sheer profit made from the sale of alcohol, prevented the rise of a temperance movement.

In present-day Russia, local beer, champagne (usually sweet and served at room temperature) and vodka reign supreme, with the latter being the most popular and focal point of any bountiful zakuski table.  Vodka is made from the wheat grain and is transparent.  While Western vodka is usually dry (like champagne) Russian vodka has a touch of sweetness.  Roots or herbs are also used to flavour vodka.

Vodka should be drunk straight, in shot glasses, in a single gulp.

Keep vodka (and if made of glass, the shot glasses) in the freezer before serving.

Russian Standard Vodka, 70ml, available nationwide, RRP £10

Related Images:

About Charlotte J

Graduate, journalist, blogger and follower of all things media.