There’s an art to drinking vodka the Russian way with its rigid rituals. Shots must be imbibed in odd numbers. You may not have two shots then go home. You can have one, or three, or five ... seven ... nine ...
If you follow the five steps below, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll have no hangover. I learned it from a Russian who spurns the concept of mixing vodka with anything and flavoured vodka is apparently also alien to the Russian heart.
It is not negotiable that vodka must be drunk as a shot; downed in one mouthful. No sipping is allowed. If you’ve tried drinking different vodkas, you too will understand the merit of Stolichnaya or Pravda and its vast difference from the likes of those costing under R50. It’s like comparing a Tazz to a Lamborghini.
There are closely followed customs when drinking the Russian way.
Step 1: Each shot must be preceded by something to line the stomach. Russian food is often covered in sour cream or mayonnaise, which no doubt assists with the coating, but a few mouthfuls of blini or soup will do.
Step 3: GULP! Warning: Do not inhale as you drink, it burns.
Step 4: Pop a pickle into your mouth and chew, or eat or sniff a slice of rye bread. It’s odd, but all these recommendations work, though the pickle is my personal favourite. (I don’t particularly like pickles but they go perfectly with a giggle inducing shot of vodka.)
Step 5: Laugh loudly. Let the conversation resume. Wait 5 minutes and repeat. For shot three, which is a must if you’ve had number two, the wait is about 15 minutes. Only the first two are drunk in fairly quick succession.
If you don’t follow all the directions above there’s a guarantee that when you wake in the morning you’ll feel somewhat like a hedgehog in the fog.
No degrees are conferred, but I do think it’s important to be able to say, “I drank vodka like a Russian, once”, or maybe twice ...