Monday, April 17, 2006

Vodka Etiquette

No that my vodka collection is coming on nicely, I am starting to turn my mind to etiqutte and tradition:

So, if you want to drink like a Pole how should you go about it? The simple answer seems to be to consume everything you can get your hands on, and then some.

I quite the idea of toasts. Here is a suggested series:

First glass (standing up): Your health!
Second glass: Now one for the other leg.
Third: God likes a Trinity.
Fourth: A good table has four legs.
(Etc. etc. until you are drunk.)
Last glass: See you under the table!

With the noble exception of the Tatanka, forget about using vodka in cocktails. In Poland vodka is drunk neat, not diluted or mixed. Regardless of the size of the glass, though, it is drunk in one gulp, or 'do dna' ('to the bottom'), as Poles say. A chunk of herring in oil or other accompaniment, or a sip of mineral water or juice, is consumed just after drinking to give some relief to the throat, and the glasses are immediately refilled for the next drink.

Russians seem very similar, usually cleansing the palate with a sip of coke, or fruit juice but most often, beer. "Vodka without beer is money thrown in the wind", they say. Like the Poles, Russians nibble between shots of the hard stuff; grazing on zakuvski. Zakuvski is varied: caviar on blinis, smoked fish, black bread, pickles etc.

At a Russian session, an empty bottle should always be placed either beside the leg of the table on the floor. An empty bottle on a table is a bad omen for drinkers.

Russiann group drinking is synchronised and it is considered an offense to drink before somebody makes a toast.

I could live with that, but the tradition in which the drinker grabs the nearest person's head and takes a deep sniff of hair after downing a shot of vodka is too weird even for me.

(Refs 1, 3)

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