Russians, on the other hand, do everything to stay sober while drinking as much alcohol as possible. How do we do it? We try to neutralize alcohol as long as possible. I try to outline the basic principles of vodka drinking for uninitiated.
One hour before the party.
1. Eat a couple of boiled potatoes.
2. Drinks one or two raw eggs.
3. Drink one or two table-spoons of olive oil. Sunflower oil will also do.
Thus it’s guaranteed that at the Russian party you will stay sober for at least one bottle of vodka. I’m not kidding. Raw eggs are the most important part of Russian pre-party preparations.
At the party.
1. If you start drinking vodka – drink only vodka. No beer or wine. No water or juice. Carbonated drinks are taboo.
2. Drink vodka only in shots. Never sip.
3. Eat immediately after taking a shot. Russian zakuskis are often translated as appetizers. That’s not quite correct. Zakuskis are something you ‘zakusyvayesh’ with after taking a shot of vodka. They are very important to neutralize alcohol. That’s why they all contain two most important alcohol neutralizers – acid and salt. I recommend taking the following sequence:
- immediately after taking a shot – two slices of lemon;
- then some salted cucumbers, pickles, marinated tomatoes or caviar.
- then something with a lot of oil: herring (traditionally with cold boiled potatoes and onion), sardines, or shproty (small smoked sprats in olive oil);
- then traditional Russian salads, like Oliviye or Herring with boiled beet and mayonnaise. Almost all Russian salads come under heavy mayonnaise dressing. Remember – acid, salt, eggs and oil. Ukrainians and Southern Russians prefer smoked lard with garlic but it’s a zakuska for professionals.
4. Only three first vodka shots at a Russian party are ‘obligatory’ so to say. That means you have to take them if you want to show you’re a friendly person but not an unsociable person. After that you can ‘miss’ one or two shots. Just say, “Ya propuskayu” (Literally, I make it slip) and cover your glass with your palm. That doesn’t mean you can abstain from drinking till the end of the party. It means (excusing yourself that you’re a foreigner) can take one shot out of two your Russian guests take.
I think, some Russian party traditions need to be explained here. In Russia we party around a big table with bottles and zakuskis. We drink only when someone makes a toast and we drink all together. The person who makes a toast usually pours vodka to all glasses. Taking a bottle yourself and drinking vodka without others is a faux pas. Actually you (and all others) are ordered to drink after a toast. Everyone at the party is supposed to make a toast – being a foreigner is not an excuse. So be prepared – buy yourself a book on party toasts (there are a lot of them on sale in Russia) and learn some by heart.
5. Zakuskis part of the party take about an hour – or something like 200 grams (4 shots) of vodka. Then comes “goryacheye” (hot dishes). Even though zakuskis could be very filling – you should eat goryacheye if you want not be become drunk.
6. Actively participate in intellectual talks around the table. Mental activity is probably the best method to keep you excited but sober. Try, for example, to drink two pints of beer while reading a philosophical book and see the result.
7. At the end of the party come tea and cakes. Don’t miss it too. This way you show your hosts that you’re survived the party without dire consequences.
Now in the course of 4 or 5 hours you drunk a bottle of vodka (500 grams) and you’re only slightly tight.
After the party.
1. Keep a small bottle of beer in refrigerator. Wake up at about 5 in the morning, drink your beer and go back to bed. It prevents hang-over in the morning.
2. If the early morning beer didn’t help (it usually does), drink a glass of brine from the jar you kept you pickles in.
Many Russians recommend taking a shot of vodka in the morning to fights hang-over. Don’t do it. It helps only alcoholics. If you’re not, it will make things worse.