russian drinking traditions

Russian History In 7 Drinking Traditions

Russia‘s history is a long and complicated one. Thankfully, though, it’s led to some fun and strange drinking traditions still in use today. Whether you are travelling to Russia in the future, have soe Russian friends or are Russian yourself, this list has somthing for you. Find out exactly why Russians toast to health and what happens when you’re late on this list of Russian drinking traditions.

Russian History in Drinking Traditions

1. Vashe Zdorovye!

‘Vashe Zdorovye’ or, ‘for your health’ is the Russian equivalent of ‘Cheers!’ or ‘Salud!’ While many cultures around the globe’s toasts have something to do with health, Russia’s goes a little deeper than that. The reason they toast ‘vashe zdorovye’ can be traced back to Ivan the Terrible. In this dark time, Russians all over the country were using vodka to make medicines and sanitization salves. So, remember to toast ‘vashe zdorovye’, especially with vodka.

russian drinking traditions

2. Tardy Shot

Late to a party with some of your Russian friends? There’s a penalty for that that can be traced back to Peter the Great. In his heyday, when subordinates (anyone) were late, he’d force them to down a 1.5-litre glass of vodka. This is more than 30 shots of vodka! And for one person, no less. Today it’s transitioned into a tradition of ‘penalty’ or ‘tardy’ shots where is one person is late, you’re served a shot to down by yourself.

russian drinking traditions

3. Wash It

‘Obmytpokupku’ or ‘wash the purchase’ is what happens when you’ve bought something new and want to celebrate. Finally, bought a new car, tv or something else that you’ve been after for a while? ‘Obytpokupku!’ Not literally though. To ‘wash’ your purchase just means to toast to it with a few shots of vodka.

russian drinking traditions

4. Think For Three

In Russian, there’s the common phrase ‘soobrazitnatroikh’ which translates to ‘think for three’. It’s an open invitation to enjoy a few drinks together, have a good time and keep the good times rolling. It’s said that this is tied to Nikita Khrushchev and his lifelong battle against alcoholism and not knowing when to quit. Others say that it’s simply a way for Russian to continue the party and keep on drinking.

5. One For The Road

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘one for the road’ when grabbing something extra to take with you. In the old days when leaving a bar, Russians would ask for ‘napososhok’ which means both ‘walking stick’ and literally ‘for the road.’ The tradition went like this: the guest would receive a shot to place to the tip of a cane. If the glass fell due to balance, they’d have to stay at the party to avoid ‘a bad road’.

russian drinking traditions

6. No Bottles On The Table

Whatever you do, once you pour the vodka from the bottle to the shot glass, don’t set it back on the table. Back in the Napoleonic Wars after 1814’s Battle of Paris, Russian Cossacks caught on to something. They noticed that the bills they’d receive at taverns were based on how many bottles were left on the table. Clever as they were, they began placing the bottles under their chairs and under the tables to swindle their bill.

7. Once A Pourer Always A Pourer

Whoever pours the first shot is tasked with pouring the rest until the bottle is empty. Why? Old wives tales say that if the pourer is changed, people will get too drunk and a result in a massive brawl. We aren’t sure how much good science there is to back that up, but who cares? Wear your pourer badge with honour.

Melanie Hamilton

Melanie is an avid traveller with a passion for history and global foods. She is currently based in Tbilisi, Georgia where most of her time is occupied with qvevri wine and Soviet history. Having do-si-do'd her way across Europe and Latin America, she's enjoyed some of the world's most exciting places firsthand and can't wait to tell you about them.

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