shteyngart drinks vodka


GS: If you go to a Russian restaurant, the first thing you see on every menu is zakuski. Which literally means “the thing you follow it with.” “It” being vodka. Appetizers are built around vodka. The mystery of Russia centers on what will happen at the end of the day, or the middle of the day. That being the drinking of the 150 grams (5.29 ounces) of vodka. When I go back there, and I go back every year, I have to acclimate like you would in Denver. Everyone, especially the men, brings their own bottle of vodka. Each finishes their bottle and they enter that land of no return. I’m not a religious person by any means, but you feel this kind of strange communion. With people who, if you had met them on the street, you’d think, “My goodness, look at this strange specimen.”

MDM: Your compatriot Anton Chekov described the perfect eight-course meal for a journalist: “Glass of vodka, daily shchi with yesterday’s kasha; two glasses of vodka, suckling pig with horseradish; three glasses of vodka, horseradish, cayenne pepper and soy sauce; four glasses of vodka; seven bottles of beer.”

GS: That’s a nice meal. Marinated mushrooms are great with vodka, duck is good, too. Nice fatty duck. It’s a marvelous drinking culture. Now a lot of the middle-class Russians are switching to beer. A Western influence.

MDM: I understand the government is pushing it. To get them off the vodka.

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