A shot of vodka may be the simplest alcoholic drink in the world. Lacking the added flavors of gin or the complicated aging process of whiskey or rum, the ideal vodka has almost no odor or taste. Nonetheless, getting the best out of a shot of vodka is a little more complicated than this pure, potent spirit would suggest.
Preparing the Vodka
Even before you sit down for your first shot of vodka, you’ll need to prepare your drink correctly. Chill the bottle before you pour the shot. To achieve the proper state, leave it in the freezer for several hours before serving. Pour a normal shot, but don’t overfill the glass. Traditional Russian glasses, which are very tall, have deceived some novices into thinking that shots should be very large. In reality, you’re not expected to fill the glass completely.
Vodka Drinking Etiquette
Social preparation is equally important when getting ready to drink vodka. In the countries of the “Vodka Belt,” such as Poland or Russia, vodka drinking is a social activity. Tradition demands that the first shot — and ideally each shot — be preceded by a toast. For at least the first few toasts, guests should drain their glasses do dna — to the bottom. After that, each person can drink at his own pace.
Vodka and Food
Just as you shouldn’t drink vodka by yourself, tradition demands that you not drink vodka by itself. in Russia, zakuski accompany vodka. Zakuski can be anything from smoked salmon to pickled mushrooms; the strong flavor of each bite fades after the next toast, cleansing the palate for another new snack. Fatty snacks such as sausage or sour cream are also customary; the fat content is said to help reduce alcohol absorption, allowing for longer drinking bouts.
Vodka Drinking Technique
Once the table is suitably prepared and populated, it’s time for the shot itself. For the first shot, raise the glass as you toast, then down the vodka in a single smooth motion. Experienced vodka drinkers recommend exhaling through the nose after completing the shot. You can take a short pause before refilling your glass, but be sure to refill others’ glasses first when you do.
After the first few toasts, pace yourself. Sip if you want to, take a break for a snack and keep the conversation going. The lively, friendly table chatter is a vital part of traditional vodka drinking.
References and ResourcesEsquire: How to Drink Vodka
The New York Times: Moscow Journal -- Glassy-Eyed Etiquette -- A Guide to Russian Toasts
Lonely Planet: How to Drink Vodka Like a Pole
NPR: Drink Vodka, Eat Pickles, Repeat -- Mastering The Zakuski Spread
Daily Telegraph: How to Drink Vodka Like a Russian (And Stay Sober)