Russian traditions for the use of alcohol

The awareness of them, and their perceived importance, depends on various factors including region and age

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Some are extremely common and practiced by the vast majority of the population, while some are extremely obscure.

  • When you have alcohol, it must be drunk until it is gone.
  • One should not put a glass with alcohol back on the table. However it refers only to shot-type strong alcohol which you are supposed to drink at once. Wine, long drink cocktails and beer do not fall under the rule as they are meant to be sipped.
Normally Russians have frozen
pinterest button Normally Russians have it frozen Moscow Travel Guide, CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Traditionally alcohol is poured out to all the people present, though they are not required to drink.
  • One should not make a long interruption between first and second shots.
Sandwich with salmon eggs with a shot of Stolichnaya vodka ready for consumption
pinterest button Sandwich with salmon eggs with a shot of Stolichnaya vodka ready for consumption Lord Mountbatten, CC BY-SA 3.0
  • The latecomer must drink a full glass. (so-called «penalty»)
  • Outgoing guest must drink last glass, so-called «na pososhok» (russ. «На посошок»). Literally it is translated «On a small (walking) staff», really means «For lucky way».
  • As a rule, every portion of spirit is accompanied by a touch of glasses and a toast. Funeral and commemoration are exceptions; there the touch of glasses is forbidden.
  • It is not allowed to pour out by hand holding a bottle from below.
  • It is not allowed to fill a glass being held in the air.
  • It is considered bad luck to make a toast with an empty glass. If done, the toaster must finish off the bottle of what he had last.
  • It is considered bad luck to put an empty bottle back on the table when it's finished.

There are only two kinds of vodka — good vodka and very good one. 

— Russian proverb 

Russians and Vodka

Russians believe that vodka has a disinfecting effect,and if you feel a cold coming on, vodka can be used to kill the virus. The best cure is vodka with honey, pepper vodka (pertsovka), or vodka with garlic.  

Russians believe that sharing a drink is a gesture of hospitality, part of making friends. Some Russians will consider it unusual if you do not drink to the bottom in one gulp, but will give you a pass because you are non-Russian.

Making toasts is essential to drinking vodka. Toasts get longer and more sentimental as the evening wears on and vodka is consumed.

Russians typically use small (50 to 100-gram) shot glasses when drinking vodka.  

Drinking straight from the bottle is considered a bad habit.

Vodka is considered in Russia as a beverage for men. Russian women usually drink lighter drinks, like champagne or wine. 

Russians never dilute vodka and have it straight up (chilled, but not over ice — that just dilutes it.

Empty bottles must be removed from the table. This is known as “removing the corpse from the table” (ubrat pokoynika so stola).