The Germans cherish beer, the French love wine and the Scottish savour whisky, but in Russia, the national drink of choice is, undoubtedly, vodka. St Petersburg has enjoyed a long love affair with spirit, whose name is thought to stem from the Russian word for water ‘voda’. Its origins are debated, with both Poland and Russia claiming to have invented it, however the first solid evidence of its production in Russia was by monks in Moscow in the early 1400s. Nowadays, there are hundreds of vodka producers across the country, creating everything from popular brands like Russian Standard, Beluga and Stoli to craft varieties. Discover where to sample Russia’s favourite spirit with this guide to the best Russian vodka in St Petersburg.
There’s no need to leave the hotel to sample some of the best Russian vodka in St Petersburg. Lichfield Bar at Hotel Astoria is a classic, exclusive bar where guests can sip on ice cold vodka while enjoying the sounds of live jazz. Sample shorts of around 14 different brands such as premium Beluga like Beluga Allure and limited edition Beluga Gold Line, or try a vodka cocktail prepared by an expert mixologist.
Before raising a glass and toasting ‘na zdorovye’ (to your health), discover the history of vodka at the Russian Vodka Museum. Located in the historical heart of St Petersburg, the museum offers enthusiasts an opportunity to learn about the heritage and traditions of vodka drinking and the part it plays in Russian culture. Tours are followed by tasting sessions, during which guests can sample a variety of different vodkas and learn about the traditional drinking customs.
Located next door to the Russian Vodka Museum, Russian Vodka Room No1 is a restaurant serving Russian cuisine through the ages, washed down with vodka. Diners are spoilt for choice with a menu of over 200 varieties of the best Russian vodka, polugar (a Russian bread wine that’s similar to vodka), and nastoika (a flavoured Russian spirit). The restaurant also serves up platters of traditional delicacies that go well with the vodka, such as baked ham with horseradish and salted Baltic sprats with egg.
Modelled on a period Soviet watering hole, Chroniki Bar on Ulitsa Nekrasova is a popular place to go for a quick shot of vodka, or two. The eclectic venue stocks a comprehensive selection of Russian, Finnish, Swedish and Danish vodkas, served either straight or mixed into cocktails. Guests can also enjoy traditional Russian snacks such as herring sandwiches.
As in any cosmopolitan city, one of the best ways to find the local hotspots is to follow the crowds come nightfall. One place that’s become a favourite of St Petersburg’s in-the-know denizens is Mishka Bar, a small yet trendy basement bar that’s famed for its custom vodka shots and DJ sets. While it may be a wild card due to its hipster vibe, it’s a great place to try out the latest drinks trends.
From the best Russian vodka to the best Russian hospitality, experience Russia at its finest at Hotel Astoria.
Image credits: vodka © iStock/Jag_cz, vodka and herring @ Chroniki Bar, Russian Vodka Room No1 © Russian Vodka Room No1