Russia / Travel

The Ultimate Russian Vodka Tasting Experience

When planning my trip to Russia there were two things that were at the top of my to-do list:

1.) Drink vodka.

2.) See a ballet.

There were theaters and ballet shows in abundance so tackling number 2 on my list was no problem. One would think that finding a vodka tasting tour  would be easy to find and book as well, but for some reason it was a bit tricky.

For a country that drinks vodka like it’s water, voda means water in Russian so they literally named the liquor after water, there is not a strong marketing campaign for vodka tasting. Russians are usually pretty loyal to a certain brand of vodka so I can now see why there is no need for tastings. Russians know what they like and they are sticking with it. This doesn’t bode well for the foreign tourist, me, who just wants to taste and drink vodka…

The Venue

Have no fear I found a place that would allow me to taste Russia’s finest vodka!  In beautiful St. Petersburg I discovered the Xander Bar. It is tucked away inside of the Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace , has an abundance of ice cold vodka, delicious bar snacks, and a cozy atmosphere that makes you want to sit and drink vodka all day long.

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You can find the vodka tasting option hidden in their drink menu and it costs around $25. I think it is a bargain for the quality of vodka and the service one receives. I had the pleasure of meeting Llia, the friendly and knowledgeable bartender, who was more than happy to go above and beyond to teach me about vodka.

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The vodka guru himself, Llia.

 

The Tasting

The tasting includes three double shots, in fancy glasses, of Russia’s finest brands and a variety of bar snacks to go with the tasting. One of my favorite parts of the tasting was when Llia told us to eat slightly pickled cucumbers after each shot. It was a surprisingly refreshing experience! The cucumbers instantly cut the harsh after taste that comes after taking a shot and it cleansed the pallet while oddly hydrating your mouth. The result left me feeling quite nice, once the burn of vodka had faded, and had me wanting to take the next shot.

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Who knew that slightly pickled cucumbers make the perfect vodka chaser!?

After three shots in thirty minutes…I was happily sitting at the bar warm and smiling when I mentioned to Llia that it was Father’s Day back in the United States and that my dad loves vodka. I asked him if it would be okay to take pictures of the vodka bottles so I could send it to my dad and wish him happy father’s day. He smiled and said, “Of course! Wait right here”.

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A small sample of Russia’s finest vodka

When Llia returned he had several more frozen bottles of vodka and proceeded to line them up on the bar top. He took several trips to the freezer, which I imagine as a large frozen room filled to the brim with vodka bottles, and continued to line up more bottles. Llia knows his stuff when it comes to vodka and taught me fun facts about each type of vodka.

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The bottle on the left, Imperia, was my favorite! It was made using the cold water from the largest lake in the world, Lake Baikal.

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The building on the Stolichnaya bottle is now the Four Seasons Hotel in Moscow located right outside of the Kremlin.

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 The bottle on the right is apparently given to officials or important people on special occasions. Last but not least, Putin’s favorite vodka, the Kremlin!

If you are looking for a truly educational and delicious vodka tasting, the Xander Bar is the perfect place. Full of Russian vodka history, scrumptious cucumber chasers, and a historic cozy room, the Xander Bar should be on everyone’s travel itinerary when visiting the friendly northern city of St.Petersburg.

 

 

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