In the old times Russian people didn’t have any idea of getting drunk. Before the adoption of the Christianity alcoholic beverages were put on the table to celebrate three holidays: the birth of a child, a military victory or a funeral. Expensive, rich feasts were afforded only by the Great Princes and used as political events to sign new contracts or arrange new contacts. The most popular strong beverages were considered honey wines, “braga” (strong bread beverage) and beer.
In the ancient Russian vodka was highly appreciated and used as miracle-working medicine, combined with herbs extracts for external and internal use, not more than a half a spoon. Vodka was considered good to heal the wounds and relieve the pain. The growing popularity of this strong beverage helped its fast spreading.
The first bread wine was made in the Chudov monastery in the Kremlin in the middle of 15 century. Monastery distillation competed with the State Treasury and the Great prince Ivan III brought in the First vodka monopoly that lasted till 1605. The next reformer was Ivan The Terrible who interdicted to purchase vodka in Moscow and ordered to build for his servants a special house, which was called in a Tatar way “kabak” (that means drinking without snack). The new place became to the tsar’s liking and the entertaining place. Thanks to that, the inexhaustible source of treasury enrichment was found.
So, since 1555 kabaks appeared in different Russian cities and got into the traditional place to have a drink and a special particularity of Russian urbanism. Only common people were allowed to drink in the kabaks. People of upper classes should drink alcohol at home and the people whose activity was the art should not drink alcohol at any rate.
Successful years of Peter the Great’s government, whose love towards the feasts and festivals was the talk of the country, accustomed people to much alcohol. But the tsar also brought in the strict order in alcohol drinking. It was the rule to work the whole week and allowed to have alcoholic drinks only on the holidays. Peter I loved alcohol so much that he could drink 36 glasses of wine during the day. Thanks to him, Russian Empire learned to drink vodka in a sweeping and joyful manner.
Vodka was a must of a combat ration. Russian soldiers carried alcohol drinks to encourage themselves on the field of battle. The soldier got 2 cups of vodka (15-18%) every day.Simple workers were not deprived of their due share of vodka, too. One glass (charka) of low quality vodka was supposed to every builder, road worker or docker.
In the middle of 18 century, in the time of Catherine II alcoholic beverage manufacturing became the privilege of the aristocracy. The last royal decree admitted the complete refuse of the state monopoly and control of private practices.
During many centuries alcoholic beverage manufacturing differed by private, amateur character. The taste of “bread wine” was improved by numerous filtrations, freezing and rectifying. Every nobleman had his own brand of vodka and considered prestigious to have the A-Z assortment of vodka with different herbs: apple vodka, zest vodka an others.
Drinking culture at that time was very high. The principal rule was to keep the mind sober and the view of things sensible. At the beginning of 19 century large Peter’s mug was changed by a German glass that was of less size. In kabaks small glasses (stopka – 100 g) came into fashion. Besides the stopka, people drank vodka in shkaliki (60 g) and charki (120 g).
In 19 century the famous Russian chemist Mendeleev developed the basis of alcoholic beverage industry. He, first, determined the vague notion “vodka” with scientific characteristics. Vodka became the only name of principal Russian strong drink. Vodka is made from rye spirit, dissolved, by weight, in spring mild water until 40% alcohol. As during the experiments, Mendeleev found out that only 40% alcohol releases the maximum of heat and differs by the homogeneity.
In 1894 Mendeleev’s vodka was patented as the principal Russian alcoholic beverage, called “Moscow special” vodka.
In conclusion, it is necessary to say that only vodka from Russia is the true vodka.