The verb drink is irregular in both English and Russian. In class today, we learned how to conjugate it. We also got a few Russian drinking tips, tailored to an American audience:
- Russians drink vodka like Italians drink espresso. Be careful!
- Russians drink their vodka straight. And quickly. Be careful!
- It’s important to have a big meal before drinking a lot of vodka. Be careful!
- If you don’t have time to eat a big meal, at least eat a piece of buttered bread. Be careful!
Alcohol in Russia is a bit more accessible than it is in America. There is a sign at the grocery story saying that it is forbidden to buy cigarettes if you are under 18. There is no such sign for alcohol.
And Russian kids appear to enjoy the relaxed rules. Groups of teenagers, probably no older than 16, gather on sidewalks, drinking from big cans of Nevskoe Ice, smoking and killing time. Public (and underage) drinking is technically illegal, but I haven’t seen the St. Petersburg police give anyone any trouble.
Kids aren’t the only ones who drink in public, though. Grown men often walk in the streets, a cool Baltika 7 (or again, Nevskoe Ice – It’s apparently pretty popular) in hand. Sadly, I haven’t taken part in this Russian tradition—quite frankly, the Militsia, as the leather-jacketed police are called, scare me more than a bit.
But there are plenty of options for drinking beyond the street corner.
Every restaurant, pizza place, fast food joint, and coffee shop has an alcohol selection bigger than some American liquor stores. You can get a cheap shot of Ruski Standard vodka or a several thousand ruble bottle of wine with whatever food happens to be available at your chosen dining establishment.
The alcohol selection at the corner grocery store is even more mind-boggling. There’s a full aisle of hard liquor, another of wine, and another of beer. There is also a locked cabinet for the really expensive stuff, and beer fridges placed strategically throughout the store for those who get thirsty while shopping.