By now you’ve heard that our Olympians, journalists, and visitors to Sochi probably can’t, or shouldn’t, drink the water. While this is undoubtedly a huge inconvenience, I think we should all look on the bright side here. Our athletes are in Russia—they should be drinking vodka anyway. Not only are our athletes in Russia, they’re mingling with other athletes from almost 100 different countries, and each country has its own drinking customs. Imagine how fun a booze-centric pot luck would be if all the teams competing in the Nordic Combined brought their country’s traditional booze of choice. Who needs a tall glass of water when you can take a shot of “Black Death” from Iceland?
To help our Olympians see the silver lining in the “no water situation,” we’ve outlined the drinking customs from six countries competing in the Winter Olympics. If you’re not actually in Sochi competing in the luge, feel free to follow along at home and adopt some of these customs in an effort to improve international relations. Maybe doing a shot of vodka every time you see Putin’s mug on TV during the next couple of weeks will bring us one step closer towards World Peace.
First, pay homage to the host country by drinking your vodka in quick shots. Don’t put anything else in your vodka except for more vodka. Toast early and toast often, but remember that after every shot you should eat “zakuski,” a tiny snack of pickled vegetables or fish and black bread. Try to find a bottle of Green Mark Vodka, which is the top selling brand in all of Mother Russia.
Hungary is only competing in a handful of events this winter, but when you see a Hungarian on the international field of competition, reach for Palinka, a fruit-based brandy that Hungarians take in small doses as a medicine, and in large doses for fun. Back in the day, Hungarians kicked off each morning with a glass of Palinka, you know, to stay healthy. Drink small glasses at room temperature, toasting to God before you knock back the glass.
Beer is popular in Iceland, along with just about every other drink (it’s been noted that Icelanders drink like a bunch of college freshmen) but the traditional drink is Brennivin, a type of schnapps that’s made from potatoes. Directly translated, Brennivin means “burning wine” in English (awesome) but it’s also known as “Black Death” (awesomer). Word on the street is, Brennivin is so bad, Icelanders only drink it during the annual Porrablot celebration, a winter feast.
Norway is supposed to take away the most gold medals at this Olympics, and after they take home the hardware, they’ll likely toast with a shot of aquavit, a potato-based liquor flavored with caraway, herbs, and sometimes fruit. Aquavit literally means “water of life.” Norwegians prefer Linie Aquavit, which is aged in oak sherry casks as it travels to and from Australia. On some of the bottles, you can even find the name of the ship that carried the liquor across the equator.
Okay, Amsterdam and the greater Netherlands have more to offer than just pot brownies. The national spirit, genever, is kind of like a cross between a gin and a whiskey. Typically, the genever is made from 50% malt wine from fermented rye, wheat and corn, all of which is triple distilled then infused with botanicals.
Drink it by performing a “kopstoot” (translation: “head butt”), which is basically a shot of genever and a beer on the side. I like it when the traditional way of drinking something involves drinking a second drink.
Croatians love their Rakija, which is essentially a moonshine made from just about any sort of fruit the distiller can find. The most popular styles come from grapes, plums, and various herbs. There’s a long-standing tradition in Croatia of making Rakija at home, much like moonshine in the Southern Appalachians, but you’ll also find bars that specialize in Rakija. The liquor is used as an antiviral medication, disinfectant, digestive…and party accelerator. Drink it early, drink it late, but never drink it alone. Clink tiny glasses with your friends, say “zivjeli,” and shoot it fast.