The World Cup is just a day away, and hundreds of thousands of fans from across the globe are descending on Russia for the event. For billions more (an estimated 3.2 billion watched the 2014 World Cup on TV), the competition will be followed on the telly.
With hours of games to get through, many of us will be hosting friends in family with barbecues and parties — particularly when England are playing.
There’s nothing better than freshly made cocktails or ice-cold beers to sip during a big match — or to help you forget England’s inevitable failure — and with the forecast looking positive over the tournament’s first weekend, it’s time to reach for the shaker.
You could opt for a summertime classic — a mojito, margarita or some sangria, for example. But, to get into the spirit, why not opt for a Russian-inspired cocktail?
We spoke to Danil Nevsky, of Cocktails For You, to get the lowdown on the best drinks to enjoy when tuning into the football. «The Russians were never blessed with the ability to mix spirits well, and cocktails came to them in the form of ‘American bars’ in plush hotels visited by tourists before the Russian Revolution, in the heyday of the Tsars,» explains Russian-born Nevsky.
«There are rumours that during the Cold War the Communist party instructed Russian bartenders to create cocktails for visiting US diplomats to impress the Americans with their skills. One of the most brutal and common inventions of the post-Soviet 90s was called Yorsh, a mix of vodka and beer,» says Nevsky.
Many of the most famous «Russian» cocktails aren’t Russian at all — the White Russian, the Moscow Mule and the Russian Spring Punch were all invented in the West, with their names coming from the vodka base.
As for the best vodka? According to the expert, you should actually consider Ukrainian. «We recommend Nemiroff as a brand of choice, especially their Honey Pepper edition,» Nevsky advises. «The Slavs traditionally infused their spirits with whatever herbs and spices they could find, and those in the Ukraine had better access to trade from the Black Sea. So the marriage of honey from the north and pepper from the south combined into this amazing combo.»
«In Russia, the same as in the rest of the world, people drink beer when watching football — food is secondary,» say Ivan and Sergey Berezutskiy, identical twins and chefs at the acclaimed Twins Garden in Moscow.
For Nevsky, finding Russian produce in the UK isn’t so easy, though the rise of Eastern European delis is making the task easier. For beer — the classic football drink — he recommends the Baltika 7: «a light and crisp lager at a hefty 7% though it doesn’t taste like it.»
And what snack should you have to accompany a Baltika 7 as the whole thing kicks off tomorrow when Russia take on Saudi Arabia? Why not avoid standard footie fare like nachos, burgers or pizzas, and opt for a Russian staple? «What distinguishes our country is a great variety of dried fish to pair with beer,» offer the Berezutskiys. «People like to drink beer with crayfish or dried caviar.»
Possibly the simplest cocktail you’ll ever make, and «not one for the faint of heart,» says Nevsky.
- 50ml vodka
- 300ml beer
Add vodka into cold beer and drink.
Russian Spring Punch
A more palatable cocktail, invented by Dick Bradsell, «one of the forefathers of British bartending,» in the 1980s, according to Nevsky.
- 7 raspberries
- 40ml vodka
- 10ml (a healthy dash) of crème de cassis
- 10ml (a healthy dash) of strawberry liqueur
- 20ml lemon juice
- Champagne (or a dry sparkling wine of your choice), to top up
- Combine everything in a shaker, shake and strain into a tall glass.
- For those without the kit, we recommend muddling the raspberries with a rolling pin before adding to the glass with all the other ingredients. Churn, add ice, and churn again.
- Top up with bubbly!
The White Russian
«I do believe this was the first alcoholic drink I ever had. Sweet, boozy and strong, it ensured the evening ended… badly» wrote Kay Plunkett-Hogge in The Telegraph. Here’s her recipe:
- 60ml vodka (I like Russian Standard for this)
- 30ml Kahlua
- Full fat milk
- Fill a tumbler with ice. Add the vodka and Kahlua, and top up with full fat milk. Stir to combine and drink.