Top Russian Experience: Vodka, Banya, Tea Drinking

What to do in Russia

If you want a real Russian experience, you might want to get a local insight into the most Russian things to do.

Here we share with you TOP 3 things to do in Moscow which are very Russian and loved by Russians, and which you can do even when you have some hours in the city – on our Moscow layover tour.

Vodka and caviar experience in Russia

Ask a Russian “What is a very Russian thing to do?”, and you will have a guaranteed answer – drinking vodka in Rumochnaya with friends. Or in a night bar with new friends. Or just drinking it no matter where and with who.

If you combine vodka with caviar – there you go – the ultimate Russian experience.

Richard Madden, best known for playing Robb Stark in the series “Game of Thrones”, told Metro newspaper in Moscow that he walked on Red Square and drank vodka and champagne with caviar pancakes. And by the way Richard looked great, he was polite and courteous, like a real prince.

John Travolta shares his observations about Russia: “tasty food. Russian vodka and caviar are to my liking. Especially caviar! Russian people are very beautiful, I like to look at their faces.”

We understand this is something you will definitely ask us about when you come to Russia, so we decided to share with you some ideas and advice.

Russian vodka and Russian caviar

Vodka and caviar in Russia.

What to drink with caviar

  • Beverages for caviar should not in any way interrupt the taste of caviar. It’s recommended togo for chilled drinks like champagne, dry wines: Riesling, Chablis, Chardonnay – in general, any good dry white wine that does not have a pronounced flavor is a good
  • In the Russian tradition caviar and vodka are inseparable because they best complement each other. It is important that vodka is cooled and does not interrupt the taste of caviar.

The great Russian singer Fyodor Chaliapin ate the caviar, and then drank his vodka (vodka should be strongly cooled in the freezer). Caviar House offers to try it, calling it “a la rus”.

What to drink vodka with

From the perspective of owners of vodka brands, there is a variety of snacks to choose from for your vodka experience:

  • Take a slice of hot smoked sturgeon, or herring. You can mix the salmon with red caviar and add a little sour cream.
  • Vodka is best served with hot soup, especially in the cold Russian winter. Sauerkraut is also good.
  • Black bread with pickled cucumber.
  • Vodka should go with hot appetizers. Ideal would be Siberian dumplings. And if you choose cold dishes, the best are olives.
  • You can follow Richard Madden and drink you vodka with pancakes with caviar. If you do it somewhere on Red Square, that would definitely be The Experience.
  • Finally, there is an opinion that vodka should be drunk by itself, without any distractions, this way you can feel the bitterness of Russia and the taste of good vodka.

In general, everything depends on your personal taste preferences.

Traditional Russian experience, Food tour in Moscow and St Petersburg

Drinking vodka in Russia.

  • Vtoroe Dykhanie vodka bar (Second Breath)

Epic place! Must-do for everyone. Vtoroe Dykhanie is a unique Soviet bar, with no analogies. Unique audience, unique atmosphere, ridiculous prices (you can buy everything from the menu for about 300 rubles, $8)

Amazing place to experience Russian reality, watch locals, feel the alcoholic vibe of the capital, get cheap vodka and canape bread and herring and just if you are an adventurous type.

We are sure this place should be a museum. Vodka museum or Soviet museum, or just Very Russian Experience museum.

Russian vodka, Russian alcohol

Vodka experience in Russia.

  • Clumba Club

Clumba Club Restaurant and Oyster Bar is located in the bright atrium trade and business center “Novinsky.” The space of the atrium is filled with sofas, high chairs, armchairs and live exotic plants in ceramic pots.

You can watch live oysters and clams in the tanks with sea water, delivered here regularly from the regions of the Mediterranean and the Far East.

The menu features wild and farm shellfish: clams, spizulla, scallops, trumpeter, mussels. There is a special delivery of wild huge oysters from the Sea of Japan. All shellfish live in Clumba Club in special tanks with cooling, filtration and recirculation of seawater.

Clumba Club eclectic menu combines dishes of European, Mediterranean and Asian culinary traditions.

Caviar sampling in Moscow

Black and Red caviar rolls in Clumba Bar, Moscow. Photo by clumba-club.ru

Bath experience

The Sanduny Bath House is the national pride and heritage of Moscow.

It is not only the oldest public bath house in Russia with a traditional Russian stove, but also a unique interior, authentic Russian Bath traditions, and the best example of Russian hospitality.
There are total five bath departments: three for men, and two for women, with original Russian steam rooms, swimming pools, Jacuzzi and relaxing lounge zones.

After the bath you can have a delicious lunch with natural products in fine restaurant with traditional Russian and Uzbek cuisines.

Russian national cuisine is presented with juicy homemade dumplings with various fillings, dumplings and fresh hand-sculpting manti, homemade zucchini oladya, hot pancakes with red caviar and pies from the oven and more. All dishes are cooked in accordance with old national recipes.

The founders of Sandunt Baths – Sila Sandunov and Elizabeth Uranova – were actors of the court theater of Empress Catherine II. The Empress presented a married couple diamonds, which Sandunov sold to buy the land near the Neglinnaya River in Moscow. By 1808 the construction of Bath Houses was completed.

Sanduny became the center of social life of the capital in XIX century and became the first bath with separate male and female departments (before that all washed in the same room). For nobles were created comfortable rooms with expensive furnishings and amenities of silver.

Elizabeth Uranova, the wife of Sila Sandunov, did not like the fact that the bath had the name of her husband. The marriage broke up. After the War of 1812, Sanduny became the property of Ms Uranova, although it retained its original name.

In 1896 the best Viennese architect of the time – Boris Freudenberg – was invited to Moscow for the restoration of Sanduny. Half of Moscow fathered to see a renovated Bath House. The eclectic three-story facades of the palace were made with elements of Baroque, Rococo, Renaissance, Gothic and Classical styles.

New Sanduny revolutionized the sauna industry in Moscow with engineering systems and all the technical innovations of the time.

Sanduny baths in Moscow

Kandarya department in Sanduny baths. Photo by sanduny.ru

Best bath experience in Moscow

Kamchatka department in Sanduny baths. Photo by sanduny.ru

Sauna in Moscow

Baikal department in Sanduny baths. Photo by sanduny.ru

Russian experience in Moscow

Lounge in Sanduny baths. Photo by sanduny.ru

Tea experience in Russia 

Russia has formed its original tea etiquette, which differs from the eastern and European tea ceremonies. Tea in Russia was first imported in the 17th century from Asia. It was then used as a medicine among the noble society.

The history of Russian tea ceremony

In the 18th century the main competitor of tea was sbiten, a popular drink in ancient Russia. Sbiten was a herbal drink prepared with honey.

At the end of the 18th century with the development of railways and seaways tea ceremony in Russia begins to attract admirers. Tea is becoming Russian national drink.

Distribution of Russian tea ceremony is accompanied by the invention of a samovar in 1778 by Lisitsyn brothers. They had invented a special heating system, which kept the water for tea always hot.

Previously tea was considered a luxury, and Russian tea ceremony was called “Merchant”.

Russian traditional tea ceremony in Moscow

Lucien restaurant in Moscow. Photo by Lucien

Set for the tea ceremony in Russia

Samovar with boiling water

Strong tea brewed in a teapot

Tea cups and saucers

Lump sugar

Buns (bread, bagels, buns, cheesecakes, pies)

Sweets (jam, jam, honey)

Lemon

Hot tea drinking in Russia can be fun when you pour a small amount of tea from the cup into the saucer to let it cool down faster. When you drink hot tea from the saucer you will make a distinctive sound – “Sёrbanye.” The louder your sёrbanye, the more fun it the ceremony is. There was even a phrase in Old Russia: “drink tea as the merchant’s wife!”, meaning drink it loud and show your joy.

According to Russian traditional tea ceremony, you don’t put sugar into a cup, but drink your drink unsweetened tea while holding bits of sugar in the mouth. It is believed that this tradition comes from Siberia.

It should be noted that varieties of tea culture in Russia differed depending on the social classes of the society.

For Example:

  • Nobles almost completely took over the western culture of drinking. They adhere to the canons of the English tea ceremony.
  • Commoners tried to combine “merchant” and “noble” elements of art of the tea ceremony. They were communicating in the style of exquisite European society salons, combining it with traditional samovar, bagels and cakes.
  • The merchant houses of the tea had a big scale: long hours merchants could sit at the tea table. Sometimes they drank twenty cups of tea at a time. After you put your empty cup aside after the tenth cup, it was not the end of tea yet. But when the cup was turned upside down and crowned with a lump of sugar that meant that the tea ceremony is over.
  • For poor people drinking tea was considered a pleasant treat. It was popular to call guests “for tea” and without any delicacies, but simply for enjoying the drink and talk.

There are several tea places in Moscow where you can experience the harmony of national drink, atmosphere and hospitality.

Russian traditions, Moscow tour in winter

Russian tea ceremony. Winter. Photo by tea-terra.ru

We chose 7 places with best tea ceremony in Moscow.

  • Russian Tea

Russian Tea cafe is located near the Garden pond in Ostankino Park, close to the estate of Count Sheremetev. The cozy atmosphere of this historical place, founded in the 18th century, is virtually unchanged. The same English oaks, the same pond and pleasure boats, the same path, which took the bohemians of the time.

You can indulge in panoramic views from windows of the cafe. Interior with two wood-burning fireplaces, original menu and tea from samovars create a homelike atmosphere.

Plunge into the unique atmosphere of eclecticism and Russian traditions!

There are two options for Russian Tea ceremony:

  • Tea in a samovar “Russian tradition”. Tea brew of your choice, bagels, honey and 2 kinds of jam – 1.5 liter, 450 rubles.
  • Tea in a samovar “Rich samovar”. Tea brew of your choice, bagels, 3 kinds of honey and jam and a pancake – 3 liters, 750 rubles.
  • Lucien

Russian restaurant Lucien invites you on an exciting culinary journey in Russian noble past. Lucien unites Russian, French and Jewish dishes according to the recipes of the XIX century, which makes it quite a unique place.

Traditional Russian cuisine is not complete without exceptional, traditional bakery and a samovar. If you’re looking for the first-rate Russian pre-revolutionary Moscow restaurant with memorable dining experience and a cozy, homely atmosphere then Lucien is what you need.

Again, two options for tea ceremony:

  • Samovar, served with 4 kinds of jam, condensed milk, honey, homemade firewood – 900 rubles.
  • Sweet samovar, lemon cake, honey cake, bird’s milk, chestnut roll, almond biscuits, poppy seed cake, fruit plate, condensed milk, 4 kinds of jam, honey, hvorost – 3900 rubles
Russian traditions

Tea ceremony in Lucien restaurant. Photo by moscowbars.ru

Russian tea

Lucien restaurant in Moscow. Photo by lucienrest.ru

  • Chainaya Vysota (Tea Height)

Tea height is one of the best tea places in Moscow. It is very cozy: white walls, wooden furniture and screens, dim lights, the interior is decorated with a lot of things handmade trinklets. The institution is divided into two parts: a bar (it is best suited for “fast” tea) and a tea room (with Chinese-style ceremonies). The collection of about 300 tea varieties: red, yellow, white and green teas, oolong and Puerh. Plus, seasonal ice-cream to make your tea-drinking more fun.

Average bill: 500 rubles, about $9.

Traditional tea experience in Russia

Chaynaya Vysota. Photo by yopolis.ru

  • Iron Phoenix Tea Culture Club

Iron Phoenix is one of the oldest tea shops in Moscow. The interior is made in oriental style with distinct Chinese national flavor: low tables, cushions on the floor, red lanterns, a lot of statues, vases, engravings and paintings, wood everywhere. The cafe does not serve food and does not allow smoking. The tea ceremony in Iron Phoenix is elevated to the rank of art. The club has a shop: you can buy porcelain and pottery for tea ceremonies, natural spices and souvenirs.  The collection includes 200 to 400 varieties of tea, depending on the season.

Average bill: 500 rubles, about $9.

  • Kolobok Tea Room (Gingerbread Man)

The place specializes in sampling and tasting tea. Their cozy sofa can accommodate only 5 people. “Gingerbread” operates behind closed doors. To get here, you can ask us and we will make a private appointment. All this is done to preserve the harmony of the tea space. The tea room offers different varieties of Chinese tea: tart and light, dark and light, and has a collection of tea-ware and porcelain handmade.

Average bill: from 1000 rubles, about $17.

Tea in Moscow

Kolobok Tea Room. Photo by Kolobok

  • Dushi Ne Chau Tea Club (Love to Bits)

The space of Dushi ne chayat is divided into two parts. It’s not only a tea club, but also a creative workshop. You can snuggle on a couch and relax over a cup of tea. Here you can sample excellent tea from China and listen to the legends about this ancient beverage. In addition to Chinese tea ceremonies, there are workshops on art of ceating chocolate.

Average bill: 500 rubles, about $9.

  • Le Voyage du The French Tea House

Here you can try the famous French brand tea Mariage Frères. The tea house is gorgeous: high ceilings, the walls painted in pink and white, and racks of tea are everywhere. Fresh pastries and about 300 varieties of tea make it a lovely place.

Average bill: 300 rubles, about $5.

Best French cafe in Moscow

Le Voyage du The. French Tea Room in Moscow

 

To see Moscow though the perspectives of locals, take a Moscow tour bus.

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