Spirited Traveller: Moscow's vodka 0
City Space Bar, on the top floor of the Swissôtel Krasnye Holmy, is shown in this undated publicity photo. (Handout/REUTERS)
The iconic tipple in Moscow is of course vodka. It is Russia's national drink. There's even a Vodka Museum in Moscow dedicated to exploring the history of the clear spirit.
And according to trendy young Muscovites, that's precisely where vodka belongs: A museum.
"Among the older generation," says Bek Narzi, chief bartender of Moscow's City Space Bar, Russian-made vodka is what's in the glass, "generally consumed chilled and neat, chased with food."
"However, the younger generation is pretty much influenced by the West, and prefers whiskey, rum and tequila."
In Moscow's clubs and bars, those spirits are mixed with juice, most often apple, cranberry or cherry. And yet… vodka retains a place at every Moscow bar. Clearly, a thirst for vodka still exists.
At the City Space Bar, on the top floor of the Swissôtel Krasnye Holmy, vodka-based cocktails account for two of the bar's top three best-selling drinks (edged out by the perennially popular Mojito, made with white rum).
Bartender Narzi has made a name for himself with molecular mixology creations such as the "Nano Mary", a Bloody Mary riff made with vodka and a spiced tomato blend, topped with a radish and honey foam.
Narzi's other recommendations for travellers seeking great cocktails include Strelka Bar, a favourite with expats.
Located in the former Krasny Oktyabr confectionery factory, Strelka is part of the Institute of Media, Architecture and Design. Part of the attraction is the rooftop terrace that overlooks the Moscow River, but it's also noted for its small but well-curated cocktail menu. Bar manager Sergei Chesnokov has also found a way to interest tipplers in vodka, with the Isaev Cockail (vodka, birch sap and lemon).
Delicatessen also makes the shortlist, managed by renowned Western-schooled Moscow bartender-turned-restaurateur Vyacheslav Lankin. Decor includes a fireplace, piano and a fully functional lithographic press. Renowned as a "bar for bartenders", there is no cocktail menu here - after a chat with the barman, drinks are made to order.
Punters are advised to first have that chat before making up their mind about vodka's future in Moscow.
RECIPE: MOSCOW SPRING PUNCH
Courtesy of Bek Narzi, City Space Bar
This vodka-based libation is popular in bars throughout Moscow and St. Petersburg, says Narzi. It's also the third most popular drink at City Space Bar, behind the rum-based Mojito and the vodka-based White Russky (similar to the White Russian).
50 ml Vodka
15 ml Fresh Ginger Juice
15 ml Fresh Lime juice
25 ml Raspberry puree
20 ml Honey syrup Topped with Ginger Ale
In a highball glass, combine all ingredients with crushed ice and stir. Garnish with a lime wheel, whole raspberry and mint sprig.
Kara Newman is the author of "The Secret Financial Life of Food", Columbia University Press; publication date autumn 2012. Any opinions expressed are her own.