Did The Soviets Invent Signature Cocktails?


Do you have a signature cocktail? Neither do I but apparently we should. According to the NYT’s ‘Alcohol And Life‘ section (now there’s a section header), what we choose to drink can reveal more about us than, say, our astrological sign or whether we prefer Elvis or the Beatles.

Google notes that the signature cocktail trend has spawned many consultancies, offering highly trained mixologists to synthesize your trademark swallow.

It might be news to some but Venedikt Yerofeyev – author of Moskva – Petushki – was inventing signature cocktails back in the 1960s. These comprised mainly of beer, shampoo, insecticide and brake fluid. Although the cocktails in the book were largely a hallucination, Russian soldiers were indeed known to syphon brake fluid from vehicles for a shot. Which gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘don’t drink and drive’.

So what’s a Russian mixer today? Well, my landlady in Novgorod, who’d never heard the term signature cocktail, used to make one from Martini, coffee and 100% pure alcohol, otherwise known as surgical spirit. It is widely believed that Russian women don’t drink, but they are just a bit more discreet about it and tend to not sleep in doorways afterwards.


Real men don’t drink cocktails, but the huge success of Damskaja shows that women will pay some 300 roubles a bottle for a hit. Made in St Petersburg, it’s basically a vodka cocktail which comes in flavours like lime, vanilla and almond. It’s positioned as an accompaniment to salads or as a pick-me-up after aerobics, though the health pitch hasn’t fooled Russian doctors. Sales escalating over 2 million bottles sounds like a lot of liver damage to them.

Trendy Damskaja is the nearest Russian drink I can find to a signature cocktail. Maybe someone will write in and tell me if there’s an equivalent phrase in Russian.


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