Barhopping in the USSR of 50's Barhopping in the USSR of 50's

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Barhopping in the USSR of 50’s

Barhopping in the USSR of 50’s. Moscow, 1958. As we know from the history, there surely were a lot of things to see and drinks to enjoy back then. What interests us most is mixed drinks, so we’re not going to be distracted by the amazing variety of Soviet cuisines, which were really popular at Moscow restaurants. Ararat, Baku, Ukraina, Aragvi – those names are familiar to everyone who used to watch Soviet movies or was curious enough to ask grandparents about fancy dining in Moscow of that time. Besides the traditional cuisines of the republics, Moscow citizens could also try Chinese food at Pekin and Czech at Praga restaurants. But let’s come from poetry to our bar hopping night out.

Barhopping in the USSR

Firstly, we’re going to pay a visit to the Moskwa Hotel, which was built according to the academician Schusev’s project in 1936-1938. Due to its proximity to the Red Square, the hotel was meant to be a particular showcase of Soviet life. That is why the restaurants there were fancy. The objects of our interest are the summer restaurant, the Ogni Moskwy café, and a bar hopping pearl – the cocktail hall.

At the summer restaurant with a wide terrace you could try a variety of cruchons, e.g. Fantasia (Fantasy), Lyubitelsky (Amateurish), Muskatny (Muscat) (very similar to sangria), as well as cognacs or raspberry and mint punches. There also were different serving options: in tall crystal wine glasses or jorums for big groups of people. And, of course, cocktails! Moskwa (Moscow), Okhotnichy (Hunter’s Drink), Aromat poley (Field aroma).

Бары в Советские времена, barhopping in ussr

However, you must admit that the best cocktails are only made in a cozy corner on the second floor of the hotel. Here, at the long bar counter, there is a great choice of cocktails: Druzhesky (Friendly), Stolichny (Metropolitan), Vostochny (Eastern), Morskoy (Nautic), V polet (To the Flight), Teatralny (Theatrical), Kurortny (At Vacation) and Proschalny (Farewell).

Бары в Советские времена, barhopping in ussr

I would recommend to beware of the last one. Anyway, those who are still willing to prepare the cocktails at home can find the exact recipes at the bottom of this article. So, scroll down if you are the impatient one, and we continue our trip at the Grand Hotel restaurant!

The Grand Hotel

The Grand Hotel building was constructed in 1878 upon the architect Vasiliev’s project and originally was meant to become the Bolshaya Moskowskaya Gostinitsa hotel.

Бары в Советские времена, barhopping in ussr

Thus, the Grand Hotel became its ideological successor. The ambience was notable for its pre-revolutionary luxury style: palm trees, lampshades, upholstery of chairs… The restaurant used to stick with Russian cuisine, so the menu contained numerous fish dishes, and was particularly famous for desserts and ice cream. Apples and pears in red wine with natural (!) extra rich ice-cream are especially intriguing for us.

To our great regret, they don’t serve cocktails here but you can find aged liqueurs, which would sound pretty familiar to modern bartenders: Curacao, Benedict, Blackcurrant (probably Creme de cassis?). But as for nastoikas (Russian for infused vodka drinks), they were original and homemade: rowanberry liqueur, starka, hunter bitters…

Enough space for maneuvers, isn’t it?  After lunch you are traditionally offered a cup of coffee with liqueur and some cake from the own patisserie. Unfortunately, the Grand Hotel building was demolished, and it’s already impossible to see the interiors.

Бары в Советские времена, barhopping in ussr

Бары в Советские времена, barhopping in ussr

There used to be a lot of wonderful places in Moscow parks and gardens where you could have a drink or two and chill out. In Neskuchny garden, right in front of the Green theatre, there was a moored barge called Dunai, on the deck of which various punches and some cocktails were served in summer season. The names are long gone but according to the historical sources the deck windows opened up a view to poetically flying seagulls.

Whatever your taste, you would fall in love with VDNH at first sight. Glavlikervodka pavilion offered a variety of wines, hard liqueurs, cocktails in excess. Sounds pretty impressive, does it? Glavlikervodka was founded in 1924 and created the first Soviet cocktail hall advertisement at Tverskaya Street, 6.

Бары в Советские времена, barhopping in ussr

(Don’t forget to visit cocktil hall)

What you could drink in the USSR?

Besides hard drinks made in the USSR, different kinds of fruit and wine liqueur, nastoika were exposed there for degustation. The popularity of various liqueurs was caused by the industrial scale of production, that’s why you could see the ad campaigns all around the city. With the help of commercial posters we can make a nice collection and study the scale and diversity of Soviet alcoholic drink market. Also, there are some curious details, such as renaming gin to bitters (or nastoika gorkaya).

Бары в Советские времена, barhopping in ussr

Though almost all drinks were exposed for degustation, anyway a cocktail hall was the key place there. There were two options of making an order available: by menu and by taste. In the menu you could find classic Soviet mixed drinks, for example Mayak, Druzhesky and Vystavochny, but guests could also choose the components by themselves and order an individually made drink based on exhibition samples. Yes, rum and wiskey as well!

Бары в Советские времена, barhopping in the ussr

Soviet cocktail culture was actually much more dynamic than we could imagine. Look, we’ve just hopped around the bars described in the tourist guide book only, but you can already indicate the dimension!

Recepies of true Soviet cocktails

Of course, here are the promised recipes. They are taken from the book The Collection of Food and Ready-to-Serve Food Recipes for Public Catering Enterprises published in 1964, which was provided courtesy of Vladimir Zhuravlev.

Mayak

Chartreuse        ……………………………… 20

Cognac ……………………………………….. 20

Egg yolk              …………………………….. 15

Total: 55

Druzhesky

Juniper bitters   ……………………..……….. 60

Blackcurrent liqueur                 ……………….40

Cornel        ………………………….. 15

Lemon juice        ……………………………..30

Sugar syrup          …………………………… 20

Canned fruits                         ………………. 15

Ice                  ……………………………….. 30

Total: 230

Okhotnichy  

Okhotnichiya bitters ……………………….. 20

  • Starka ………………………………. 20

Yellow liquor Yuzhny…..………………….. 15

Canned fruits..……………………………… 5

Ice  …………… ……………………………….15

Total: 75

Moskwa

Juniper bitters…………………….. ……….. 25

Yellow liquor Yuzhny ……………………..10

  • Cherry …… …………………………..10
  • Aromatic …………………………. 5

Lemon juice  ………………………………  5

Canned fruits……………. ……………….. 5

Ice ……….. ……………………………….. 15

Total: 75

Enjoy your cocktails, my friends!



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