Vodka is the national spirituous beverage of Russia. It was formerly made from rye, but the staple raw materials now used are potatoes and maize, and green rye malt instead of barley malt is used to effect saccharification. It is highly alcoholic.
Good vodka is almost tasteless. It is drunk in very small glasses and should never be sipped, but drunk down in one gulp. The Russians drink it while eating their zakouski or hors-d’œuvre, and in pre-war days it was considered a feat to drink numberless glasses of vodka, just as at one time we had our “3 or 4-bottle men” in this country who would sit over their port till they slid under the table. In Russia, there was a custom of forming letters with rows of these small glasses, writing the name of a man’s lady-love on the table. Each little glass was filled with vodka and if he loved her truly he was supposed to finish all the glasses which formed the letters of her name—often with dire results.