Russian Drinks You Have To Try

Guide to the best Russian beverages you don't wanna miss during your stay here by Rostislav Miretskiy.

Russian Drinks You Have To Try

When we speak about Russia and drinks, most people will instantly think of only one clear liquor that has been associated with the country for decades. However, as a matter of fact Russia can offer a lot more in the department of beverages and we take you through our guide to the drinks you must try during your stay here. 


Kvass is one of the oldest Russian beverages that is still popular and beloved nowadays. The first mention of kvass was found in the historical documents of 10th century and today you can find it in almost every grocery store. It is a fermented drink made from black rye or rye bread. It contains up to 1,2% of alcohol though is not considered as alcoholic beverage. Sometimes this beverage is used in some cold soup recipes such as okroshka, an ancient Russian dish made with vegetables, potatoes eggs, cooked meat and kvass.


Mors is a genuine Russian non-carbonated fruit drink made from berries. Usually sour berries are used to make it – cranberries, gooseberries, currants, lingonberries, blackberries. Mors is a good method of preserving of berries, and that is why this drink became widespread in Russia since 10th or 11th century. It’s delicious and very healthy - many Russians nowadays when faced with common cold prefer hot mors to tea with honey.


Medovukha is the light alcoholic drink made from honey and resembles European mead. Honey drink can be of various shades depending on the color and type of honey, the method of preparation and additional ingredients. Medovukha is usually a clear transparent liquid with a slight golden yellow or amber tint. In fact, the classical honey drink is quite liquid and tastes more like wine. The level of sweetness differs from recipe to recipe: medovukha can remind of a dry, semi-sweet or sweet wine. Recently, medovukha has regained popularity, and some cities have become centres of mead-making, including Suzdal, Veliky Novgorod and Kolomna.


Kissel is also one of the oldest Russian drinks with a centuries-old history. It’s a sweet jelly-like dessert made of fruit, berries, juices, syrups, jam or milk and thickened with the potato starch or cornstarch. Kissel is referenced in couple of popular Russian idioms. The phrase «the seventh water after kissel» is used to describe someone who’s a distant relative. Russians also refer to heaven or paradise as a place having «milk rivers and kissel banks» .


A legend says that the Baikal beverage was created as a counterpart to the ‘capitalist Cola’ in the Soviet Union. While the color does remind of the famous "Coke", its taste and the composition are still unique. Named after the famous Russian lake, Baikal is a carbonated soft drink of a dark brown colour that is flavoured with St. John’s wort, cardamom, licorice, eucalyptus and laurel. Basically, the soda tastes like Russian forest in a bottle. 


Tarhun is another fine example of herb-based carbonated beverage on the Russian store shelves. The radiant green soda of Georgian origin is made with tarragon and tastes of licorice.   

Russian Tea

Russians seriously love tea. I would go as far as to say that actually our favourite national drink is tea, not vodka. In the 19th century, tea was enthusiastically adopted by one and all throughout Russia and the people developed their own tea-drinking customs, which came to be known far beyond their borders as samovar is probably one of the most famous Russian words on par with sputnik and perestroika. Russian tea combines zavarka, concentrated black tea, with kipyatok, hot water served from the samovar. Russians prefer strong black tea from China with a heady aroma.

Birch juice

For Russians, the birch tree is not just a national symbol, but the source of a tasty drink. Birch juice became popular back in the Soviet Union in the post-WWII years, when nutritious foods were in short supply. The juice was cheap and easy to produce, and of course plentiful. It is a water-like sweet liquid which taste is really hard to describe, you have to try it for yourself to understand what it’s about.


Sajany is a non-alcoholic lemonade, the recipe of which was invented by Soviet scientists in the late 50’s. This soda contains pure artesian water, lemon juice and leuzea extract, which give it an original taste and tonic effect.


Today, kefir is the most popular fermented milk in Russia that has a distinct sour and slightly bitter taste. In the Soviet era, kefir was used as a medicine to cure a large variety of illnesses and it is still used in hospitals of modern Russia as an element of a healthy diet. A kefir-like drink is sold in many countries, but it differs from Russian kefir by the quantity of bacteria and by the tendency to pasteurize it. True kefir should not be pasteurized, and should be stored no longer than 14 days.


Text by
Rostislav Miretskiy