Memories of Vodka, A Moscow Mule & The Re-Establishment of a Vodka Empire

Vodka has a special place in my affections, so strongly does it feature in my memories of two rather splendid holidays during my youth.

the only picture of me I have to hand from 1989 (and I was all dressed up and hadn’t hit the voddie yet)

In 1989 I was one of a coach load of teens (under the supervision of just 3 brave teacher-drivers) on an adventurous road trip across Europe. To Ukraine and back again, we went. I can’t even begin to describe to you how amazing these 5 glorious weeks were to us, how many unexpected, incredible experiences we shared, how widely opened were our young eyes. Even now, 21 years later, I could write pages and pages… but let me focus on the vodka:

It was the summer of vodka. In some places, the facilities in the camp sites we inhabited were so primitive that we brushed our teeth with vodka (and toothpaste) rather than risk the local tap water. We drank vodka morning, noon and night.

One evening, installed in a rather comfortable hotel for a change, I went to the bar to order 13 shots for my 12 friends and I. As the bartender argued vociferously against my order, I wondered if he was berating us for being too young or suggesting that vodka wasn’t a suitable choice for us – in truth I had no idea. Speaking next to no Russian, I pointed repeatedly at the vodka listing in the menu, “puzhalsta, puzhalsta” and finally he conceded. I handed over a ridiculously paltry sum to cover the bill and a decent tip and went to sit down. Shortly afterwards, 13 large bottles of vodka arrived! A bottle each but don’t worry, they didn’t go to waste!

A couple of years later, I went to Moscow and St Petersburg in the company of fellow history undergraduates, from Warwick University. This trip too included many vodka moments.

The ones I cherish most fondly are from the long train journey between the two cities. We were kept boisterous company by other passengers, mostly Russian, with whom we found vodka and song to be a far more universal language for communication than English could ever be! I seem to recall that we supplied most of the singing and our Russian friends supplied most of the vodka. We had the most marvellous time together, though I recall needing some assistance walking by the time we detrained!

But since these long-ago days, I’ve drunk surprisingly little… In fact, my alcoholic tendencies have withered so dramatically that my current annual ingestion is less than what I could once consume in a single night of partying!

Until this year.

So early in the year did my rediscovery of vodka begin that one could almost consider it a new year’s resolution. “I resolve to drink more vodka”. Now that’s the kind of resolution I could get behind!

Of course, Leonid didn’t hook me back on any old voddie, oh no! I’ve now developed a taste for the expensive vintage Russian stuff – I even bought a bottle of Kauffman Special Vintage 2006 for Pete’s birthday.

*cough* OK, I’m fully expecting to assist him with it!

The stoli that kept me warm during those long-ago drink-fuelled days tastes like lighter fuel in comparison.

Heck even the triple filtered stuff is as rough as a Russian’s five o’clock shadow.

So, back to the present day.

I was approached by Babelgum, a new online mobile video channel thingy, with information about a 24-part documentary they are hosting called How to Re-Establish a Vodka Empire.

It’s a story about filmmaker, Dan Edelstyn, who travels to Ukraine to explore his ancestry only to discover that his great-grandfather once owned the town’s now nearly bankrupt vodka distillery. He decides to revive the business by launching a new vodka brand named after his ancestors.

Edelstyn has an odd style. I don’t care for the arty reconstruction sequences in which his wife plays the part of his granny. But I did quite enjoy his exploration of family history and the former vodka empire. I haven’t watched the whole series yet, though.

Well OK then. But what about the vodka?

You’ll be pleased to know (though not as pleased as I was) that the PR approach about this unusual story came with the offer to send me a sample of the vodka in question. I quickly agreed.


I’m a sucker for rustic labelling!


Now… what to do with it?

Well… I discovered vodka mules for the first time only a few months ago and have been meaning to make my own ever since.

Kavey’s Belvoir Moscow Mule

Some vodka
Some Belvoir Ginger Cordial
Some lemonade
Some lime juice

The standard moscow mule recipe calls for vodka, ginger beer and lime juice but I decided to use some lovely Belvoir cordial I picked up recently and mix with lemonade.


I was a little heavy-handed with the cordial but it worked for me!




Happy drinking!

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13 Comments to "Memories of Vodka, A Moscow Mule & The Re-Establishment of a Vodka Empire"

  1. Debs @ DKC

    What a fabulous story & you look amazing in that photo too.

    I've been a vodka lover for years. My father went on a business trip to Russia when I was about 16 & bought back a few good bottles for a special occasion. One night he'd upset my mum before he went out & she thought it would be nice for the two of us to have a few drinks.

    When he got home we'd polished off one whole bottle! I don't think we were ever forgiven for that LOL.

  2. Choclette

    What a fun post. That's rather a gorgious looking photo of yourself. Funnily enough on my one and only trip to Russia, which was a school trip too, I didn't get to have a single sniff of vodka – something to do with only being 14 at the time maybe! Now of course I am an avid user of vodka as we make our own herbal tinctures and lots of fruit drinks – blackcurrant in vodka is my favourite, who needs cassis.

  3. Rachel Lucie Johns

    that picture is the Kavey I remember!!

    and I do remember some of the things you told me you got up to on that first trip, oh yes…..

    but candor requests I keep that to myself.

    I myself have not touched vodka for years, not since a famous event about 8 years ago involving an all night rave in Wales where I drank more than is a good idea, and passed out in the middle of the garden for several hours….could happen to anyone….

  4. Lost in the Larder

    I've never been to Russia but would love to go. I have been a bit pedestrian with vodka. Eristoff, Smirnoff, Stoli, etc. I feel I need to make more of a vodka effort.

    I too am a sucker for rustic labeling.

  5. Kavey

    @Debs – thank you! I wa all dressed up that night! Ha haaa, so was your dad upset about missing out on that bottle of special voddie or that you and your mum had got pissed off and pissed up?

    @Choclette – thank you also! Aaah, yes 14 probably a little harder to get away with it! We had a fabulous time indeed. It wasn't all drinking though, we visited amazing places, learned a lot too, it was a truly special trip. I've started some strawberry vodka off recently, hope it works!

    @Rachel – ha haaa, I was very well behaved, sort of! God, you probably remember stories I've long since forgotten!!! Passed out for several HOURS? Oh my, that's hardcore!

    @Lost in the larder – I would suggest we meet up at BobBobRicard's where I can introduce you to some of the proper stuff?

  6. foxie

    Ah drinking vodka in Russia =) The best part is when they throw away the lid.

    How did you like the vodka they sent? Did you taste any of it neat before mixing?

  7. Kavey

    @Foxc – it was rough! I suspect it's a marketing thing for the documentary rather than a genuine attempt at making decent vodka. Certainly it's still not available for sale anywhere, and the labelling on the samples was home-made and didn't list all the info you'd need to list to sell it… but it was fun!

  8. Wild Boar

    lol @ your story in the Russian bar. Funny how we're quite different then since I routinely swear to myself to never drink vodka again after a heavy night out, only to break that rule a couple weeks later.

  9. Bradley

    I went to Moscow last Easter. The vodka is cheaper than a large chocolate bar. About £3. So we got loads. And it doesn't taste bad at all.

  10. Bob Bob

    Hmmm. I am never the one to condone using vodka to make a cocktail. However in this particular instance that may be the best use for it. At the same time, where you to find yourself on an exceptionally frosty but bright winter's day in the middle of a Siberian forest needing a little 'pick me up', this rough and simple vodka would taste like elixir of life itself. There's one for you to try, Kavey!

  11. Kavey

    @Bradley – how much is left?!

    @BobBob – Hey, I did warn you! But the rustic packaging/ marketing story was cute, eh? I'm not sure how likely it is that I shall ever be looking for warmth on a frosty but bright day in a Siberian forest but should it occur, I shall still hope for the proper stuff you have now hooked me on! 😉

    @Azelia – thanks darling, so chuffed!


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