Kvas & Mors
You’ll find these soft drinks just about on every menu as a local alternative to carbonated soft drinks. In its authentic version, Kvas is a lightly fermented rye drink that will leave you with a foamy mustache and a soft buzz. The grocery store brands are a completely non-alcoholic, slightly sweet drink that you can count as your daily serving of carbs.
Mors is a sweet and tart fruit drink that comes in many flavors - think two tablespoons of jam mixed up with water. It’s often thicker than most juices. It’s a drink of choice at the local fast-food chains and is a popular alternative to juices.
If you like Italian gazpacho, you might enjoy okroshka and cold borscht. Okroshka is a summer soup where kvas or kefir is poured over diced vegetables, boiled eggs and sausage. It’s the kind of thing people would eat at the dacha, or after a hot day at the beach.
You’ve got to love beets (and wear something other than white) to enjoy cold borscht. This tangy soup somehow marries cucumbers, eggs, dill and buttermilk for a brightly colored concoction that is a go-to summer lunch option in a nation that loves soups.
Blended with a twist
If you think you’ve tried a fizz, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. This is my personal favorite this summer. A local take on a popular cocktail that’s usually based on sparkling water, a fizz is a mocktail with zero carbonation at all but instead rocking some unique flavor combinations. It’s topped with “homemade ice” - a frozen concoction that’s like smoothie popsicle. In a “Lavender Fizz” you’ll find this ingredient made with cucumber, mint, basil and banana. It’s good even without the drink.
My second new favorite? Strawberry frappuccino with oat milk and a shot of espresso. Served in a mason jar tied with butcher’s twine, this “liquid breakfast” is frothy and light - a perfect alternative to pelmeni.
And in case you’re wondering about a “gazed” beverage, it’s one menu’s interpretation of “gassed,” or rather “carbonated”. But don’t let that phase you. The actual drinks are perfectly enjoyable even on a not so hot summer day.