From Russia With Vodka: Local experts make Sochi-inspired cocktails

Abernathy Miller, Columbus Alive

Much like Russia's troubled past, vodka has gotten a bad rap.

What eastern Europeans once used to defend against cold and boredom, has devolved into the go-to spirit of underage college girls, due to the recent onslaught of outlandish flavors and gimmicks.

But vodka purists, fear not. We tasked a dream team of Columbus mixologists and distillers to create an Olympics-themed cocktail that would renew our faith in vodka. After judging the results myself, Team Columbus is taking home the gold.

M at Miranova's Russian Toddy

"Russians don't drink flavored vodka like we do here," M at Miranova's mixologist Andrea Hoover said. "Their vodka is less distilled and more full-bodied, like white whiskey."

With that in mind, Hoover decided to make a classic cocktail, with some creative twists.

"The Olympic rings represent the five continents, so we decided to use an ingredient from each one in honor of the games," she said. "The D'anjou pears represent Asia, Pimm's represents Europe, lemons are in-season year-round in Australia, The Fee Brothers bitters represents the Americas, and of course we wanted to include Earl Grey Tea from the United Kingdom. We put a lot of thought into it."

The warm drink basically tastes like Christmas. The pear infusion gave a light hint of fruit-forward sweetness, that was countered by the Earl Grey. The cinnamon scent was heightened by the heat of the drink, which warmed up my entire body even though it was -6 degrees that day.

Pro-tip: I am fairly certain this could double as cough suppressant, because the violent hacking I'd been suffering from all day vanished afterwards. I'm not saying it was the cocktail, but I'm not saying it wasn't the cocktail.


  • 2 oz. D'anjou pear infused Russian Standard vodka
  • 1/2 oz. Pimm liqueur
  • 1/4 oz. Fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. Cinnamon/clove/vanilla infused brown sugar simple syrup
  • 2 drops Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters
  • 2 oz. Earl Grey tea
  • Garnish- lemon twist studded with five cloves


  1. Combine ingredients in a shaker.
  2. Pour into a stem glass.
  3. Add Earl Grey tea.
  4. Garnish with cloves and a lemon twist.

Matt the Miller's Blood Countess

"The best part about Bloody Marys is building them," Matt the Miller's mixologist Erin Brigati said as she took a quick inventory of the accoutrements she was about to adding to the libation. She could have just as easily planned a summer barbeque with the array of ingredients Matt the Miller's offers at their famous (infamous?) Sunday brunch Bloody Mary bar.

A1 steak sauce, pickles, pepper, celery and spices all made their way into the glass. The result was a thick, smoky elixir with the sudden kick of pepper at the end. Seriously, it was so delicious and filling, it gave a whole new meaning to the phrase "liquid diet."

Brigati was just as creative with the name as she was the recipe.

"I am really into serial killers, and I was obsessed with Elizabeth Bathory," Brigati said. "She was Hungarian and would bathe in the blood of virgins to stay young. I thought, a blood countess is way more fun than whoever Bloody Mary is."

Pro-tip: Make it a summer games drink by adding a red, white and blue sweatband and watch tennis like Richie Tenenbaum.


  • 2 ounces Tito's Handmade Vodka
  • 1 ounce pickle juice
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish
  • 1/2 oz. of A1 steak sauce
  • Dash Sriracha
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp Lawry's seasoning salt


  1. Combine vodka, pickle juice, horseradish and A1 in a tall pint glass.
  2. Add ice and Bloody Mary mix (Matt the Miller's uses Hoosier Mama which is vegan and gluten-free).
  3. Shake with ice.
  4. With a fresh glass, add the salt/pepper rim (celery salt, garlic salt, and pepper).
  5. Add a drop of Sriracha.
  6. Squeeze lemon wedge and drop it into glass.
  7. Garnish as desired.

Middle West Spirits' Red Vixen

"We wanted to use beets because the Russian diet is very heavy in root vegetables," Middle West Spirits co-owner Brady Konya.

Honestly, I was hesitant when I saw the beet puree. My hesitation was short lived, as I actually bought beets when I left so I could make this cocktail at home. It was so surprisingly sweet and refreshing; at a tackier place it would have donned an umbrella garnish, which plays well with Sochi's resort atmosphere. If you aren't into bold vodka flavors, skip this one. OYO isn't over-distilled, so the flavor profile is definitive. In other words, it's not your typical flavorless mixer. The name is anything but typical as well.

"The British were selling weapons to the locals who were opposing the Russian rule of the area," Konya said. "The incident was called the 'mission of the Vixen' (the name of the ship). I thought that was perfect for the cocktail."

Pro-tip: Add pepper for an interesting twist.


  • 1 1/2 oz. OYO Vodka
  • 1/2 oz. Domain de Canton (ginger liqueur infused with Cognac)
  • 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz honey water (2 parts Honey to 1 part hot water)
  • 1/2 oz unsweetened beet juice
  • Dash Fee Brothers Lemon Bitters
  • Dash black pepper


  1. Puree beets and set aside
  2. Mix honey with warm water
  3. Mix contents in a shaker and pour over ice.
  4. Add a pinch of black pepper.

Olde Towne Tavern's Tonya Harding:

"She's sweet at first, but she'll sneak up on you," Tavern mixologist Patrick Koch joked as I downed the last bit of the "Tonya".

The sweet part he is referring to is the San Pellegrino Blood Orange soda, which he cuts with the vermouth and a Fernet Branca float. Sneak up on you, she does, as halfway through the cocktail you'll start to feel that warm and cuddly vodka buzz.

Pro-tip: Don't let the Fernet Branca scare you if you aren't into Absynthe or Jager flavor, it mixes nicely with the San Pellegrino.


  • 1/2 oz of Stolichnaya vodka
  • 1/2 oz of sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz of dry vermouth


  1. Shake over ice and pour into a rocks glass.
  2. Add San Pellegrino Blood Orange soda.
  3. Add a float of Fernet Branca.

Sidebar 122's Once Sbiten Twice Shy

"Sbiten is a honey based drink that pre-dates coffee or tea in Russian culture. It was the hot drink everybody drank," Sidebar 122 bartender Mike Goff said. "I thought it'd be fun to make a cocktail based on Sbiten, but that can also be served chilled since Sochi is a resort town."

Drinking the libation warm brings out the cinnamon flavor, while the chilled version has a more understated. Both variations evoke a completely different feeling, despite being made from the same ingredients.

Pro-tip: Make the hot version in a Crock Pot for a party.


  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • 1/4 oz honey
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/4 whole cinnamon stick cracked in several pieces
  • 2 thin slices of fresh peeled ginger
  • 2 oz. Watershed Vodka
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg plus a pinch for garnish

Instructions for warm:

  1. Muddle 3-4 blackberries in a glass.
  2. Briefly crush together spices and ginger, combine in tea-ball.
  3. Steep for 5 minutes with the honey.
  4. Remove and add vodka.
  5. Garnish with blackberry and mint leaf.

Instructions for cold:

  1. Muddle blackberries in a shaker.
  2. Pour hot mixture into cold shaker, add ice, vodka, and mint leaf.
  3. Shake to chill, then strain into chilled cup.
  4. Garnish with blackberry and mint leaf.