Episode 8: Drinking Saint Petersburg
You're not supposed to be drinking today. This was one of my few sober days, but something went wrong, you're I'm drinking why spirit in this trench strange setting, the trip has come to be sought. The Russians. So that's as Jacob. Why does she have a sober day? Because she owns a bar and boundaries or sometimes it good thing. Her bar is not just any bar. It's a phenomenal bar in a phenomenal drinking city in a phenomenally drunk country that I happen to love dearly under. Is you steady poor bar chronic. He has become a better representation of its city and it's time through booze than any bar I've seen in a long time. We talked in a room at the Leningrad documentary film studios in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and we drank. This is naked Thornburgh and you're listening to the trip from roads and kingdoms. A podcast where I drink with exceptional people around the world. We should describe where we are. We're in Lynn doc, which is short for leaking. To the funeral. So the Leningrad documentary film studio, which is like the day four or bubbles bear gov Leningrad. I guess it's a pretty bitch and building. They've got this lobby that looks like very Humphrey Bogart. You know, it's got some clear lights lighting up, very stylish cozy chairs, and then upstairs, they have some sound studios who've been kind enough to have the trip in for some talking and drinking. So I I, I'm met you at a bar last night. The bar is your bar. Yes. And it's a very, I think, an unusual place. So let's start right there with the bar chronically. What is it and why? Well, it's a bar located in the central district of Saint Petersburg and one. I'm one of the three owners. There are three of us me and my partners, glib and pizza. We founded the bar in two thousand thirteen. So this autumn hopefully will be celebrating five years. It's good fairway that's like in bar years. That's like at least thirty five years old. Well, it's quite a lot for Saint Petersburg because the industry here is young and not. Every place which opens survives for five years. So we're really glad about it. We try to combine the vibe of a local bar in the central street of city with the like heritage and the cultural heritage. We could. We treasure about Saint Petersburg, so yeah, which is, which is what? Well, it's the drinking tradition. It's the left to the city. It's the. The culture of the city, which we tried to. No, and share with our friends or regulars that people who visit and so on. So we, it's a very important part of our identity that we are a Saint Petersburg bar. I would say that this is a crucial thing about us. The spark not happen in any other city. I don't think so. So some of that heritage that I thought was super interesting just walking into the bar was that you see immediately the stand up round table like that who much table. Tell me about what that legacy is, which is kind of a Soviet legacy, not a Petersburg one, but what does that stand up table about? Well. In general, when we were talking about opening a bar and trying to figure out how should it look like and what should it show an offer people. We thought that in Russia due to our very difficult twentieth century understatement. Yes, we don't have like a smooth tradition of bars because the religion happened and what's their stuff happened? And we tried to imagine how Bart look like if there was a smooth transition from the ninety s to the twenty first century. And if this cultural culture has existed for the whole time, what would Saint Petersburg bar would look like? This is a bar where the twentieth century never happened. Thank God moving on. Well, hopefully this is something we try to organize and. Of course, we use the best practices of the Soviet time as well, because drinking culture in the Soviet Union was quite strong. It's one of his strongest in the world and in Seoul in during the Soviet time, there were no bars, but there were you muchness it's like shot shots like a shot bar, shod bars. Is that thing right? Usually quite small places where. Vodka was served by the glass and it wasn't a place where you were supposed to spend a lot of time. So that point was that you could go there have a quick shot and then go on with your journey, whatever it was very popular both for the working class, the. Versity lecturers anyone to visit such places. And one of the central characteristics of this place was this standing table which is called stage start. It's standard. Yeah, something probably, yeah. So when we were opening the bar, we decided that certainly we should have at least one standard standing table because they bar counter is not always enough for everyone. And in general people in Saint Petersburg loved to drink while standing, it's like the huge difference between Saint Petersburg and Moscow people in Moscow usually prefer to sit down and eat while drinking and people in Saint Petersburg stand and. They don't drink, don't eat that much. These are serious drinkers. Professional drinkers. True. Impressive northern drinkers. Yeah. So the standing table is a very important part of our barn. We couldn't squeeze in more. Let's we have one and it's one of the favourite features for place to be. I mean, I imagine as stage guy was not old enough to indulge in that when I visited the Soviet Union in like nineteen ninety. But I imagine that it's a place with some pretty rough alcohol, like not very thoughtful alcohol. If you could put it like that, we'll talk about the things that you serve in source at the bar, but like it is it different now that somebody's paying a little bit more and having actually a pretty exquisite drink rather than just like some grain alcohol to, you know, put their worries out of their misery for a little bit. Well, we tried to cater to all interests so we have alcohol in all the price ranges. Of course, we do look. The quantity. How did you get into chronic like how did you become a bar owner? It's a funny story. I used to work in an NGO and I worked in child protection for six or seven years here in Petersburg. Yeah, here in Petersburg and traveled a lot. And then I. I think I got burned out and I wanted to change something and friend of mine, like one of my current partners. He was working as a journalist and then started working at a bar in the evenings. And we were talking about changing our lives because he was also board with his press work, and I couldn't find anything instead of my NGO work, which would inspire me. So we started joking about opening a bar because we did spend some time in bars. And we started discussing how fun it could be, and. How would we do it and what would we involve and how could it look like? And we kept returning to that subject many, many times. And suddenly like in several months, we both realized that. It already stopped being a joke, like. It's time to start a business with suddenly realized that we're pretty serious about the whole thing. Yeah. And then we decided that we needed furred person to to balance this out and also for the money because we counted our own resources and realize that we need more. And we invited our friend Peter could join us happily. And who's also journalist, yes, he's also a journalist and among us, he's the only one who continues to work as a journalist fulltime. Well, I mean, I know that we have a lot of journalists that listen to this podcast in follow Aren k. more generally, I think it's great career advice if journalism is like a drag which had it really can be sometimes and you find yourself in bars a lot. Maybe, you know, think about doing that. Because it could work the the style of the bar, the kind of liquors that you serve on on on the edges of the menu. At least there's a lot of Baltic and northern like Nordic influence, I think, right. I mean, that's their, it feels like it feels like that's a conscious statement about the culture of Petersburg on some level that this is not Moscow for a lot of reasons. But one of them is there's a larger kind of there's a larger region that Petersburg is a part of true like we are located in the northwest and Saint Petersburg was built like the window to Europe and Saint Petersburg always. Used to and still does look more to Europe than to the Moscow direction? Yeah. So think burgers consider many of us consider them themselves more like more Europeans than the rest of Russia. I think it's fair to say that even the architecture of the city is much more European than in any other city of Russia. And the culture itself is tends to be more on the European side. I mean, it's it's, it's classical European, but also with that lake touch of Russian bombast. I mean, we were in the car coming over here, and I was just saying that like it's like every square here has a palace that you know of which there'd be one or two and like some other European city. But no, that wasn't good enough. Saint Petersburg somehow there needs to be a palace like every five. Eight hundred yards. And you know a giant Shaw say and a a park to the heroes, and it's like, it's, it's, it's impressive. It's it's a little oppressive. Like it's a little intimidating. The city is, oh, it was built like a capital of an empire. So, yeah. No wonder it's looks quite impressive. Nothing for the empire. But so we are located in the northwest and like. With our regionalism and our local patriotism, we tried to express it also in this sort of drinks we offer. So we tried to search out local stuff in the first place for that local patriotism and tell me about you have one Haas house cocktail gala have one house cocktail. It's called the free Ingraham Ingraham actually is the name or part of Russia was called before the before sinking Petersburg even was built. This was the old name of this in Gettleman Lenzi of this land and its consists of the best of our region vodka cranberry and cloud berry. So we tried to combine all the local stuff we could imagine. Right. And also there are some other. Other secret ingredients. This is a small podcast. You can tell me it's a hell I won't ever. You're going to have to try to sit home, come just scour the Nordic forests and try to come back with some secret ingredient that you can put into your free angry, but it turned out pretty well. People do like it and drink it a lot zone. It's our signature only signature cocktail have. So what does it mean to free Ingrid as a society, a call, the arms, a a, don't tread on me like, what's what's the statement or suggesting we live free up here. This date -ment is like the independence from Moscow. Maybe the independence from the rest of Russian. Like we here in the north are we have our own. Mind, we are a little bit on their own compared to the rest of Russia. So many people joke that Helsinki is much closer to Saint Petersburg than Moscow. Right? We, which is actually not to joke, right? That's an actual fact, correct. So we tend. Sometimes to feel more in common with our northern neighbours than with our southern or western neighbors. By the way, I've never seen this. I, I keep a bottle of black Balsams in my cabinet at home that I got from friends got used to live in Latvia at. I feed it to people who visit me and they spit it out immediately. It's a, it's a very intense flavor for a delicate Americans trying to t with t. Okay. It goes very well with black tea. There you go. It's for for the uninitiated, it's a little bit of an herbal liqueur slate lake, you know, cousin style relationship to Yeager Meister or something, although it's far better as far as I'm concerned, but you have like you don't just have a Balsams like you have like a lot of different kinds of like Baltic Balsam the cores? Yeah, we try to off. For like really an everything we could find from neighboring countries like these Tony and violent Talon and the the Bosnians and lots of finish stuff because we have quite a huge assortment of finished drinks, including like. From the roots like little upon liquors, berry Lakers to the newest things like the Nordic Jen was produced like several months ago, but didn't defends like want Hitler too. Destroy the city's so they could take everything north of than the other. Like I mean, g I, it's a long time ago, I guess. But I still think about that somehow. Well, I wouldn't go deeply into that, but actually. Large part of the Leningrad region was there's like not a long time ago, so so they were residents of Ingraham themselves and they were residents of Kamado themselves like fifty years ago. So well notes, fifty seventy so God. So they had their duchess expert created chose over the Dutch a neighborhood. It's all very close here. History of the twentieth centuries. So intense that no wonder they were and still are questions to each other. But. We try to be part of the northern communities. Sedona we start any shit you guys are going to get along. Well, and besides, as you said, at the very beginning, yours is a bar where the twentieth century didn't happen. So hype it that only the this tender part. That's right. Only the stay standing table. I think to be fair to ourselves into our listeners. I think right now we should pause this and go get some of that alcohol, and we'll just have a little tasting. Okay. Let's do that. I made as you bring shot glasses from her bar along with the hall, and I felt like your barman was was not happy. I felt like it was like, what? No, you can't take these glasses from the bar. It was okay. He was all right. We'll tell him give him my apologies. We could have just used the coffee mugs here and they also have glasses and shot glasses. Well, just didn't notice. I told you Russians are heavy drinkers. We're prepared. Yes. What? What would it sound Studio B in Leningrad Leningrad documentary, film studio without having shock glasses indeed. So here we are, you brought three things for us to taste, and we're just gonna like sip them and make lick lip smacking noises and and talk about what we're tasting to see if we can arouse some sort of foam, oh, in the people listening out there. So the first thing I wanted to today's is an apple cider made here in Saint Petersburg. These the three guys know another three. Bigger team like that. I think there are five or six of them at the moment. They started making site or at their own that show. And now they become quite successful cider makers for the north west and maybe the rest of Russia. I didn't know about the rest, but I won't be surprised so so dodgers by the way, 'cause realize is probably not a known quantity to let people they are the Russian summer houses where everybody goes, and you know, kids spend the whole summer there and everybody has their gardens, and they go to essentially get the city out of their blood little bit. Is that about about right. Yeah. And they started first with the apples from their own duchess. Then the started collecting apples from friends, then from friends of friends, and now every autumn, they have a huge apple searching projects awhile online. Really, they offer to come and collect all the apples, and then they pay the people who share the apples with them with cider. Okay. I, if I had a lot of apples that's deal that I would make because many people do have Dayah's and they have apple trees have absolutely no time or interests or. Wish to collect them themselves and they don't need that many anyway. How many apples you probably can eat or baked in pies. Well, that's true. So those guys collect them and it's absolutely local product, and they make cider in different variations of cider from them. They're, they're called on the bones on the bones. And this one in particular is very interesting. It's called Burnett down eve. Very aggressive title. I don't know what you did to deserve this, but well, it rush. It's also it sounds quite punky. It's a smoked cider, so they smoked the apples. Well, on real wooden Kohl's. Okay. And afterwards, they use the smoked apples to make cider. So it's really PT. It's unlike any other side are I personally have tried before? Well, PD cider. Okay. Yeah. If you were the person into single malt scotch and especially Isla. You will like the stuff. Let's do it. I mean, obviously most Russians aren't drinking podcast studio, so I don't ever done this before. I don't want to translate. But do you like clink glasses? Do you say something? What's the what's? What's the proper thing to do before we actually start drinking clink glasses or it, let's do it. And we never ever say that will be as does not exist. It doesn't exist except in movies when American actors say nuts that have no idea where it came from. But I know Russian ever says this unless he's paid to by Hollywood, you can toast. You can say to whatever good words you have in mind to whatever wishes you have in mind, like have a good time here in Saint Petersburg. Thank you. All right. That is like pretty astonishing. It's like if lug of lean made love with some sort of like apple cider from Vermont, then you would have this like PD sharp, pretty at bliss, pretty fucking delicious drink, and it's absolutely dry, of course. So right. It's right in those sugar at all. Right. Like the smoke. What happened? The smoke took all the sugar out is something else in their process as secret as ingredients in your signature cocktail. I think they secret is that they northern apples aren't very, really, very sweet on their own. So they don't get much sun and the weather is quite sad. So this is like the taste of the northern. Apple, right? You wouldn't get this from like a richer Luciano will still be very. Toby, very different. That is true and they make cider throughout obviously, siders that huge part of a story in culture and like a lot of places in Europe. I have never even come close to imagining a smoke cider though. I mean, they must, maybe they make it somewhere else. But this is the first time I've had it in. That's pretty cool for me as well, and it's really very refreshing. It's a pity. It's limited edition, but maybe they'll do it again next season hopefully outright I I should totally ad for people listening. These alcohols are utterly unavailable wherever you are unless you're in Petersburg, and even then it's probably hard to get unless you're gonna bar karnicki. Here's what you gotta do. Go get some of Mark's Mike's hard cider or like, you know, one of those big Costco brand siders in the states, and then add some model toy, train liquid, smoke to it and you'll have maybe some boom-or some boomer Bowmore let's key owes Bowmore. Okay. Well, that's that's getting closer to a more serious recipe. I think the, I think probably you're gonna fall short of this no matter what you do. But yeah, take some cider and throw some single Maltin there and you might. You might be on your way that is super fucking delicious. That's my official. That's my facial rating scale. What do you smell? I'm just smelling the smoke. It's very strange. It's a really it is. It's like a little disconcerting because you are getting two very different drinks in one somehow. Got drank it several times, but I'm always surprised. Nevertheless, it's it's just so strange why I was I was telling you last night. I'm on the smoke kick. I've got this smoke infusion gun which makes me the most hated person in in my in my household because constantly lighting, hickory on fire to like smoke the popcorn or something which is a little gratuitous. But one of the things that you realize is that it's hard to like make that smoke stick like in order to have smoked these apples in such a way that when you press them and then h them and then make sight or out of them, it's still tastes like a single malt like a PT single malt. There's something very unusual going on there. Pretty refreshing at the same time. Oh, it's good smokes. Strange thing, but cool. I like it. All right. That was a success we're gonna move to. Should we? What do we have it in? That's that's an IP. India pale ale. It's a beer brewed in Korea. It's the north west of Russia. Career Elliott is this place of my imagination. I've never been there, but I've seen the pictures and it is like the best of Norway. It's like fjords and. Yeah. Incredible, and it's right. It's just the north of Saint Petersburg. So this is a proof that the craft beer revolution has landed, not only in huge cities but also already in the province. So to say, it's not a Saint Petersburg or Moscow thing, it's absolutely Caribbean and the guys who brew does viewers. They name them after different villages in career. So this one is named summitters and it's called this way after village called some books. Some books which to me also does not sound. Yeah, it's theirs. They have their own language up there or you stay us to and every bottle they put the name of the village of the place. The sort is named after and the geographical coordinates. So these numbers and this one is IB. It's quite bitter. Like I think sixty eight IB you okay international. That's the nets and it's also quite heavy. I it's like a good symbol of the strong northern spirit while the people in the north, imagine their beer. That's right. I wanna bitter and very strong because I'm a chorale, Ian dammit. So tell me the the, you said these are not city people. These are people from the provinces. Are they like hipster brew masters? Like what's their? What's their vibe in their motivation? Well, I haven't met exactly the guys who brute. I think they. Probably are quite young and creative guys who could. Something like that would be hipsters. But the my point is that they don't come from Saint Petersburg or any other city with population over a million. So it's certainly a very small city, but the. Like the energy life, the ideas are proving everywhere. Yeah, and not only in the capitals, but also in the whole country. That's my point. The ideas are brewing. All right. Cheers to that. Cheers, Zahn. All right. We're doing it. Wow. Holy, California, Batman. That is a very that feels like a very international or like west coast like dank, you know, kind of. We'd floral. I. These are all not a drinker, but I like the ammo a lot. It's Larry Matic. Very rich in flavor. Yeah, this is a big beer. This is not a go, you know, hydrate, quietly beer. This is like you better be ready. I feel like if if if I were a Sophisticat I would give tasting notes or something. I feel like there's some fruit in there. I mean, it's like it's just like it's a lot, whatever it is. It's like a very complex flavor. Yeah, so I'm gonna. I'm gonna hide behind your explanation and it's bitter, and it's a little bit. There is some sweetness in the after days. That's right. Because with the with the Bernie burn, of course you just get this huge mouth of smoke kind of after like, that's that's the, that's the feeling, although it's not oppressive or anything, but this like yet it has this kind of. It's like a dish. Almost, you know, it's like this lack going on in this beer. But at the same time I think it's absolutely international. So I wouldn't be surprised to try this in a craft beer bar anywhere y'all. It's like, and the level of realization is is great high. Oh, yeah. No, it's a great. Let me just make very clear. This is fucking fantastic. IPA the kind which like San Diego would be proud to to drink. You know. But that's interesting because that kind of makes another point. It's regionally it's very specific and and that Karelya is making, you know, high quality beer. You know in these kind of small batch environment is interesting, but it's not a, it's not a regional flavor necessarily. I mean, I and it's not like a DIY look with our best and that's what they came up with. You're not. You don't have to grade this beer on a curve just because it's Caroline's it made it. This is like, this is a pretty bad SAPA which is interesting. I gotta say like it's pretty pretty cool that like that culture would spread, I'm sure through online and little magazines and just people starting to think like, okay, this is how I did it. This is my experiment. And then somehow you get people who turned into really excellent brewers in a place like Karelya, which stretches all the way to the Arctic. As we discussed kids, it does not. Don't listen to me. What's next. The next and last for our show. We're gonna. We'll just keep drinking for hours after the show, but the last of the show, it's this is not a site or net beard. Finally, this is Chung alcohol. What we specialize in the Russian. Finally, we've made it back to Russia and it's distillate spirit made of caraway seeds, caraway seeds. It's also very, super small batch. It's at seem located in Pushkin's KE Gauri. This is not far from Pskov also the northwest fresher closer to the Estonian border. It's very beautiful place to be, and they started producing their own strong alcohols which they distribute only in bars so far. Okay. You cannot find it in stores nowhere. And they basically try to. Produce spirits from anything they could can reach. So. Fair enough. They'd go very badly depending here in the north. We don't have grapes, sadly, so they use, we'd. They use apples, of course, which we have plenty. They use bees, they use buckwheat. They use. Like whatever they can find the amazing. And here in our case, they used caraway seats and why care way, like I have to say, I, I know that Germans put caraway on bread sometimes like I, I really don't know a lot about caraway. It grows here natively. It's like, I, I'm not sure how it grows never thought about that, but it's quite commonly used in the kitchen of the northern countries. Okay. Yeah. And this one, I think it's pretty good. It's at the same time. It's very gastronomic drinker. I can imagine it going very well with snacks whiskey. Yeah, was fish or with meat or with any pickled vegetable, which Russia is very famous for, but also to me, it goes very well in its own right strangely. So usually it's either or situation and this one is good. Can do a little bit of both. Yeah, it can do both. It's good enough, pure. It's good enough at the table, so try it. All right, nostril. Yeah. He. Terrible. To me, this taste is like very, very Nordic eights. I mean, I, I don't know if I've having some kind of like. Pavlovian connection between this flavor and the bread. But to me, it tastes like a like a really rich, amazing pumpernickel or something that after taste, you know it's got. There's something. That. I mean, it's it's definitely a spirit like it's a, it's a high alcohol spirit, thirty eight and a half, right? This is even bigger than that IP a, but it's. But it's you're right, it's got this kind of gastronomic thing, right? It feels like a meal or I don't know. It's very smooth and yet, right. It's also very smooth. Which is not always true of some of the alcohol that I've had in Russia. I mean, there's a lot of imagine drinking a lot of that, right. Not getting bored, that's I mean, what? What higher praise could there be of a spirit? I can drink a lot of this and not get bored. I'm gonna try drinking a lot of it right now. I mean, again, I've just like this is what you want when you're traveling too. Right? Like here I come to Saint Petersburg, which I, you know, I don't know. Well, and I, you know, I haven't been to in a long time and you walk into a bar and you get served flavors that you've never had before that are not just flavor that you haven't come across, but they're actually from that region. And that's like, this is the thing that they do like out out out by scoff. They make alcohol caraway seeds, and I'd never had that flavor before and it's like fucking great. I'm very happy. Because it's also strong out call. Yeah. I mean, that's why I think chronic is so great. Like this is a place that can actually deliver a very concentrated dose of the region to you. And by the way, Saint Petersburg is I'm like, most assholes who come to this place. I'm gonna go stay few nights Saint Petersburg and then go to Moscow and then go home. Right? But the ability to kind of bring in all of those flavors from corral era Pskov or you know, like these Baltic flavors and offered in a bar setting or something is like is such a service. So well, we tried to as I told, we tried to search out the the best among the all the possibilities our region has to offer. And I think it's, I think it's the right strategy for like any bar to try to show the best that they can find. Yeah, but people are probably pretty lazy too. Well, we also are very lazy, but. You pick your moment. Nevertheless, after five years of working, we are very disaster about alcohol. So we enjoy the process of surging out new things, trying them and sharing that with people. Is it you've, you've donated us over day to the show and I cannot thank you enough. I appreciate it. Thanks hope to see and chronic again. The trip is hosted by me. Nathan Thornburgh produced by Josie. Holtzman in future projects are editors taffy Malkin yahtzee are executive producers on me and Mak Goulding of roads and kingdoms special. Thanks to Dan, the automated for the beats and Adele Rodriguez for the art. Next Monday. The trip will be back with Nicole Choy a DC schoolteacher obsessed with recreating a cut rate, army corn, bread that her mom grew up on after the Korean war. We'll see you there.