How To Order Vodka Like A Russian

You don’t say to the bartender: “Hey fella, pour me another 40 grams,” do you? However, that’s exactly the way hard spirits are most often ordered in the Russian language. Read on to get savvy with Russian slang terms for different volumes of spirits.

When Russian vodka measurements appeared

In pre-revolutionary Russia, the volume measures were different (and unique to Russia). A barrel was 491.96 liters, equal to 40 buckets; a bucket (12,299 liters) was equal to 10 shtofs (1.2299 liters); a shtof was equal to 2 vodka bottles (0.61495 liters each) and the smallest measure was called a shkalik (about 0.06 liters).

In 1918, the Soviet government introduced the use of the metric system in Russia. Since then, all volumes were to be measured in liters. When, in 1923, the Soviet government started the production of “official” vodka, Русская горькая (“Russian Bitter”), it was sold in 0.5-liter bottles. Accordingly, the Soviet drinking glasses at the time were 250 ml, 100 ml and 50 ml.

Grams according to Stalin

So, a Russian shot is 50 ml of vodka, as opposed to the usual European/American 40 ml. But why are vodka and other spirits commonly measured in grams, not in milliliters?