In Mother Russia, you do not chase vodka shots…vodka shots chase you. In America, the majority of us will not down shots of snake-infused whiskey or fermented baby mouse wine (both found here) ala Bourdain or Zimmern. Most of us cannot even take a shot of tequila without lime or vodka without an immediate follow-up sip of beer or orange juice. We are a culture that requires chasers after hard shots. For other countries, that is a no-no. This is the story of a friend, so if it is true is up to interpretation, of how he came to learn about one of the greatest drinking/shots experiences ever – a shot of vodka followed immediately by sniffing a raw onion – the vodka onion shot.
History of the vodka onion shot
A friend was working for a project in Moscow. We all know that Russians take much pride in their vodka and drink it like water, which is their cross to bear. It is incredible. One afternoon my buddy was at a bar and ordered a shot of vodka. Just another typical afternoon. He throws back the warm shot of vodka, but was unlucky to have selected one not of best of quality. The harsh drink came back to bite him and immediately yelled out to the bartender requesting some orange juice to cleanse his stinging palate.
Across the bar, a shadowy figure was watching this transgression. He lurks out from the corner and approaches my friend. An intimidating man given his height and pirate eye patch, he looks at my friend in disgust and says, “No…in Russia you do not use this to chase. If you must chase…you use this.” As he finishes his sentence, the sketchy bar patron reaches over the barcounter to grab a raw onion that was halved. “If you must chase, you do this …” and immediately sniffs the heck out of the raw onion – deep inhales. My friend, partially confused and partially intrigued, takes the Onion Hermes advice. He orders the same shot of vodka and then without hesitation deeply smells and sniffs the raw onion. Hello world, it was life-changing.
The vodka onion shot, delicious & perfect for parties
As weird and off-putting it may sound, this is one resounding shot combination. Onions have an inherit sweetness to them, especially if they are the Spanish Yellow or Red onion varieties. It really helps to take the edges off a shot of vodka. Not only does the onion sniffing help you forget about the vodka (esp if is a cheaper, more harsh type), the vodka taste and onion flavors/smells pair magically together. It is truly a delicious shot. Vodka and onions are just meant to go together, and this shot proves it. As further validation of this combination, some bartenders server pickled onions or baby onions in martinis. One step further, think of penne alla vodka, which is mostly tomato sauce, cream, vodka, and lots of onions.
Typically, you deeply sniff and inhale the halved onion. True lovers of this shot can take it other levels, such as biting into the raw onion after the shot or actually pouring the vodka shot into the onion and using it as a shot glass/bowl.
But the real genius behind the vodka onion shot is not the misperceived intensity, the phenomenal taste/enjoyment, or the many variations drunk people can devise, but how amazing of a party gimmick it is. The vodka onion shot can take any party to stratosphere heights. Exposing people and getting them to believe and rally behind the shots makes for great party fun (and a liquored up party group). Vodka onion shots until we die.