Where and what folks used to drink in Saint-Petersburg before Revolution in 1917? This question came to my mind at so called Old New Year evening (The New Year according to Julian Calendar, popular fest in Russia). Mostly because exactly this date, 107 years ago the prominent Roaming Dog cafe was opened in Saint-Petersburg. The place of power for bohema of the early XX century. It functioned until 1915, and in 1995 it was reopened at the same address, Italyanskaya street, 4. We propose you to find out what were the trendy drinks in Russian capital city before October Revolution.
And aleatico with champagne,
And Russian beer with British one,
And mosel with Seelze water.
G.R. Derjavin. To the first neighbor
G.R. Derjavin gave almost a complete answer to the question mentioned at the head of the article. Folks used to drink different types of wine, local and foreign beers, etc. So let’s try to find out not only what – but why? Why citizens prefered one drinks to another, why some types of drinks where abandoned and what was the major trend?
This is quotation from the work by Julia Demidenko, art-critic, Executive Director of Research Studies at Saint-Petersburg State Museum of History. And today we publish here the part of her work concerning early years of XX century.
WHERE FOLKS USED TO DRINK IN ST.PETERSBURG?
By the beginning of XX century “alcohol fashion” was influenced by high society as well as major restaurant owners. By this time St.Petersburg had a real restaurant rush. During 1910-ies there were at least 3000 food-serving places. Even public baths opened their restaurants. This was the time of fierce competition. Each and every tried his best to stay at the niche. The owners of the cafes, restaurants and confectionaries invented new types of advertisements, brought specialities to the menu and equipped their places with extra-modern machinery. The interiors were decorated according to the latest trends. In order to attract more customers, smorgasbords and american cocktail bars were introduced.
A.Sudakov, the owner of few restaurants in Moscow, headed The Bear restaurant in Saint-Petersburg in 1890-ies. The place flourished under his control and has become the city legend. Two huge halls for 100 and 150 person, 20 cabinetes, 70 waiters and 45 cooks. The main hall was decorated with glass roof, and the program included French cafesantan stars.
In 1905 there was opened the first American-style bar. Being quite unusual in its manner of service, it attracted every type clients. Everything was completely new here for Russian public: unusual mixed drinks, high bar chairs… “Came by The Bear, settled upon high chairs, got high glasses with ice and tasty, very tipsy stuff. Got it and ordered once again”, – resembled J.V. Makarov. Since that time being drunk was known Saint-Petersburg as “gentleman’s mood”.
Following The Bear a bar was opened by restaurant Contan which served high society only. It was a proper decision. Those who couldn’t afford a visit to Contan itself, at least could stay at the bar, spending a glass of a cocktail. Anyway it was cheaper than a dinner at the place. And one could impress friends by the fact itself. Sometimes it was even more important than the taste of the cocktail.
Fashionable country clubs opened their bars as well. In 1911 prominent Sestroretsk kurort was opened. Run by J. Toff american-style bar was organized there along with a restaurant, cafe and confectionary.
Cocktail trends before Revolution in 1917
All that was enough to make a trend for cocktails, though it didn’t last long. The word “cocktail” was quite new and was not in use, while “to mix wines” entered the vocabulary all around.
“I started mixing wines. First white wine with Muscat, red wine with Madera, both added Peach Brandy, squashed orange and even added Kummel, all in all something incredible”.
This way M.A. Kuzmin described one of the parties at Viacheslav Ivanov’s Tower.
But anyway cocktails did not gain huge popularity at that time. American-style bars attracted attention for a few seasons, but later they lost their popularity. In 1913 the bar at Contan was closed as well as some others around the city. Finally, there were left only some bars at the big hotels like Europeyskaya where they met expectations of foreign guests.
It’s interesting to point out that there were organised special canteens for deputies and press in Tavrichesky palace adopted for the State Duma sessions. The first beer bar was opened here. The idea to serve beer along with plain food turned to be attractive for journalists and some deputies from the lower class society. It is a big wonder, but this project organized by restorator А. Lomach had no other followers around St.Petersburg.
Bars before Revolution
The word “bar” had become popular at that times. in 1910-s successful entrepreneur L.M.Sazonova who owned several canteenes for travellers, added the word “bar” to the names of her places: Bar-Express, later Bar-Tourist. Though alcohol was not served there!
Generally, the capital of Russian Empire was always opened for novelties, and in alcohol field as well. Any type of new alcohol drink promptly gained the local market, but later promptly lost it, holding a small niche.
Sparkling wines before the Revolution in numbers
Local and French sparkling wines were served in St.Petersburg in huge amounts. Each year the numbers rized and rized. In 1910 1 million 300 thousand bottles were ordered from France to Saint-Petersburg.
Above that sparkling wines were transported in barrows and bottled at the place. For example sparkling wine “Doyen” was brought and bottled this way straight at the central warehouse of this company. By the way it was situated at the basement of the Stock Exchange building right at the city centre. This type of transportation made prices for this wine very small.
According to one local journalist, consumption of champagne and sparkling wines achieved 4,5 million bottles per year.
In 1911 “Winery Herald” brought the following numbers according to restaurants’ statistics:
“Aquarium” public garden — 3000 bottles
“The Bear” — 780
“Villa Rhodet” — 627
“Kuba” — 654
“Palace Theatre” restaurant — 560
“Casino” — 524
“Contan” — around 500
“Krestovsky” — 350
“Palkin” — 300
“Donon” at Angliyskaya embankment — 200
Alltogether 7435 bottles for total amount of 75 000 rubles (“Winery Herald” 1911: 755).
And this is far not the fool list of St.Petersburg restaurants of that time.