It’s no secret that the popular alcoholic drinks you consider your favorite can reveal a lot about you. Amongst the traits of a dictator or infamous people, one of the most commonly asked questions is ”What is their favorite drink?”. This article explores the popular alcoholic drinks enjoyed by some of the most infamous leaders in Eastern Europe from President Putin and Marshal Tito to Josef Stalin and Nicolae Ceausescu.
Which Popular Alcoholic Drinks Does Vladimir Putin Enjoy?
Vladimir Putin, the strongman leader of Russia is infamous for being one of the main adversaries of the West in the 21st Century especially since the degradation in relations following the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and subsequent War in Eastern Ukraine. As a result, Putin’s status and inherently macho image make him a curious figure amongst many both in Russia and abroad. One question often asked, alongside why Putin wears his watch on the right hand, is what kind of alcoholic drinks does he enjoy?
It’s been widely reported that Putin is in fact not much of a drinker. Although far from teetotal, it’s believed that the projection of a teetotal image is a largely political tactic that symbolizes the president taking a leadership stance against the severe alcoholism problem in Russia as well as providing a sharp contrast and against his predecessor and infamous alcoholic, Boris Yeltsin. Apart from formal receptions, Putin avoids drinking alcohol. It’s these formal receptions that provide an insight into the popular alcoholic drinks that the Russian president partakes in.
In September of 2015, President Putin paid a visit to the recently annexed Crimean peninsula. He was joined by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and naturally, the pair toured the world-famous Massandra winery. Home to some of the world’s most famous wine collections, the winery director treated the pair of world leaders to a 245-year-old bottle of Jerez de la Frontera wine. The wine, valued at around $90,000 and originally brought to Crimea by Count Mikhail Vorontsov during the era of Catherine the Great, formerly belonged to Ukraine and the country subsequently opened an indictment against the pair for their actions.
“You brought this as a present? It is already mine!”Putin to Moldova’s pro-Russian President, Igor Dodon, who brought Putin bottles from the Putin collection in Cricova.
In 2002, Putin was hosted by Vladimir Voronin who the then head of the Moldovan Communist Party and celebrated his 50th birthday at the renowned Cricova Winery just outside of the Moldovan capital of Chisinau, Moldova. Since then, the Russian leader has had a personal wine collection at the Cricova winery.
The expansive underground winery is home to various wine collections of world leaders like Angela Merkel and infamous men such as Herman Goring, whose wine collection was liberated by the Soviet Red Army and brought to Moldova after WW2. Despite Putin’s face and wine collection being in pride of place at Cricova, in 2013 Russia slapped an embargo on all imports of Moldovan wine. This was said to be a punishment for Moldova trying to get into the EU.
Nicolae Ceausescu, Galbena Wine, and Vegetable Juice.
I have a morbid fascination with the reign of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. A man both equally odd and dangerous, on a recent trip to the Romanian capital of Bucharest I couldn’t help but pay a visit to the recently open Ceausescu mansion known as the Spring Palace. In the cellar of the mansion, alongside a lavish cinema, was a well-stocked private bar. But what did the Romanian dictator drink?
Conscious about his image, Ceausescu never drank in public. But behind closed doors, the favorite drink of Ceausescu was Galbena wine made in the Romanian Vrancea winery near the town of Focsani. During the days of Communist Romania, Galbena wine was reserved for the Communist elite and only produced in small batches which were largely sent to Ceasescu’s various residences around Romania. In modern Romania, Galbena is among the most popular alcoholic drinks due to its affordability and association with the lavish lifestyle of Nicolae Ceausescu.
“Comrade Nicolae Ceausescu, all children are bringing you burning love from their souls, because you, leading the Party and the people, are teaching us to move forward. When we say Ceausescu, we all know that we say liberty, truth, and steadfastness.”A song performed by Romanian children during the National Conference of Women in the 1980s
Whilst rubbing soldiers with other Eastern European dictators from Marshal Tito to Gorbachev, Nicolae Ceausescu was known to anger his drinker fellow strongmen by loudly drinking raw vegetable juice through a straw. But this wasn’t the only thing Ceaesecu did to leave a bad impression on his hosts. He would often insist on bringing all of his own food with him on state visits. As a cherry on the cake, he and Elena were also notorious for taking unauthorized souvenirs from their foreign accommodation in the form of lightbulbs, fixtures, fittings, and apparently anything “that could be removed or even unscrewed.”
During the nightmarishly embarrassing state visit of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu to the United Kingdom, it was later revealed that Queen Elizabeth II was intensely displeased with having the couple stay after having to hide any valuables from the pairs quarters. Following the traditional state carriage ride and dinner, the Queen had no intention of speaking to them any further. It was revealed to another guest that the next day when she was walking her iconic Corgis in Buckingham Palace gardens, she spotted the Ceacescus heading towards her and hid behind a bush to avoid them.
In the end, Nicolae and Elena did not get to enjoy a traditional glass of usual champagne and or Galbena wine for Christmas and New Year in 1989 as Communism collapsed across Europe. Instead, they were put on a short trial before being put against the wall and shot. Nicolae was the only Eastern Bloc dictator to be executed by his own people.
The Popular Alcoholic Drinks Enjoyed (part-time) by Josef Stalin
No list of infamous leaders from Eastern Europe would be complete without including Josef Stalin. The former leader of the Soviet Union carried out relentless human rights abuses and mass murder during his reign of terror. Originally born in Georgia in the South Caucasus, it was said that Stalin was raised sucking on a cloth dipped in local Vodka (known as Chacha) instead of a pacifier.
As an ethnic Georgian, a country that proudly claims to have been the first to have invented wine over 8,000 years ago, Stalin stayed well in touch with his roots. It’s said that there were two types of semi-sweet Georgian wine, Khvanchkara, and Kindzmarauli, that were Stalin’s favorite drink. On my travels through the Republic of Georgia, I noticed many brands of such wine had utilized Stalin’s face on bottles as a marketing technique. Although seen as sheer evil in the West, many nostalgic people in Georgia view Stalin as a national hero.
“Life has improved, comrades. Life has become more joyous.”– Josef Stalin at Speech at the Conference of Stakhanovites,17th of November 1935
It’s believed that Stalin served his favorite Khvanchkara wine to Winston Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt at the Yalta conference in 1945. Stalin’s parties (aside from the communist one) were infamous for heavy amounts of drinking and wine, along with vodka, was a heavy theme.
Often taking place at the various Dachas Stalin owned, such parties would go on all night until the early. Many reflected that they were a refined form of torture due to obligatory drinking games, sing-alongs, and dancing. The over-drinking, paralyzing fear, and cruel teasing that came with being in the company of Stalin once turned Nikita Khrushchev into a trembling, incontinent mess. Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia, who partied with Stalin before the two fell out, ended up vomiting into the sleeve of his suit jacket during the constant toasts that are characteristic of Georgian culture.
Interestingly, during his constant bouts of violent paranoia, Stalin was infamous for filling his party guests with wine and vodka whilst he sat sipping water. This way, people would lower their inhibitions and allow Stalin to figure out which people around him would need to be purged next or sent to the Gulag.
Classic Cocktails Inspired by Infamous Leaders of Eastern Europe
What better way to round off an article on the favorite tipple of Eastern Europe’s most infamous men, than with some inspiration for classic cocktails for you to toast to your least favorite infamous figure. The following recipe comes from the War on the Rocks article written by Paul Kan – Tyranny By The Glass: Dictators and Their Drinks.
Iron Fist in Velvet Glove Cocktail
- 1 ounce blended scotch
- 1 ounce sloe gin
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- ¾ ounce lemon juice
- 1 dash Benedictine
- 1 dash Peychauds bitters
You then place all of the ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake like your life depended on it. Strain into a cocktail glass as cold as a tyrant’s heart. Garnish with your appreciation of freedom.