I have been ordering a lot of wine (and caviar) during quarantine, mostly from Kachka, a Russian restaurant just a few blocks from my apartment. Kachka’s wines are interesting, unexpected, and almost entirely from the Balkans. Then there is Сове́тское шампа́нское, the “Soviet Champagne” that is definitely not Champagne. It is $20, very sweet, and perfect for mixing with vodka.
According to Atlas Obscura, “the mass production of Soviet champagne was part of a larger propaganda campaign intended to showcase the cultural and economic advancement wrought by socialism.” “It was like the Coca-Cola of the Soviet Union. It symbolized the good Soviet life,” explains Jukka Gronow, author of Caviar with Champagne: Common Luxury and the Ideals of the Good Life in Stalin’s Russia.
The Soviet Union no longer exists, but you can still find Сове́тское шампа́нское at Russian food markets (and Kachka, if you happen to live in Portland). When mixed with sour cherry syrup, it tastes like a cherry soda, so much so that two ounces of vodka will go completely undetected by your tongue. If you cannot find Soviet Champagne, any sweet sparkling wine will do. As for the cherry syrup, you can make your own, or you can buy a bottle of Zergüt (or similar brand).
To make this Soviet Spritz, you will need:
- 60mL of vodka
- 1 tablespoon of sour cherry syrup, such as Zergüt
- 90mL Сове́тское шампа́нское (Sovetskoye Shampanskoye) or another sweet sparkling wine
Add vodka and syrup to a champagne glass and stir to combine. Top with chilled Сове́тское шампа́нское and sip.