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Nettle gimlet, anyone? Put a Russian twist on your cocktails this summer with these 5 recipes

Nettle gimlet, anyone? Put a Russian twist on your cocktails this summer with these 5 recipes
A ’Cloud Forest’ cocktail made from cloudberry, an ingredient that grows in the Russian North

Especially for The Calvert Journal, Vladimir Nikolaev, professional bartender and co-owner of the stylish St Petersburg bars Tsvetochki and One & Half Room, shares five cocktail recipes that spice up spirits with a unique Russian twist.

19 June 2020
Text and images: Vladimir Nikolaev

Nettle Gimlet

(Makes 1)

This cocktail is a variation on the classic gimlet with an unusual herbal touch. Nettle usually grows in Russia at the start of spring, when the fields start to defrost. Although it was very popular in traditional cuisine, today it is quite rare to find it in more contemporary recipes, which is a shame. If you’ve never tried fresh nettle, this cocktail will be a refreshing surprise for your taste buds.


— 22.5ml gin

— 22ml mezcal

— 25g fresh nettle

— 70g sugar

— 140ml lime juice

— Vegetable oil

First, make the nettle cordial. In a bowl, mix the lime juice with the sugar until it is completely dissolved. Add the fresh nettle, filter with a sieve, and store in the fridge.

In a glass with a few ice cubes, pour the gin, the mezcal, and the 45ml of the nettle cordial. Mix well, and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Before serving, decorate with a nettle leaf and three drops of vegetable oil.

Cloud Forest

(Makes 1)

Allegedly Alexander Pushkin’s favourite, cloudberry is an iconic ingredient that hails from the Russian North. It is quite rare, because its maturation period is very short. The unique taste and aroma of cloudberry resembles a mixture of acacia honey, ripe gooseberries, and hops, and it’s delicious in sauces, jams, or cocktails. It grows in lowlands, among moss, in places where there is often a fog that resembles clouds — hence, the name of the cocktail.


— 45ml gin

— 2tbsp cloudberry or lingonberry jam

— 5 lemon basil leaves

— 45ml dry white sparkling wine

In a cocktail shaker, a mason jar, or a similar container, add the cloudberry jam, the lemon basil leaves, and the gin. Shake vigorously and pour into a whiskey glass over a block of ice. Top up with the sparkling wine, and garnish with a lemon basil leaf.

Generation Beet

(Makes 1)

The main ingredient of this cocktail is beetroot, a classic Russian vegetable that stars in the famous borscht soup. Combined with coffee beans, cherry juice, and berry vodka, beet acquires an unusual, refreshing taste.

The name of the cocktail is an homage to the beatniks, the literary movement that emerged from the writing of American author Jack Kerouac. The meticulous combination of roasted coffee, beetroot, and berries, creates a drink with a hedonist, cascading taste.


— 300ml blueberry and juniper vodka

(or 150ml of any kind of berry vodka, mixed with 150ml gin)

— 1 beet (70-90gr), boiled

— 30g coffee beans

— 730ml cherry juice

— Sparkling water

Mix all the ingredients in a vacuum bag, and boil in a pot full of water for 7 hours at an approximate temperature of 55 degrees. Afterwards, let it cool inside the bag, filter with a sieve, and store in the refrigerator. To serve, pour three parts of the resulting mixture into a tall glass full of ice, and add one part of sparkling water.

Birch Highball

(Makes 1)

The birch tree is the Russian tree par excellence. In spring, birch juice, full of nutritious properties, can be directly collected from the bark of the trees. Minimalist yet delicious, this cocktail offers a healthy option packed with natural sugars, minerals, and light tannins.


— 45ml citrus vodka

— 120ml birch sap or birch juice

(usually available in health food stores)

— Pickled grapes

Mix the vodka and the birch juice in a highball, or tall, glass. To serve, decorate with pickled grapes.


(Makes 1)

Mixing flowery scents with berry hints, this cocktail is a colourful symphony of natural flavours. Its essential ingredient is home-made rosehip and strawberry kombucha, which is a fermented tea drink. Typical of central Russia, rosehip is a berry that can be found in the forests. Due to its high vitamin C content, it is often sold in pharmacies as a medicinal product. Although long and tricky, making homemade kombucha is the ultimate test for any aspiring cocktail artist — and its unique touch to the drink will make the effort worthwhile.


For the kombucha:

— 20g dried rose hips

— Scoby (kombucha starter)

— 150g sugar

— 100g fresh strawberries

For the cocktail:

— 20ml grapefruit bitter or grapefruit liqueur

— 30ml any fruit distillate

— 80ml Riesling white wine

To make the kombucha, pour the dried rosehips into a litre of hot water and leave to infuse for three hours. Filter. Then, add the sugar, dissolve, and add the kombucha starter. Pour into a glass jar, cover with kitchen cloth and store it in a place without direct sunlight and a temperature of about 22-25 degrees Celsius. After eight days, if the Scoby is on the surface, the mixture has a pale vinegar tint, and it is slightly carbonated, the kombucha is ready. Filter, and add 100g of fresh strawberries. Infuse for three hours, and then filter again, but do not throw away the strawberries.

To make the cocktail, mix 60ml of kombucha with the white wine, the grapefruit liqueur, and the fruit distillate. Serve in a glass with ice, and decorate with strawberries.

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