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The Tovarich Cocktail: Unravelling the Soviet-inspired Elegance

The Tovarich Cocktail: Unravelling the Soviet-inspired Elegance

Many classic cocktails from the English-speaking world remain relevant among mixology enthusiasts. Here's one from the land of vodka, the Tovarich cocktail. It contains lime juice, vodka, and kümmel, a colourless herbal liqueur from the Netherlands. 

Tovarich appears to be an anglicised term for the Russian tovarisch, tovarish or tovarishch. It means a comrade or a friend or an ally. But, the cocktail is believed to be named after a play by Jacques Deval.

The recipe first appeared in Grosby Gaige's Standard Cocktail Guide in 1944 and turned into a classic for its distinctive, rich caraway and cumin flavour that combines well with lime. It is usually served before meals to stimulate the appetite.

Below is its recipe as based on the one mentioned in Charles H Baker Jr's in The South American Gentleman's Companion: Being An Exotic Drinking Book in 1951. 

The Tovarich Cocktail: Unravelling the Soviet-inspired Elegance


45 ml Smirnoff Vodka
30 ml Kümmel liqueur
15 ml Lemon juice
5 ml sugar syrup
15 ml Pasteurised egg white or Aquafaba (chickpea water)
Lime Slice Wheel, for garnish


Take a shaker and add all the ingredients to it. Shake well to emulsify. Now, shake well with ice and fine strain into a chilled coupe glass. Float a lime slice wheel on top of the glass.

You can compare the 1951 version to the original recipe below.

Tovarich - Original


30 ml Vodka
30 ml Kümmel liqueur
1/2 Lime, freshly juiced


Take a shaker with cracked ice and add all the ingredients to it. Shake well and strain into a serving glass. 

There was another version which was seen in David A Embury's The Fine Art Of Mixing Drinks in 1948. The only change from the original version is that this recipe doesn't use cracked ice.

More About Kümmel Liqueur

The prominent spices in the liqueur are caraway and cumin. It has a taste that one would get from liquid rye bread with anise and other spices, which linger on the palate.

The Tovarich Cocktail: Unravelling the Soviet-inspired Elegance

The ingredients used to make Kümmel are of course, caraway, cumin, apart from fennel, orris and other herbs. Despite the liqueur's Dutch origins, Russia is its largest producer and consumer. It is also popular in Germany, particularly in Berlin. 

Kümmel liqueur was widely popular from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century. It saw great success first in Britain and later in the US and the rest of the world. However, in the recent past, it fell out of favour in the mixology circles. However, as mixology expert Simon Difford remarks, the liqueur is considered to be a classic cocktail ingredient and its renaissance is overdue. 

Trend Of Russian Cocktails

There are many Russian cocktails which are popular even today among bartenders and patrons. Some of the well-liked ones include the White Russian and Black Russian. But cocktails with unique flavour profiles also made inroads into the bars' menus. Tovarish is one such cocktail, others include Sbiten and Medovukha. Sbiten is a hot, winter cocktail using wine, spices and dried chilli peppers. Medovukha is an ancient drink which has been consumed for centuries. It is a hops-based drink and its flavour comes predominantly from honey. Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger are also used to make this cocktail.

While it's great to learn about alcohol, it is important to also consume alcohol moderately. Remember to serve and drink responsibly to ensure you and your guests are healthy and out of harm's way. If you know anyone who has trouble controlling their alcohol intake, please refer them to a professional immediately.

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