One of the liberties I took in Mythic Russia was including vodka. After all, even if vodka wouldn’t actually be around for a few centuries, it is so deeply-embedded within the Russian trope, that I felt it my bounden duty!
However, it turns out, courtesy of this article from the Moscow News, that maybe this wasn’t quite as much of a stretch as I had thought:
One story says that Genoese merchants traveling to Lithuania brought aqua vitae, a strong liquor distilled from grape juice that had to be diluted for consumption, to Russia in the 14th century. They presented vessels of it to Dmitry Donskoi, prince of Moscow and grand prince of Vladimir.
So, strong spirits not only were present, they came from Italy, via Lithuania. This raises all kinds of interesting plot line:
- Raiding Lithuania for supplies of this potent firewater to present to the tsar (and then trying to prevent your men from drinking it on the way back)
- A Lithuanian merchant traveling into Russia looking for markets (perhaps needing local guards, guides and allies) and trying to avoid rivals from finding out his source and rapacious boyars from confiscating his stock
- Russian entrepreneurs trying to sneak into Lithuania to contact the Genoese to establish their own trade deals for direct imports, possibly even having to trek all the way to Italy to arrange it. Or maybe instead heading down to the Genoese trading stations on the Crimean peninsula to open negotiations.