Russian bar vs Russian bar – NYC

One more time, J and I went to NYC to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway. I couldn’t not go after they announced that the original Hedwig, John Cameron Mitchell, was reprising the roll. !!! It was something I didn’t think I’d ever see, and now that I have, my life is complete. He was phenomenal, even performing injured, in a knee brace! Gah. So good. If I lived in NYC I’d go catch him again for sure.

I digress.

So I tried to pre-plan more than the previous 2 trips, and figure out a place I’d like to go for a Bloody, and places for us to eat dinner so we weren’t all “I dunno” when it came time to eat. Browsing on Yelp, I came across the Russian Vodka Room, which just so happened to be across the street from our hotel. How convenient! Reviews and a glance at their website told a story of several different house infused vodkas, and specifically a horseradish infused vodka. My friend Carolyn had recently linked me to a horseradish vodka, which definitely sounded good for making Bloody Marys but the big liquor store in the area didn’t carry it. Now was my chance!

After the show we made our way to the Vodka Room and met my friend Anthony for a few drinks. J had the Sweet Doggy (Red Grapefruit Infused Vodka, Red Grapefruit Juice, Brown Sugar Rim, Mint), Anthony tried shots of their Peach & Apricot, and Ginger vodka, and we all split a flight including Cherry, Strawberry, Cranberry for sure, then maybe Pineapple and Red Grapefruit (we can’t remember and neither could the bartender), and I made J also get the Garlic Pepper and Dill against his will. And of course, I had the Red Bastard – the horseradish vodka Bloody Mary.


A lemon and lime garnish for $10, holy moly, that horseradish vodka was good. Super strong flavor in a basic Bloody mix. There didn’t seem to be any additional spice from hot sauce or pepper, just the infused vodka, in which you could see little bits of horseradish floating around. It was a simple drink, but full of flavor. Definitely recommended if you’re a horseradish fan.

Once we got the flight, and had all tasted the Garlic infusion, I added that to my drink (J was pretty disgusted by it I think haha I thought it was really good). It was half gone already, so it ended up turning into mostly a garlic drink. A small bit would be a nice addition to the Red Bastard, but perhaps not a full shot, because it was very very strong. The other flavors were decent, especially the Strawberry, Cranberry and Ginger. The 2 we couldn’t remember what they were, were not obviously any flavor, one seeming to be just vodka, the other just indistinct. I’m not a big Cherry fan, but J is and he liked it.

It just so happens that there was ANOTHER Russian bar across the street. While the Vodka Room, which is advertised as a restaurant and piano bar, and did indeed have someone playing piano, was dark and cozy, fairly classy with some Russian art, the bar across the street – Russian Samovar – also a restaurant and piano bar, was the opposite. And while the probability of us having missed a large section of the place is high, we didn’t see any part of it that looked like the photos on the website, and it was a bit dive-y. Nothing wrong with that, by the way, I’m just totally shocked looking at their website because it looks so very classy, and well, it wasn’t. They did have a piano, but no one was playing (it was after midnight for the record), they had modern pop music on and Bruno playing on tv. Both bars had giant jugs of their infused vodka around the room, with Samovar decorating them with military caps.

The infused vodkas offered were mostly the same between the 2, with Samovar having some additional ones like Tarragon, Pear, Plum and Coriander to name a few. It was late-ish so we didn’t try any of them, J just getting a Cherry vodka and soda, which tasted like cough medicine, Anthony getting one of their mixed drinks on offer, and of course, I got their horseradish Bloody Mary – the Bloody Dasha.


Garnished with lemon, lime and 3 olives for $12, it might have looked nicer because of the garnishes, but it didn’t hold a candle to the Russian Vodka Room’s drink. There was more tomato taste than horseradish, you could barely detect the horseradish at all. It wasn’t anywhere close to being awful, but I had just enjoyed an almost overwhelming horseradish vodka drink, so it was a disappointment. It was so subtle, it might be better for someone looking for just a tiny extra something in their Bloody Mary, whereas the Vodka Room’s drink would be for the hard core spice/horseradish fan.

If you’re asking me which one I’d go back to for a Bloody Mary, it’s definitely the Russian Vodka Room. But to be honest, I’d probably walk across the street to Samovar after to try some of their other flavors and drinks too. I’m equal opportunity!

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