Weekend Drinking: Here Come the Bears!

November 20, 2015

Well, it’s the weekend, which means it’s time to live dangerously and make bad decisions. Here at War on the Rocks, we often tell you what to read over the weekend, but we haven’t done as good a job telling you what to drink.

Now, since the past seven days haven’t exactly been great, I figured I’d introduce our readers to an old, heavy-hitting Russian drinking game a friend taught me in college. I’ll offer this caveat before we proceed: This game is a terrible idea, and those participating without a college-aged liver do so at their own peril (and even those in college should probably skip it — drink responsibly).

I’ve heard the game called two things — “the bears come and the bears go,” and alternatively “here come the bears!” Whatever you call it, the crux of the game is the same. Here’s what you need:

  • Vodka, as much is on hand, chilled (Russian, obviously)
  • Beer, as much is on hand, chilled (Ideally a lighter beer, such as a pilsner — Baltika 9 works nicely)
  • 8 oz. or 250ml glasses, one per player
  • Matches, as many as are on hand

Play begins with players taking seats around a table and filling their respective glasses with beer. Matches are placed under the table. At any time, any player can yell “Вот идут медведи!” (Vot idyut medvedi! or “Here come the bears!”), at which point players drink some of their beer and rapidly clamber under the table. The players stay under the table until the same player who announced the bear’s arrival says “Вон идут медведиI” (Von idyut medvedi! or “There go the bears!”), at which point players grab a match from under the table and sit back in their seats.

At this point, whatever amount of beer a player consumed is replaced with vodka. In the next round, players drink from their beer/vodka mixtures and again replace what they drink with vodka, and continue doing so until the drink is (reasonably) clear. Then the process is reversed, adding beer each round instead of vodka. The rounds are repeated ad infinitum, with the theoretical goal (if your liver holds out that long) of going from beer to vodka, then back to beer (i.e. beer–clear–beer). The winner is whoever has the most matchsticks arrayed next to his or her position when the players wakeup the next day.

I have only played this game once, but really that’s all you need. It’s best played in the woods after a long day hiking or cutting wood, or some other activity that merits drinking for a long while. It will also almost guarantee the coining of the phrase “watch out for bears” among your friends.

You’ve been warned, Za zdorovye.


Alex Hecht is editor of Molotov Cocktail. He works as a security analyst in Washington, DC. Before working for the man, he managed the Gibson, a cocktail bar in DC’s U Street corridor. Alex’s life is admittedly mellower now, but his liver probably thanks him for that.


Photo credit: Max Goldberg