Keep the serving plates in the oven at the lowest setting so they are warm when you serve.
Pat the chicken dry. Coarsely chop the garlic.
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, until hot but not smoking. Add the chicken drumsticks, without crowding the skillet in order to ease the browning of the meat on each side, about 7-8 min per batch. Transfer the chicken as browned to a plate. If applicable, repeat the operation with the remaining drumsticks.
Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from the skillet and cook the garlic 1-2 min in the remaining fat over low heat, with stirring. Add the vinegar, water, soy sauce, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Bring the liquid to a boil, then put the chicken with any accumulated juices back into the skillet, lower the heat and simmer, covered, 15 min.
Remove the lid and cook over moderately low heat, turning the chicken 2 or 3 times, until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is tender, about 15 min (there should be no need to add any salt since the soy sauce is already rather salty). Serve.
Serve the chicken with its sauce on a bed of rice.