(Note to my Mom: maybe skip this post, too.)
The follow up to Part 1 in my research on Polish vodka. I realize that you might think that all there is to do in Poland is drink. Well, you’re not completely wrong, but you can also read my impressions of the country so far.
In this post I list 12 different brands, though some brands have two or three types of vodka. The short list for Polish vodkas include Luksusowa, Lubelska Cytrynowka, Żubrówka, Sobieski Pure, Wyborowa, Krupnik, Stock, Wódka Żołądkowa Gorzka, Chopin, Polmos Spirytus Lubelski and the foreign vodkas, Bols, Maximus and Norska. Quite a list, I know. Research was tough.
A word on my research. Like most folks, I simply went to the store and picked a bottle. All of the vodkas below were sampled straight before being sampled in other mixtures and I mention the mixtures that stood out the most. For me vodka is best served chilled, but some can be served at room temperature and not lose any quality. Finally, I think the smoother vodkas are best served straight while the harsher vodkas might find a better home in mixed drinks.
First vodka I tried. It says “Polish luxury” on the bottle. How can you go wrong? Well, you can do better even within its price range ($8-$12) for the standard 750 ml. Although this vodka tastes like a typical vodka (more gross than a burn in the throat), it also makes you wonder why you are drinking it in the first place… and that you should stop while you’re ahead. (The website isn’t working, but you can read what’s in the vodka.) No mind, if you’re on a budget (as many backpackers and students are), then this vodka is for you. If you have a larger budget, try something different.
Lemon-flavoured vodka. This brand makes a few different types of flavoured vodka. Brings to mind Aboslute’s attempt at making flavoured vodkas. Not my type of vodka. I would rather mix with real fruit juice, etc.
Two kinds, Biała and regular. Perfect for gifts both in Poland and abroad, I actually bought several bottles for my family only to have them disappear by morning. This vodka burns a little going down it has the most distinct taste. The clear, Biała, tastes like a regular vodka while its bison grass counterpart is more unique, in a good way. Żubrówka is made double distinct by the bison on the front image and the strand of bison grass inside the bottle. I tried to convince one Spanish guy to eat the grass, but he didn’t go for it. (I’ve never tried it either.) One club served this vodka with apple juice and cinnamon. No harm done, but to get the full flavour of the bison grass try it straight up.
This one was reminiscent of lao-lao, the truly intoxicating 50% rye/vodka from Laos, except I enjoyed lao-lao more. Though the website boasts that this vodka goes down smooth and delicate, I found this one burns real hard. There is also the “premium” Sobieski Estate which I’m not sure if I tried. In any event, Pure was okay, but not the best.
Reeeeal fuckin smooth. So smooth that you could probably drink this one in a beer (a so-called U-boat in Poland), though I never tried it. This one will disappear quickly in a crowd. Most folks prefer their vodka damn near frozen, but this one vodka can be sipped at room temperature and still go down real nice like. Not only that, I found one place in Krakow, called Starka, that made their own flavoured vodkas using clear Wyborowa and natural fruits. Interesting. I tried the cranberry, very good. I highly recommend this vodka.
Made by the same folks who bring you Sobieski (which apparently was recently taken over by the French Belvedere beverage company). For this one, my enjoyment depended on how I drank it. The Poles I was drinking with thought the clear vodka was a good bottle, but I wasn’t impressed. However! The fine folks at Krupnik came up with a very intoxicating idea: mixing in honey to make a “vodka-based honey liquer”… Sure. In any event, kurwa! That’s a tasty mixture! Though it’s extremely sweet (and I’m not sure I’d want any more than a few shots), it’s very good. Probably the best mix I tried was a slice of lemon, orange, some cloves, hot water poured over top, and then a shot of the honey liquer over top. Amazing. Well worth the price of admission folks.
Somehow this bottle disappeared shortly after purchase but I think that was a product of the circumstances, and not the vodka itself. I do remember it being a night that I didn’t want to go out but the Brazilian Ju Jitsu guy who lost his fight and had one night left in Poland wanted to go out. So, we buy vodka. We drink vodka. Whoa. In any event, the vodka had a slight burn and tasted alright. Apparently Stock also makes the popular and hard-to-pronounce Wódka Żołądkowa Gorzka.
Wódka Żołądkowa Gorzka
When Poles say the name, to foreigners it sounds like, vozhawdkagor-zska. Yea, make sense of that. There are a few kinds of this vodka, I tried the clear orange, and honey types. The clear vodka burned too much for me, the orange kind tasted like Jagermeister, and the honey vodka was dangerously tasty. The clear vodka didn’t stand out and I think the orange type (which tastes like Jager) is an acquired taste. As for the honey vodka, I only tried a few shots and that was enough for me, taste-wise. I’ve heard of some folks mixing this, or chasing it, with Sprite.
There are a few types of this vodka, I tried the one in the red bottle, which I believe is the rye vodka. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the pianist’s offering. I had never tried this vodka before I presented it as a gift to my homestay folks in Bydgoszcz. This vodka had such a burn that it in no way made me like it and actually made me regret giving it as a gift. Possibly this vodka, like whiskey, needs to be sipped and not done in “one-shot.” That being said, the burn is the “common pain” in which all guests may partake.
Oh fuck. 95% folks. This shit kicks reeeal hard. A few weeks ago, before I tried this vodka, I was told that Spirytus is used as a cleaning detergent. Yea, it can be. Apparently it’s banned in much of North America. So, while in Rzeszow (zhe-zhov), Poland, I jokingly waved the small bottle I bought in front of some Polish guys and, well, it disappeared… so did the night. We diluted the vodka with water, probably 60/40. This is also how I found out that it is highly flammable. We poured the Spirytus into one pot and water in another. He took out his lighter and, placing the bottle close to the water, lit it. Poof! Into the bottle went the water. I would like to try it again but I was told of a special way of preparing it. Mix together some lemon and sugar and let that sit for a few days in the fridge. After, add water and Spirytus and boil the bottle so it seals properly. Let that sit for a month or so in the freezer (I think?). Finally, drink. I’ve yet to make the effort. When I do, I’ll let you know how it is.
Now, the foreign entries.
Though the original company, Lucas Bols, is Dutch, Bols vodka itself is made by another group called the Central European Distribution Center (which apparently also owns Żubrówka and Sobieski Pure). This vodka was actually recommended to me by Mr. Montreal during the 62-Hour Bus Trip and My Polka With A Fighter. And this was the one stolen while I was making movies about snow falling in Warsaw, Poland. I tried it again and couldn’t help but think that it wasn’t anything special. Other than that, I have some pretty pictures of falling snow.
From Finland, goes down real smooth, no chaser. Like Wyborowa, this is a good one to drink on your own simply because you won’t wince after taking a shot, so people will think you’re drinking water. That is, until you try to stand up to go to the pisspot and fall over. Could also be transferred into plastic bottles for consumption at sporting events or train rides.
(Couldn’t find the website.) From the land of death metal and church burnings, this Norwegian vodka offers more of a burn than its Finnish neighbour, Maximus. This is a good one to take around the hostel and pass out shots. A slight burn will give you that needed “sympathy pain” but won’t leave you with the feeling of “WTF did I just do that? Meh, at least it was a free shot.” Take the conversation wherever you need or want.
For now, I will be taking a much needed break from my research.