Oooh, Zubrówka

by Suw on December 4, 2004

I happened to pop into a newsagents on my way home today which I don't normally go into. There, sitting on the shelf behind the counter was a range of vodkas wider than one usually sees. They had Wyborowa, but more importantly, they had Żubrówka.
I first tasted Żubrówka nearly two years ago at my friend Mike's 40th birthday party. Our mutal friend Heidi had brought some over with her from Poland, and I was immediately smitten. What makes it special is that it's infused with bison grass, an 'aromatic grass which grows wild in the eastern part of Poland'. This gives it an unusual aroma and taste. I'd say 'herby' but that doesn't accurately describe it. It really is more grassy than herby, a bit like newly mown hay, yet also nothing like it. It's a really smooth vodka, with a nice burn going down and a lovely aftertaste.
I've been a vodka lover for a while now, although circumstances have meant that I've not been in the position to really develop my knowledge of vodkas as much as I would like. Maybe now I'm in London I should invest a wee bit more time and effort.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous December 4, 2004 at 2:11 am

Call me uncultured…but all I can taste in vodka is alcohol…

Anonymous December 4, 2004 at 9:47 am

That's what you get for drinking cheap shit. ;-)

Anonymous December 4, 2004 at 10:07 am

Lloyd, who couldn't be arsed to log in says: Suw, you could do worse than spend a Sunday afternoon at Baltic. A short crawl over the road from Southwark tube (though actually crawling across the road, full of vodka and blinis certainly isn't recommended) I only know it cos a friend of mine has his birthday drinks there every year on a Sunday (honest!) and it's lovely for non-drinkers and vodkaholics alike. For you the big plus will be the highly knowledgeable and friendly bar staff who, I would expect, will gladly indulge your legendary obsessive need for vodka-related facts.

Anonymous December 4, 2004 at 3:34 pm

In the early 90s, I had to entertain a Russian guest for a month. Very nice fellow from Caucasus ? a real Caucasian, eh? ? from a place called Mineral Waters ? Mineralnye Vody, I think. That guy came with two suitcases. One of which contained only vodka. Small (quarter-litre I'd say) bottles. Enough for a month supply, at 2 bottles an evening. It was actually the best I ever tasted, and I do boast some mileage ? if not knowledge ? there… Can't remember the name, though…

Anonymous December 5, 2004 at 4:05 am

My boss at my last job was Polish. My father-in-law is a vodka drinker. When we were planning our wedding, I asked my then-boss what was the best vodka in the world so that my father-in-law would have something wonderful to drink (we got married in a dry town and so had to supply our own booze for the reception, which actually worked out very well). He replied, Żubr?wka. Unfortunately, we can't get the genuine article here in the U.S. Something about one element of the bison grass being poisonous or something like that. I look forward to trying it on some future trip to Europe.

Anonymous December 5, 2004 at 11:33 am

I have been recommended the Potemkin and a bar called Na Razie (iirc) too, so I shall have to get round to all three sometime soon. Maybe i could hold a mini blogger meet at Baltic? There's an idea… :)

Anonymous December 5, 2004 at 11:48 am

Well, it's not that it's poisonous per se just that it has coumarin in it, which is an anticoagulant. In the US, the levels of coumarin found in ?ubr?wka are deemed too high, so genuine ?ubr?wka is illegal. I believe there are some brands that have had the coumarin removed, but I suspect that they don't taste as nice. From http://www.polishvodka.com.pl/fr_zubrowka.htm:
“Bison grass contains coumarin, a glycoside with a distinctive fragrance, once generally used to flavor tobacco, cakes and beverages. Today, because coumarin has been found to have anticoagulant properties, it is allowed only in tiny amounts which the Polish health authorities deem harmless. ?ubr?wka contains only about a dozen milligrams of coumarin per liter, derived from an infusion of one or two kilos of bison grass per thousand liters of vodka.”

Anonymous December 5, 2004 at 3:47 pm

Well it does mix well with orange and coke (but not both at the same time)

Anonymous March 1, 2005 at 7:38 pm

Hi Suw, I met with Allan yesterday and he suggested we should all meet for drinks at Potemkin.
Over the weekend I tasted a vodka called Rain but it doesn't knock my favourite Ciroc off the top spot.
Lars

Anonymous November 12, 2005 at 12:25 pm

mang, that's a lot of hoops to go through to post here…
Anyway, just to say, I tried Na Zdrowie yesterday. WOW, a menu of 40 or so vodkas. I've got to try that Zubrowka Bison properly one day – I had it as part of a cocktail, so couldn't really appreciate its true taste. And now, I'm trying to find where I can buy my own bottles… Do you have any recommendations of top quality vodkas and where I can buy them?

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