A Personal Guide
to Polish Vodkas
By FILIP DROZDZ | November 25, 2019
Cover photo from “rp.pl”
So here is a thing. I am a flesh-and-blood, full-fledged Polish man and I take pride in the heritage of my country. Maybe not such excessively large amounts as some of my compatriots, merely because I don’t enjoy going out on the streets to demolish public properties in the name of letting everybody know just how much I love my homeland.
Pride is pride and I’m Polish. Not a Dutch. Even though I’ve been mistaken for one way too many times now for me to still be comfortable about it. I’ve got to admit that I can see why so many people tend to assume that I am not of the Polish descendants. I am not your typical Polish guy and my personality doesn’t really adhere to the profile of an archetypical “Kowalski”. For instance, I will probably never fall head over heels with wódka. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am Polish and I don’t like vodka, such a specimen actually exists! Frankly speaking, I prefer beer over vodka big time and I think that a pinch of a German blood running through my veins might be responsible for that. Even so, I prepared this guide to Polish vodkas anyways, because there is nothing funnier than one playing along with the amusing stereotype regarding their nation… right?
The name of this vodka loosely translates to a “gastric bitter”, perfectly discloses what it is up to. Once you pour it into a “pięćdziesiątka”, the Polish word for a 50ml glass (it is worth noting that Polish people will lose all respect towards you if you ask for a smaller glass; also, try to pronounce “pięćdziesiątka” correctly after downing 3 of them in a row), it instantly besieges your nostrils with the pungent smell, odor as sharp as stalks of a stubble left after collecting all the crops necessary for the production of its source.
You are barely given enough time to get used to this onslaught of stimulus before glasses are raised; it is high time to let this bitter fluid descend into your digestive system. Again, all according to the subtle suggestion expressed in this vodka’s name. Żołądkowa Gorzka might not be the most delectable booze out there but it is certainly value for money – if your idea of a value is getting wasted economically and surely – you can get 500ml bottle for around 20 zlotys which is approximately 5 euros. From my experience, though, the hangovers after Żołądkowa tend to be cripplingly unbearable, so consider yourself warned.
The name Krupnik doesn’t mean anything gross but arguably something on the contrary; twinning with a Polish national soup, best known for its hangover-soothing properties.
Nothing feels as good as having some krupnik after too much of Krupnik.
However, you will need a proper Polish grandma to prepare it just right so if you don’t have one you should go out there and get some. Krupnik is one of the most popular Polish brands of vodka in the world so chances are that you have already heard of it. But it doesn’t really count if you have never tried it, does it?
In taste Krupnik is a bit softer than Żołądkowa and its smell won’t knock you off your feet instantly but under no circumstances should you let your guard down. It might not be as lethal as Żołądkowa, but it’s still vodka at the end of the day. Anyone who handles it recklessly is bound to pay the price for that. Yet, even if you were unfortunate enough to be met with such a terrible fate, don’t lose your composure and remember what I said before: you shall fight krupnik with Krupnik.
Sticking to the theme of starting off each paragraph with the meaning behind each Vodka’s name, Żubrówka derives from the Polish word for auroch – “żubr”. Żubr is considered as the king of Polish fauna and it might very well be the same for Polish vodkas (fun fact: there is also a brand of beer called straight-up Żubr but it is far from being the best Polish beer).
It is impossible to find a single indigenous Polish person who isn’t familiar with this iconic brand. Its taste tells a story of the erstwhile vast, verdant woodlands spreading throughout medieval Poland and its diverse, vigorous dwellers. Drinking it is just a very pleasant overall experience and I strongly recommend it to anyone who is eager to become reconciled with nature but would prefer to do so while staying cozy indoors.
There you have it. Three brands of Polish vodka described exhaustingly and in detail by your truly, a genuine ‘Pole’. So don’t waste any more time, do yourself a favor and get one of those vodkas from your local Gall & Gall.
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