Monday, September 10, 2012

Żubrówka (Polish Bison Grass Vodka) Should Be in Your Mixology Arsenal


These Six Żubrówka (zhuh-BROOV-kuh) Cocktail Recipes Should Be the Only Ones You’ll Ever Need.

Three Żubrówka cocktails (from left to right: Polish Martini, Szarlotka,
Buffalo Fizz).

Sense memory, or the concept that a particular sensory stimulus can trigger a memory that, in turn, affects one’s feelings or emotional state, plays an important role in our lives, especially a memory related to the olfactory system, or more commonly, the nose. Perhaps you encounter a waft of baking bread and are instantly transported to a dining table from a decade ago. A wave of contentment and joy courses through your body as you remember the moment you ripped apart that crusty hot loaf, the steam rising, that first bite. Perfection.

Or take for instance the other day. We decided for our anniversary to visit a museum we’d never been to before. So we headed to off to Columbus Circle to check out the Museum of Arts and Design, also known as MAD. A good amount of modern and contemporary Native North American art was on display, and as we walked into one of the galleries, a whiff of sweet hay emanating from one of the installations made us both look at each other, smile, and proclaim, “Żubrówka.”

If you haven’t yet tried Żubrówka (pronounced zhuh-BROOV-kuh), then you must try to find some immediately, which shouldn’t be too difficult these days. Available in the United States since 2007, this honey-hued Polish vodka, distilled from rye and flavored with bison grass (a distinct smelling and tasting grass that bison love to eat—there’s a blade of it in every bottle), boasts a one-of-a-kind almond–coconut–vanilla flavor that guarantees to make you want to dance the polka. You can almost hear strains of fleet-fingered accordion music in the far reaches of your brain. And once you bring a shot of Żubrówka to your lips, you’ll notice the slightly sweet, vegetal–caramel aroma. Take a sip and your suspicions are confirmed: This vodka is a delight. Any cocktail mixed with it will delight you even more.

A Polish Martini benefits from the traditional addition of Old Krupnik honey liqueur.

Poles enjoy drinking Żubrówka mixed with apple juice. Together, they create a crisp, fruity flavor that is hard to duplicate with any other liqueur. Called a Szarlotka (pronounced shar-LOAT-kuk, Polish for an apple pie–like charlotte), this sweet drink is made usually with double the amount of apple juice to bison grass vodka, and stirred in ice. Simple. (On a side note, you may have had this drink called by another moniker, Tatanka. In the Lakota Native American language, tatanka is a bison.)

Szarlotka
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
2 ounce Żubrówka (Polish bison grass vodka)
4 ounces apple juice

Method
Pour ingredients into an ice-filled double-rocks or highball glass. Stir until cold.

❤ ❤ ❤

Another of our favorite Żubrówka–apple juice drinks, mixed with Old Krupnik Polish spiced honey liqueur, is aptly called the Polish Martini. This too is a sweet drink, made sweeter by the honey liqueur. Adjust the ratios as you see fit for both drinks, but note that in their current recipes, they pair marvelously with salty and meaty foods, and also desserts.

Polish Martini
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
1 ounce Żubrówka vodka (Polish bison grass vodka)
1 ounce Old Krupnik honey liqueur
1 ounce apple juice

Method
Shake in an ice-filled shaker for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add thin apple slice if desired, as garnish. (You can serve it on the rocks if you so desire, if you’re in a relaxed sipping mood.)

❤ ❤ ❤

If you’re look for something light and effervescent, but still want the taste of apples, then look no further than a Buffalo Fizz. Sparkling cider does double duty, providing both the bubbles and the apple juice flavor.

Buffalo Fizz
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
1 to 1/2 ounces Żubrówka (Polish bison grass vodka)
Sparkling apple cider
ice

Method
Fill a highball glass with ice. Add the bison grass vodka. Give it a little stir. Top with sparkling cider.

❤ ❤ ❤

Żubrówka mixes well with other liqueurs besides Krupnik, and especially in the Silesian Cocktail. The floral notes in this concoction, named after the area that spans the Polish–Czech border, make for a smooth, slightly sweet, slightly caramel-flavored delight. As with the Z Martini, you can pair it with pigs in a blanket. Or pair it with some fried cabbage pierogi seasoned with paprika and dill and a dollop of sour cream on the side.


Silesian Cocktail
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
2 ounces Żubrówka (Polish bison grass vodka)
3/4 ounce Jeżynówka (blackberry-flavored brandy)
1/3 ounce Becherovka (Czech spice liqueur)
lemon peel, as garnish (optional)

Method
Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add lemon twist if desired.

❤ ❤ ❤


Our advice for Żubrówka cocktails is “the colder the better.” The Z Martini is no exception to this. It tastes best at its most gelid. Before you pour, allow the ice to dissolve a bit after your initial stir. Walk away for a minute, then come back and give it another concentrated stir. For the Z Pear Martini, give the shaker a good workout before straining. A few ice shards glimmering on the top of your cocktail will certainly add appeal on many sensory levels.

Z Martini
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
2 ounces Żubrówka (Polish bison grass vodka)
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce white vermouth

Method
Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Z Pear Martini
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
1 1/2 ounces Żubrówka vodka (Polish bison grass vodka)
3/4 ounce pear puree
1 ounce white vermouth
1/2 ounce dry vermouth

Method
Shake in an ice-filled shaker for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add thin spear-shaped pear slice, as garnish.

Pairing Suggestions
Pigs in a Blanket
Pierogi
Shortbread
Spice Cookies

Pigs in a Blanket pair perfectly with a Z Martini or a Z Pear Martini.

To check out our video pairing the Z Martini with Pigs in a Blanket, click here.

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

5 comments:

  1. Zubrowka is easy to make at home. Plant some Buffalo Grass (Hierochloe odorata or Anthoxanthum nitens, available on-line) in a sunny garden spot. In a matter of weeks or months it will flourish and some can be harvested. Get some decent polish Vodka. Put a few leaves of grass in the bottle and set aside for a few weeks/months. Voilla ... Zubrowka.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the suggestion. We have some bison grass and have made infusions using it along with other herbs and spices, but not alone. We will give it a try. Na zdrowie.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Aren't white vermouth and dry vermouth the same thing?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for your question. White vermouth, also known as bianco vermouth, is sweeter than dry vermouth. One cannot be substituted for the other. Try some white vermouth on the rocks with a lemon twist. You'll taste both sweet and savory herbs and spices

    ReplyDelete
  5. Zu is true sipping vodka. I don't understand all these sweet concoctions (I do love sweet). The best use of its flavor I've found is in strong coffee.

    ReplyDelete