Polish Vodka is internationally renowned for its excellent quality. The vast range available includes clear vodkas, generally distilled from rye, with flavored styles ranging from fruity to herbal and spicy. Beer is also enjoying a boom in popularity. The range and quality of Polish beer have improved dramatically in the past few years, and are now on a par with imported brands. Among soft drinks, Poland excels in fruit juices such as blackcurrant, raspberry and cherry, while several mineral water brands come from sources from Polish spa towns.
Vodka has long been established as Poland's national drink, and there are hundreds of brands of vodka on the market. Unlike neutral tasting "international" vodka, Polish vodka has a distinct character. It's best served chilled, and sipped to appreciate the depth of flavours. Vodkas are divided into clear and flavoured varieties. Among clear vodkas, the most famous is Wyborowa. It has a rye flavour and subtle sweetness, which is derived entirely from the distillation process, and not from the use of additives. Kosher vodkas are also produced, in accordance with kosher regulations. Deluxe vodka brands have emerged over the past decades, including Chopin, which features a portrait of the composer on the label. Belvedere is another such brand, which name comes from the famous palace in Warsaw.
Flavored vodkas are infusions of fruits, herbs and various other ingredients. One of the most original is Zubrowka, flavoured with a herb called bison grass. This grass, which grows only in the Bialowieza National Park in Eastern Poland, is a favorite foodstuff of the European bison, which are still to be found roaming there. Another unique Polish vodka is Goldwasser, which includes flakes of gold leaf, in accordance with the original 16th century recipe. It is usually drunk as a digestive, after a meal.
Vodka is rarely served without food. Before a meal, it comes together with a range of hors d'oeuvre (referred to as zakaski), such as salt herring fillets, pickled mushrooms, dill cucumbers, Polish sausage and rye bread. These salty, spicy flavors balance the vodka, while encouraging the next round.
Beer from Poland
Breweries were among the first businesses to take advantage of Poland's transformation into a free-market economy in 1989. The result has been a dramatic improvement in the quality of Polish beers, which are predominantly lagers. The choice of brands has also become much broader, with the establishment of various regional and "boutique" breweries. Among the most popular beer brands are Zywiec, Brok, Heweliusz, EB and Okocim. Polish beer now competes successfully in terms of quality with imported beers from Ireland, Germany, The Netherlands and Denmark.
Mead from Poland
One of Poland's most historic drinks, mead, is still prepared according to traditional recipes. Mead is created from fermented honey, diluted with water, and flavoured with spices and hops. Precise recipes are usually shrouded in secrecy though. The strength of mead usually ranges from 9-18 per cent alcohol by volume, with the strength and character of the mead determined by the ratio of honey to water. Different ratios have their own official terminology. Poltorak (meaning "two-thirds") indicates a ratio of two parts honey to one part water. This style of mead, the strongest and the sweetest, is also widely considered to be the finest quality.Dwojniak means equal parts honey and water, trojniak is one part honey to two parts water, while czworniak refers to one part honey to three parts water. A good brand to try is Hidden Legend, they offer a range of different meads.