Beer and Pavement

Session #59 – I Almost Always Drink Beer, But When I Don’t, I Drink Żubrówka

Posted in Beer, Life, Mikkeller, The Session by Zac on January 6, 2012

This month’s session almost threw me for a loop. Here’s the premise from session curator Mario Rubio of Brewed for Thought:

With the New Year looming and a month of Christmas and Holiday parties to enjoy there are plenty of opportunities to get into a different beverage besides beer, alcoholic or otherwise. It was with this in mind that I was reminded of a conversation I had one day with Jay Brooks. Looking for advice on how to squeeze some blood from this stone of beer blogging, Jay told me a lot of writers have to look outside of beer to help make a complete income. Upon bringing this up as a Session topic he even offered up a much better title than I would have thought up.

So as we are all incredibly interesting people, and almost always drink beer, let’s talk about what we drink when not drinking beer. Maybe your passion for coffee rivals that of craft beer, or it could be another alcoholic beverage such as scotch. My daughter being a root beer fan would appreciate her dad reviewing a few fizzy sodas. Maybe you have a drink that takes the edge off the beer, be it hair of the dog or a palate cleanser during the evening.

Beer cocktails, wines, ciders, meads, you name it as long as it’s not beer. Try to tie it in with craft beer in some way for extra credit. Be creative and I’ll see you guys in the new year.

Why would this throw me for a loop? Well, aside from my morning (and sometimes afternoon) coffee and water, I’ve cut out just about all other drinks. I feel that I can have a beer that will satisfy me better than any cocktail or glass of wine could ever do. So, why would I want to wast my liver and bladder on another drink?

Then, I considered the past holiday season. Every Christmas Eve, we have a Polish dinner. It’s tradition to toast each course with a shot of Polish vodka. We’ve always preferred Żubrówka or Bison Grass Vodka. However, the Eastern European market here in town was out. To add insult to injury, all the liquor stores in town don’t carry it. Our dinner guest supplied a nice Polish vodka, but it was absent the bison grass and just didn’t taste the same.

What exactly is Żubrówka and why is it so good?

Well, the Żubrówka one buys here in the States is different than what can be had in Poland. The original contains a blade of grass that grows from bison pastures. We’re all adults with a decent amount of education. So, I’ll let you figure out the connection from there. Anyway, said grass contains a carcinogen, making it extra “effective”. The US government looks down upon such ingredients. The American version shares the same green tint, herbal flavor, and even a blade of grass. However, there are no carcinogens. Still, my wife who’s had the Polish version, says it’s pretty close to the original. This means that a certain amount of herbal goodness, akin to an apple pie, exists in this green-tinted treat.

The spirit is an integral part of our family’s history. My wife’s family has a Polish background and she spent some time in Poland while her brother served in the Peace Corps there. Żubrówka was plentiful. Even the children were served their share, mixed with apple juice for a drink called a “szarlotka”. When we were married, we concluded the ceremony (and started the party) with a shot of Żubrówka for all. It’s tradition for our liquor cabinet to be stocked with the grassy booze, but our supply ran out and was left empty somehow.

After the Christmas Eve without our favorite accoutrement, we were determined to not let another holiday pass us by without some Bison Grass Vodka. Thankfully, Wine & Cheese Place in St. Louis (or in Clayton to be more specific) exists. I normally go there for beer, but this was a vodka emergency and a bottle of the green stuff was to be secured. W&C pulled through and we had vodka shots for New Year’s Eve!

Of course, I also consumed some Mikkeller Nelson Sauvin Brut (an awesome “New Year beer…fermented with ale yeast, brettanomyces and enzymes…aged three months in Austrian white wine casks”), Life & Limb 2 (Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada-collaborated imperial stout with distinctive notes of chocolate and maple syrup), and Schalfly Reserve Barley Wine-style Ale (a 2008 vintage where the only thing I could taste was oak and no malt after 3+ years in the bottle). So, I didn’t drink just vodka harvested from the grass of buffalo dung, but the vodka certainly helped to ring in the new year the right way even if leaving me a bit hungover.

Cheers to Mario for forcing me out of my comfort zone and to reflect on and appreciate what is a rather enjoyable spirit, Żubrówka.

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7 Responses

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  1. broadfordbrewer said, on January 6, 2012 at 7:56 am

    I have Polish friends over here in the UK and am always slightly jealous when they have their Christmas Eve meal and celebration while I eat a mice pie and maybe a glass of mulled wine…. shots of vodka should be part of every Christmas dinner, it’d certainly pep the conversation up a bit!

    I might buy them a bottle of Żubrówka for next year now I know it’s the done thing!

    • Zac said, on January 6, 2012 at 3:12 pm

      And maybe they’ll invite you over for dinner.

  2. beerbecue said, on January 6, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Thanks for adding a little diversity to The Session! From the others I’ve read thus far (mine included) the only variation seemed to be the difference between whiskey, whisky, and bourbon.

    I don’t usually fancy vodka (love martinis as long as it’s not a vodka one), but I would certainly give Żubrówka a try. I will have to remember to ask my Polish friends about it.

    • Zac said, on January 6, 2012 at 3:11 pm

      Do it! You won’t regret it!

      I do like a bit of whisky, whiskey, and bourbon now and again, even some scotch, but I wanted to bring a different flavor to the recipe. Or something.

  3. Phil said, on January 6, 2012 at 10:01 am

    I usually have a bottle of Żubrówka in the house it has a beautiful smooth taste.
    Although I didn’t mention it in my Session post(s) I do have a real passion for vodka plain and flavoured. One I recently discovered which doesn’t really fit either category is Sliwowica, it’s plum vodka that is made with fresh plums and aged, some refer to it as plum brandy, either way it’s delicious.

    • Zac said, on January 6, 2012 at 3:10 pm

      Honestly, I’m not really into vodka, but there’s something about Żubrówka. What’s most interesting about your comment is this: “I usually have a bottle of Żubrówka in the house…” Those are words rarely said or written, I suspect.

  4. Anniversaries « Beer and Pavement said, on July 10, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    [...] conversations, food, drink, and music to these moments in time. I still remember the shot of Żubrówka I downed at the conclusion of the ceremony as well as the one I had after the pictures were all [...]


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