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ZUBROWKA BISON GRASS VODKA--really hard to find.

  • h

I read W. Somerset Maugham's novel THE RAZOR'S EDGE in college. The heroine falls from grace after consuming a bottle of Zubrovka and well it intrigued me so I went hunting. I was living in NYC so I tried Sheep’s Head Bay in Brooklyn. No luck.
Then I moved to L.A. and tried Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood. No luck.
Than out of the blue about three years ago, I found a bottle in Los Feliz, Hollywood, a package store just behind Birds. The owner said the import was hindered for decades by the fact that the bison grass ingredient was not approved for health reasons. Each bottle contains a large blade of bison grass which gives the vodka a greenish tint.
Then, poof, they, we banned Zubrovka again.
Vacationing in French Polynesia, 2 summers ago I found and bought several bottles. Now I’m running out.
Anyone know what’s going on?

Zubrovka is pretty good stuff, kind of tastes of pepper and vanilla. The bottles I have left are from Poland, but I thought it was a Russian drink. Let me know. Thanks in advance.

Hershey

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  1. Available at every duty free shop in france and italy at the very least. I used to stock up myself. The u.s. agriculture dept was the culprit that kept it away from these shores but it's around in nyc here and there. I imagine it will get more pervasive. In the meantime, go to paris for a long wknd and pack light on the way there....!

    7 Replies
    1. re: djk
      t
      Tamio Spiegel

      Zubrowka is from Poland, Bialystok, actually, in the west where, literally, the buffalo roamed. I enjoyed it in Poland, and brought some back. I found a "Zubrowka" at the discount liquore store on Bwy between Astor and Bleecker for $17.99. This is the same that the website links all refer to. However, can ANYONE confirm that this is the same as what is sold in Poland? It doesn't mention the region and the label mentions coloring and flavoring added. Also, the website makes a big deal out of the US import being 82 proof whereas the Polish bottle is 80 proof.

      Finally, there is a Chinese independent film called "Suzhou River" in which the genuime Polish Zubrowka plays a big part.

      1. re: Tamio Spiegel
        j
        Jan Luszczek

        This is an old thread that I just stumbled upon and felt it was appropriate to respond to.

        The officially USA imported "Zubrowka" is coumarin free. The problem is- coumarin is what gives the original its unique scent- and the reason Zubrowka got banned in the first place. The stuff one can get in the USA is all artificially flavored and nothing like the real thing- tastewise. It kind of looks like it- with the blade of grass and yellowish color, but I find it rather nasty tasting. So, anyone who has never had the original and who buys the imported stuff is likely to just shrug their shoulders after a taste and say "what's the big deal about it?" and never try it again. That's really a tragedy, because the real stuff one can buy in Poland and in Europe is very, very special.

        I'm making my own right now, from hierochloe odorata grown in my backyard. I don't have the process down 100% yet (it's a trade secret in Poland), but even then the home made stuff has the real flavor and beats the artificially flavored stuff hands down.
        I will probably start a blog about making Zubrowka that people will be able to contribute to. My goal is to come at least 90% to the real stuff with some help from the web community.
        BTW, last time I visited Poland, I picked up some 1-liter bottles of real Zubrowka on the plane back for $5.00/piece. What a deal. Others were buying Jim Beam and Johnie Walker and thought they are making out. LOL. Not!

        1. re: Jan Luszczek

          I have 5, 7 x 24 x 7" deep plastic trays of hierochloe odorata growing in my mini greenhouse in MI, started from 6 plugs bought 2 years ago.

          Tincture is made by harvesting about 50 gram of the fresh grass, and making a fist size ball of it to go into a 1 quart mason jar. This is then suffused with Arrow 80 proof vodka to drown the grass, and sealed for 2-3 days (or longer) at room temperature.

          Arrow vodka is charcoal filtered to eliminate the undesirables that cause headache.

          Strained through a regular home flour sieve inside a funnel and into a clear bottle, while I start another batch.

          The resulting tincture has a ripe wheat straw color. -Too strong, unless sparingly used in a cocktail of my choice.

          For "Na zdrowie" schnapps, I dilute it with the same vodka, in ~10 to one ratio to match the greenish/yellow tint of Polish Zubrovka I keep for that purpose.

          People rave about it, even with comparison to the original.

          The grass grows rapidly enough to keep a steady supply going year round even though the grass is seasonal and dies off a little in the winter, since the greenhouse is not tropical.

          Hierochloe odorata is a wet terrain grass and must be kept watered diligently.

          Oxalis is a bit of a problem, and must be hand-weeded one sucker at the time.

          <I'm making my own right now, from hierochloe odorata grown in my backyard. I don't have the process down 100% yet (it's a trade secret in Poland), but even then the home made stuff has the real flavor and beats the artificially flavored stuff hands down.
          I will probably start a blog about making Zubrowka that people will be able to contribute to. My goal is to come at least 90% to the real stuff with some help from the web community.-Tamio Spiegel>

          1. re: tuora

            I'm intrigued! Am I clear in reading that you add 10 parts vodka to one part of your tincture? I am going to order some sweetgrass to try this. I love infusing vodka.

            1. re: Vetter

              <I'm intrigued! Am I clear in reading that you add 10 parts vodka to one part of your tincture? I am going to order some sweetgrass to try this. I love infusing vodka.-Vetter>
              Original zubrovka proportions are 1 to 2 kG of fresh grass and 1000 liters of 80 proof charcoal filtered vodka.
              I take 50 grams of fresh grass and 750 cc (.8 quart) of arrow vodka in a Mason jar to infuse for 3 or more days. That produces a tea color tincture of 6.66% concentration.
              The original recipe call for .1% to .2% concentration, so about 10-fold dilution with 80 proof vodka is what I do.
              As a schnaps, at room temperature, it tastes much better than the Polish original
              I match the color of the final dilution to what's left in my original Polish Zubrowka. It has a very pale greenish straw tint to it.
              Higher concentrations have bitter unpleasant taste.
              You can buy 3” plugs of Bison grass from several places on the West Coat during the warm period. It is shipped via USPS Priority.

              1. re: tuora

                Neat, thanks! I'll give that a go.

          2. re: Jan Luszczek

            Just came back from Poland few days ago and 'been able to compare.

            What you and I are making is the real thing indeed. I can tell the difference. Too much of commercial politics entered the picture to trust.

            <I'm making my own right now, from hierochloe odorata grown in my backyard. I don't have the process down 100% yet (it's a trade secret in Poland), but even then the home made stuff has the real flavor and beats the artificially flavored stuff hands down. -Jan Luszczek>

      2. The bottle I have, which is OLD, says that it is a product of Czechoslovakia. The vodka was made there, bottled there, the label was printed there. It also has a tax stamp label on top that says it is imported by Imported Brands of NYC. Your best bet in the U.S. would probably be to go digging around the city.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Steve

          A piece of seriously meant advice: contact the guys at the Polish Tourist Office in Hoboken. I know for a fact there is an importer of the stuff in the US, and the PNTO guys always give out those gift bottles at their parties (which are great). It's the "bison grass" brand below; I've had it, it's good. Mixed with apple juice it's a sweet, tasty drink called "sarlotka"... deceptively "soft" tasting.

          Call them at (201)420-9910 and ask them if they know where it's sold. And get some travel brochures for Poland while you're at it...

          The real Zubrowka is Polish, not Czech or "Czechoslovak" like the poster below mentioned; the grass that gives it the wonderful flavor grows in the eastern part of Poland where the "zubr", or European bison, graze. (I think there was a dispute recently between Poland and Belarus over zubrowka - the grass grows in Belarus too, apparently, and they wanted to sell the infused vodka too; not sure of the outcome.)

          Anyway, I'm certain you CAN get it in the US. There's even an online shopping option at the site below.

          Link: http://www.zubrowka.net

        2. I believe you can find it at Central Liquors (917 F Street NW) in Washington, DC. The owner has a huge selection of many things (mostly single-malt scotches and wines), as well as some harder to find stuff. We found our one and only bottle of Luxardo maraschino there.

          Cheers,
          Xochitl10

          1. b
            brooklynmonkey

            Astor Wine, at Astor Place and Lafayette in New York, sells it. I think it was priced at $22/bottle and I seem to recall they had more than one variety. It's been popping up around NYC lately. I've also seen it for sale recently at duty free at CDG for about half that price. Actually, the first place I ever saw it for sale was at the duty free shop at the airport in Accra this past January, where it sold for $8. We had recently finished a heavily rationed bottle that had been a gift from a Polish friend. We thought we'd never be able to replace it. Imagine my surprise when I found it for $8 in Ghana. Anyway, I've definitely seen it in a few places around NYC - maybe Union Square Wines, too?

            1 Reply
            1. re: brooklynmonkey

              all the polish liquor stores in greenpoint sell it

            2. Check their site (see below).

              Link: http://www.zubrowka.net/

              1. gday mate, my name´s nick, an aussie guy who has a bar in mallora, andmy heart goes out to you about the zubrowka.
                just briefly, it´s from poland, distilled by polmos which is the polish state liquor controller.
                the grass is from the bialovieckza national park in eastern poland, and the vodka is called zubrowka because the buffalo that live in that area are called in polish ´zubrowka´
                you can definitely buy it over the ´net, and a friend of mine was in new york recently and picked up a bottle at regular bottle shop, so i dunno
                anyways bro.. good hunting!

                1. I was going to give you a botanical overview but instead I will just point out few places where you can find it. Any POLISH DELI!!! Chicago - Archer Ave./Pulaski., near Midway Airport; Las Vegas - Sahara Ave (east of I-15). And that should do... but if you are a curious creature you will find out that Zubrowka (I mean - grass) has a latin name Hierochloe odorata known to local folks here in the US as Sweet grass! Your Zubrowka is growing all over the place, you just have to learn how to make a tincture out of it. The reason it has been banned here is that it contains chemical compound which is stated as toxic (you know like Mescal, Peyote, etc). Hope it helps.

                  1. If I recall correctly, and I think I do in that I recently saw the movie "The Razor's Edge" Ellliot Templeton speaks of how those Polish princes could drink Zubrovka. The princes to whom he refered I think were the Radcziwells (sp). I believe Jackie Kennedy's sister, Lee, was married for a time to one of their family.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: bob3443

                      The Polish price family name is Radziwills, and indeed Kennedys are involved, Bob.

                    2. Really old thread, but this stuff is pretty widely available in DC now - if you don't see it on the shelf of your regular liquor store they should be able to order it for you.