Bison Grass Vodka Is the Only Vodka Worth Drinking

Categories: Hooch

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Angus Fraser/Flickr
https://www.flickr.com/photos/angusf/
I might get hate mail for this one, but I'm just going to say it: Vodka is a waste of my time and a waste of your time. If I'm looking for flavor from a spirit, I'll look to gin for crisp botanical notes or mezcal for roasted, smoky notes.

I don't look to vodka for anything unless I'm making something like jungle juice, and that stopped happening after college. I especially don't look to whipped cream or salted caramel vodka for flavor. Maybe that's snobby, but I don't care. Vodka is never right. I was happily proved wrong about all this, though, when I first tried Żubrówka.

See also: Mixology 101 at Jade Bar: Bartending Basics With a Double Shot of History

As far as I'm concerned, vodka is a catch-all term for the usually flavorless base of all other spirits. Before whiskey gets oaky and gin gets all herbaceous, it's just some boring grain alcohol -- a vodka, if you will. Any cocktail you put vodka in could be made more interesting with another spirit, and artificially flavored vodkas have sullied the name of the spirit for most.

But that all changes after a sip of bison grass vodka.

I was up late one night raiding a friend's liquor cabinet when I came across bison grass vodka. He urged me to try the faintly green spirit, letting me know he agrees with my feelings on vodka. I'll try pretty much anything, so I took a sip and -- boom -- flavor. Legit, herbal, sweet, natural flavors.

Bison grass vodka or Żubrówka (pronounced ju-broof-ka) carries a definite grassy, floral flavor that's enhanced with pronounced sweet vanilla and light nutty flavors as well. Technically a bison grass-flavored rye distillate, Żubrówka is common in Poland but was banned in the United States until about three years ago.

The reason for the bison grass ban is because the spirit contained a blood thinner called coumarin, which occurs naturally in items like strawberries and cherries. It wasn't until a few years ago that Żubrówka makers found a way to distill coumarin-free bison grass vodka, much like absinthe producers in the United States were forced to cut the thujone out before it came to America.

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rockerboo/Flickr
Hint to local booze makers: You can grow sweet grass in Arizona.
With a trademark blade of bison grass floating in each bottle and the coumarin removed, you can now buy Żu's Żubrówka in most local liquor stores for between $25 and $30 per bottle. However, sweet, wispy prarie grasses like bison grass can totally grow in Arizona, so maybe someday we'll get our own locally made bison grass vodka.

Arizona Distilling Co., I'm looking at you.

Though Żubrówka purists say the coumarin-free version tastes slightly lighter, I'm certainly not complaining. I've finally found a vodka I'm willing to spend some time getting to know.

Traditionally, it's served with apple juice in Poland, but I could see mixing it with ginger beer or in a lightly sweet martini. Versatile like a vodka, its herbal qualities make it a candidate for gin cocktails, and its sweet vanilla notes could even make it a substitute for whiskey or rum. As in most instances at your home bar, just start experimenting with what you have on hand and what flavors you typically like and go from there.

(All that said, it's possible that I could be missing the point of vodka entirely, and if someone wants to dissuade me of my notions over a tasting, I'll take them up on the offer. I've been wrong before.)

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9 comments
jackiewicz
jackiewicz

I think you should really look into other vodka's in eastern europe.


I like Lithuanian Piqwowka, which is made from quince fruit. There are herbal ones called Zolodkowa. There are several honey vodka's, (Poland is high ranking in honey production) like Krupnik or Miodowka. There's a high percentage vodka made with plum essence called Sliwowica.


Some classic favorites are Citronowka (Lemon) and Wisnowka (Cherry vodka). 

Callan House
Callan House

This hipster has no idea what vodka is...

scottsdalebubbe
scottsdalebubbe

I totally agree with you about vodka.  Hopefully the bison poop has also been removed from the bison grass prior to infusion.  Don't get me started on how most "martinis" these days are just about as interesting as spiked Hawaiian Punch.  The ONLY true Martini is gin with a whisper of light Vermouth served cold, clear and "dirty". Everything else is a children's party drink.

Jimmy Green
Jimmy Green

I wouldn't trust the opinion of anybody who thinks that "jungle juice" is made with vodka. What a chump.

Ester Fox
Ester Fox

Remember when vodka tasted like vodka or is it just me?

Makesha Fettig
Makesha Fettig

If anyone is interested in trying this, Beaver Choice Scandinavian restaurant in mesa sells it both as a shot and as a drink with apple juice (tatanka) it's a very smooth and delicious vodka.

Dustin Mitchell
Dustin Mitchell

Man.. I've loved reading new times for years, but it seems like my facebook feed is now just getting flooded with some guy or girls opinion about what sucks and how what they think or feel is newsworthy

Mike Woodling
Mike Woodling

You're just now discovering this? Where did you spend the last decade??

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