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Zubrowka vodka 01.jpg
Type Flavored Vodka
Manufacturer Polmos Białystok
Country of origin Białystok, Poland
Introduced 16th century
Alcohol by volume 40%
Proof 80
Variants Żubrówka
Żubrówka Biała
Żubrówka Palona
Related products List of vodkas

Żubrówka [ʐuˈbrufka], also known in English as Bison Grass Vodka, is a dry, herb-flavored vodka that is distilled from rye and bottled at 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof). Its flavor is unique and is described as having woodruff, vanilla, coconut, and almond notes.

The rye distillate is flavored with a tincture of bison grass (Hierochloe odorata), which also gives the spirit its yellowish color. This grass grows in the Białowieża Forest and elsewhere. A blade of bison grass is traditionally placed in each bottle of Żubrówka, though this is largely decorative.


The name Żubrówka comes from żubr (pronounced zhubr), the Polish word for the European bison, which is particularly fond of eating bison grass. The word żubr also appears in similar forms with an identical meaning in numerous other Slavic languages: Belarusian—as well as Russian and Ukrainian—зубр (zubr), Bulgarian зубър (zubŭr), Czech zubr, Slovak zubor and Slovenian zober. Although in Poland the word Żubrówka is now commonly associated with the type of vodka, in Polish the same word is used to describe bison grass—which is primarily what the vodka is named after.


According to the label on the bottle, Polish nobility “seasoned” vodka with bison grass as early as the 14th century; this was likely a precursor to Żubrówka. Żubrówka has been manufactured in the region of the contemporary Polish-Belarusian (Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) border since the 16th century, and by 18th century was one of the favorite raw drinks of nobility (szlachta) and peasantry alike.

In 1926 the Polmos company in Brześć nad Bugiem (now Belalco company, Brest, Belarus) invented a method to mass-produce Żubrówka, which was then copied by numerous companies worldwide, under a variety of brand names. The original distillery company in Brest (Belaco) still produces Brestskaya Zubrowka (Зуброўка), as do Lithuania (Stumbrinė), United States (Bison Vodka), Ukraine (Зубрiвка), Germany (Grasovka and Blauer Bison), Russia (Зубровка), the Czech Republic (Zubrovka), and many other countries. However, versions of the beverage produced outside of the Polmos Białystok distillery in Poland are often considered "low-quality knockoffs" in comparison to the original brand.[1]

Currently the brands "Zubrovka" and "Żubrówka" are registered by Sojuzplodoimport/Russia and the Polmos Białystok company in Białystok, Poland.

Popular culture[edit]

Żubrówka in North America[edit]

Bottle of export Żubrówka

The tincture of bison grass found in Żubrówka is prohibited as a food additive by the Food and Drug Administration because it contains coumarin, which showed hepatotoxic effects in rats and has a blood thinning effect.[2] Importation of Żubrówka was banned in 1978 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Canada has no similar regulations on coumarin, so the alcoholic drink is legal there.

When produced according to traditional methods (between one and two kilograms of grass per thousand litres of alcohol), Żubrówka contains approximately 12 milligrams of coumarin per litre. In 1999, distilleries that were not connected with the Polish brand introduced lower quality reformulated versions of the product,[1] sometimes using artificial flavors and colors, with the emblematic blade of grass in every bottle but "neutralised" so as to be coumarin-free. In 2011 the American licensee of the Polish company worked with Rémy Cointreau to introduce a new American formulation, which they called "Żu".[1]

In addition to the Coumarin problem, American authorities determined that the trademark on Żubrówka brand was diluted and unenforceable, as it was a generic name, like "Aspirin".[1]

Serving suggestions[edit]

Żubrówka is usually served chilled and mixed with apple juice[3] (a drink known in Polish as tatanka or szarlotka; known in the UK as a Frisky Bison;[4] and in the US as a Polish Kiss). It is sometimes served over vanilla ice cream. A Black Bison is Żubrówka mixed with black currant juice. Another common mixer is ginger ale. Żubrówka also goes well with mango juice.


  1. ^ a b c d Michaels, Daniel (2011-01-18). "Name Your Poison: How a Banned Polish Vodka Buffaloed Its Way Into the U.S.". Wall Street Journal. 
  2. ^ Fabricant, Florence (2010-11-30). "Polish Vodka Arrives with a Wisp of Grass". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  3. ^ Gim, Sarah (2006-07-18). "Zubrowka is bison grass vodka". Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  4. ^ Cocktail:UK - Frisky Bison Cocktail

External links[edit]