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Piołunówka is a very bitter alcoholic infusion (Polish: "nalewka") made by macerating wormwood in alcohol. Its name comes from piołun, which means wormwood in Polish. It is becoming popular due to the recent absinthe revival but has been well known before absinthe. It differs from absinthe because it is macerated and rarely distilled (see the recipe below), whereas absinthe is additionally distilled. Piołunówka is not simply an amateur's version of absinthe but can be perceived as its predecessor. For centuries wormwood-based elixirs have been used as digestive aids and disease preventatives.
Piołunowka has much higher levels of thujone than absinthe because it is not distilled. Many people produce it today to try and feel the 'absinthe effect' because of its higher thujone levels although it is now known thujone plays little to no role in these purported effects.
Piołunówka is typically hard to find outside of Poland. While wormwood is available at many herb stores, it is not always of sufficient quality for making piołunówka.
The recipe dates back to the 17th century, as Piołunówka is the national Polish liqueur (mentioned already in Stanisław Falimierz' opus) and as such has been made in noble manors, if the recipes might have varied (the amount of wormwood, water, spirit and sugar). The last widely available piołunówka was distilled in Lwów by J.A.Baczewski distillery up to 1939. The modern version appeared with the same label released by Polmos in Stargard Gdański who discontinued the production in the 90's.
Cieślak, J. "Domowy wyrób win", Watra, Warszawa 1999, pgs (273-274)
Falimierz, S. "O paleniu wódek z ziół", Kraków 1534
Kurowski, J., N., "Wypalanie wódki", A. Brzezina i Komp., Warszawa 1829
Piątkowski, A. "Gorzelnik i piwowar doskonały", Groblowskiey Drukarnia, Kraków 1808