Vodka, originally known as gorzalka, only became more commonplace on Polish territories around 16th century. Our ancestors used to be very eager to drink vodka, regardless of their social status. However, what has changed throughout centuries is the vessel used to consume it from. Find out how it has evolved over time.
Goblets and cups
At the beginning of vodka consumption in our territories, there were no glasses available – neither crystal nor glass. At first, there was a metal goblet used for vodka until end of the 18th century. Initially, gorzalka was used only for medicinal purposes. A little later came the tradition of drinking vodka in aristocratic and noble manor houses, where homemade distilleries were started. At the time, the rest of the society had to make do with a pint of beer at home or in a tavern; if a representative of the lower class or a poor nobleman managed to come into possession of gorzalka, they were likely to drink it from a wooden cup. Back in the day, a metal goblet, which now seems rather plain, was reserved for the wealthiest.
Glass comes to… the table
In the 18th century, a new type of glass was developed that resembles the one we drink vodka from nowadays. It had a stem and was a tiny piece of glass art. Apart from various shapes, a glass could have sophisticated ornaments, emblems or gilding. Of course, it was also used for other strong alcohols, such as sweet liqueurs and tinctures.
When the technology of vodka production became more widespread and once the liquor was available in taverns, yet another type of short-stem shot glass came into use, known as karczmiak (inn glass). It was made of thick glass to increase its resistance to breaking, which was happened in taverns more often than not. Special, angular karczmiaki were also manufactured, their edges preventing the glass from rolling down onto the floor. It is easy to imagine the scenes that must have occurred many a time during social gatherings, especially in taverns.
“Literatka” not only for literary women
Most vodka connoisseurs realise that literatka (a glass tumbler whose Polish name translates into “literary woman”) has nothing to do with literature or its representatives. The origin of this name is much more mundane and definitely not as romantic. The name ‘literatka’ most likely comes from Galicia and is a Polish variant on the German term ‘ein achtel Liter’, or ‘Literachtel’ in local dialect, used to describe a small glass of 125 ml. The Poles simplified the German name and thus literatka became commonly used in informal Polish language. It is worth noting that our native name for small 100-ml vodka glasses has always been stopka (footer).
Around the 19th century, another type of glass appeared in addition to literatka or stopka – this thin vodka glass without a stem is the type of vodka glass that achieved widespread popularity in our country. The stem was replaced by a thick layer of glass at its base, keeping liquids cool for a long while after they have been chilled. However, according to some experts, nothing can keep vodka cool as well as a stem could, especially during long toasts.
Therefore, it is not unjustified to claim that Poland provided considerable input into the art of the production of vodka as well as of vodka glassware.
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