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).

The shot glass as we know it

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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Many of us have grown attached to traditional Polish dishes, which generally go well together with the most popular beverages across the country, including vodka. However, we are increasingly opening up to new culinary experiences, an looking for inspirations and knowledge about the art of pairing vodka with food. Here is a bunch of ideas to help you rediscover well-known dishes that taste amazing if accompanied by a glass of Polish Vodka.

Wash that fish down with some vodka!

In oil, in sour cream, Kashubian-style… herring in all shapes and sizes is an obvious accompaniment to vodka, especially Polish Vodka. If you want to add variety to this traditional starter, you can put the herring on a slice of savoury pumpernickel bread or, subtler in flavour, rye bread, preferably sourdough-based. Such a composition tastes best served with onion marmalade, beets or a herb such as dill or chives. You can try adding a little bit of horseradish and cranberries to spruce up the foolproof recipe for herring in oil with onion.

Vodka made of potatoes has the most delicate flavour of all Polish Vodkas. This is why it will be perfect with light, fish-based starters, as it will bring out their flavour without overpowering them with an intense aroma.

Polish Vodka and a number of smoked fish also make an ideal match – from mackerel and salmon to the more sophisticated eel. We encourage you to experiment with the way you plate them – why not put them on a slice of roasted potato or bread? You should not be afraid of enhancing the flavour of the fish with a pinch of tangy herbs and spices, horseradish being a perfect choice yet again.

Even though caviar is traditionally served with Russian vodka, it is worth a try with a Polish one as well. It will taste excellent served in the traditional way – on a slice of bread with butter. You can also try adding it to other fish-based snacks, such as those based on herring or smoked salmon.

A traditional, elegant Polish delicacy, which has recently made its comeback into our dining rooms, is crayfish caught in our local rivers. The subtle taste of crayfish goes well with fresh or dried herbs or other seasonings. Accompanied by a glass of Polish Vodka, crayfish can make a very exciting culinary discovery!

A treat for carnivores

Meat enthusiasts surely cannot imagine a proper party without steak tartare of beef. To give it a more modern touch, you can replace the pickled cucumber with capers and spice it up with a bit of hot mustard. This starter will become even more elegant if you add quail egg yolk instead of chicken egg yolk.

Just like smoked fish, Polish Vodka pairs great with cold cuts of all sorts of meats. Polish Vodka is an outstanding accompaniment to sausages, smoked or dry-cured ham and pork fillet. You can also add beef slices to your tray of lunch meats.

Polish Vodka likes smoke, so it can be paired with a main course such as grilled chicken wings. It will also go amazingly with a meat-based goulash with mushrooms, preferably dried ones. As to main courses, cabbage rolls are also worth mentioning, but instead of using rice in your filling, you can add buckwheat to give the dish a more pronounced flavour.

Meat dishes are more substantial and flavoursome than fish-based ones, which is why it is better to pair them with grain vodkas which have stronger aromas. Rye vodkas are the most intense and rich in flavour, with a slightly nutty hint and a subtle sweetness whereas vodkas made of wheat, barley and oats are somewhere between potato and rye vodkas on the scale of complexity and intensity of flavours and aromas.

Veggie feast

Although you will not get such nutritious ingredients as meat or fish in vegetarian meals, they can amaze you with their rich flavours if prepared correctly. We do not have to look far to find examples such as various types of pickled cucumbers. It is a great snack to serve to your guests if there is Polish Vodka on the table, or you can mix it with big pickled capers for the sake of variety. Let us not forget about pickled mushrooms, which will also widen your selection of snacks and will pair really well with Polish Vodka.

Fans of meatless pierogi will be pleased to hear that their favourite dish and Polish Vodka also go well together. You can easily spruce up the traditional recipe for pierogi ruskie by replacing the typical cottage cheese with oscypek (smoked sheep cheese), which has a more pronounced flavour. You should not be afraid of experimenting when pairing vegetarian dishes with Polish Vodka. You should always remember one rule, though: potato vodkas have a more delicate texture than those made of grains.

We strongly encourage you to conduct culinary experiments with Polish Vodka. The key to success is simple yet flavoursome dishes. You should not be afraid of salted or smoked touches, which compliment the flavour of Polish Vodka really well. You can also offer your guests the opportunity to compose their own snacks by simply providing all the ingredients separately on the table. We wish you good pairing choices and inspiring discoveries!


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