Our next stop on the world gin tour brings us to the heart of Eastern Europe. Poland has been renowned for its vodka production for centuries, but what about Polish gin?
As it turns out, Poland ranks in the top 15 gin consuming nations in the world, and the spirit is only becoming more popular – this isn’t just vodka territory after all.
Of course, anyone conducting a tour of the history of Polish spirits would be remiss to leave vodka out. The spirit has been produced in the region, in one form or another, nigh on a thousand years, and today Poland still very much falls within the so-called “Vodka Belt”.
Though Poland is now home to a number of premium brands (Belvedere, Chopin), the vodkas that were produced during the Middle Ages certainly wouldn’t be recognisable to drinkers today: generally distilled from rye and other grains, they were also frequently flavoured with herbs and considered to have medicinal purposes (which should sound familiar to gin historians). Modern vodkas like Zoladkowa Gorzka, which is spiced with wormwood, gentian, cinnamon, nutmeg, and other botanicals, are descendants of this older tradition.
By the 1600s vodka was hugely popular (it’s no accident that its name comes from “woda” – the Polish word for water), and ensuing centuries saw the introduction of potatoes, as well as commercial distilleries, begin to change the nature of the spirit.
Gin may not be a true rival of vodka in Poland, but there are a number of Polish vodkas that are certainly gin-esque: the aforementioned spiced vodkas come to mind, while Wisniowka, made with cherries, and Jarzebiak, infused with rowanberries, are both reminiscent of sloe gin. But anyone seeking true gin is also in luck: Jalowcowka is a traditional, juniper-rich style of gin that hails from Gdansk, while several modern distilleries produce Polish gin as well.
What Do They Drink
There are hundreds of varieties of vodka in Poland, but Polish gin has some footing too. The number one most popular gin in the country, with nearly half of the overall market share, is Lubuski: first made in 1987, the clean and easy-drinking gin features, in part, locally sourced botanicals. The distillery also makes the popular Lubuski Lime, which lends itself to mixing. Posejdon Gin, owned by Sobieski, has also won its share of fans.
How Do They Drink It
The tradition in Poland has long been to drink spirits straight: think small, chilled glasses that are enjoyed all in one gulp during mealtimes. Gin is often enjoyed in this traditional manner, which is underlined by the belief that a spirit is best on its own (and that adding any other elements would ruin its integrity). However, as gin’s market share is growing, so is an interest in cocktails, and mixed drinks are gradually becoming more common.
One of the recommended Polish gin recipes provided by Lubuski, this cocktail adds tart cranberry juice to a gin and tonic.
The Red & Fresh
40 ml Gin
40 ml cranberry juice
150 ml tonic
In a highball glass filled with ice, add the gin and cranberry juice and stir to blend. Top with the tonic and stir quickly.