Le Meridien Bristol is a grand hotel in the fashionable “Kings Walk” area of Warsawʼs old town. This historic hotel was built in 1899 and is famous for its picturesque Art- Nouveau interiors.
Joining me in the hotelʼs Column Bar, are fellow sommeliers, Adrianna and Karina. Both share my passion for Polish vodka. Settling into my large leather arm chair, a smile crossed my face as I took in the beauty of the barʼs high ceilings, parquet floors, and ornate columns.
“Gregory, what is it that amuses you?” Karina queried. Chuckling softly, “I must be with the only brunettes in this bar,” “Two ladies who are very thirsty.” Adrianna toyed.
As we readied for our first selection, our waiter served some appetizers which consisted of pickles and sausages. A Polish custom which I have grown quite fond.
Today we will be tasting “Wodka Crysta.” Literally translated, it means “Clean vodka.” It is the Polish term for clear vodka containing no additives. Contrary to popular belief, vodka is not tasteless. Vodka can be quite complex with a range of flavors pending on whether it has been distilled from wheat, rye, or potatoes.
When drinking with Poles, proper etiquette is a must. Vodka is always served neat, in a shot glass and drunk “To da … to the bottom,” is the general rule.
“Gregory,” Karina smiled demurely. “I know you have a penchant for rye vodka. My selection for today is Uʼluvka.”
This is indeed one of my favorite rye vodkas. Uʼluvka is Polish for “legless,” referring to the style of crystal glasses favored by the 17th century King Sigismund 111 and his court. The twisted tear drop bottle is as elegantly shaped as is the vodka. Rye vodkas are known for their complexity. With just a hint of barley to stimulate the palate, Uʼluvka is smooth in texture and rich in savory flavors that will satisfy the most discerning of palates. Neat is the only way to fully appreciate this truly august vodka.
“Gregory,” Adrianna called out for my attention. “Why do Americans often drink vodka on the rocks?
“One school of thought is that as the ice slowly melts, it helps to open up the vodka.”
“Yuk.” Karina grimaced. “That is as bad as Russians putting vodka in the freezer. All that does is mask the impurities of an inferior vodka.”
Proper filtration is an absolute must in making premium vodka. Everything from charcoal, crystals, and even lava rocks have been utilized in the attempt to craft a most unique spirit.
“Gregory,” Adrianna broke in. “Are we ready for my selection? I know that you are especially fond of vodkas distilled from spelt grain. Snow Leopard is one of your favorites so I decided that we should share this truly remarkable vodka with Evaʼs readers.”
“Eve,” I smiled. “Her name is Eve Hammond Bushman.”
“Pity she is not Polish,” Adrianna chuckled as she poured our Snow Leopard.
On the nose, this vodka is soft and well rounded with overtones of vanilla and honey. On the palate, Snow Leopard is velvety smooth culminating in a long finish. This exceptional tasting vodka has plenty of depth and character. In essence, Snow Leopard is a spirit with a soul. Spelt grains were originally used to brew the beer of the Pharaohs. Need I say more when it comes this most delectable of vodkas.
“Whatʼs next?” Karina said with a wink and her glass readied for my selection.
Wheat vodkas are renown for their smoothness. Akademicka, is no exception. This is an elegant vodka characteristic of Polandʼs mastery in distilling premium spirits. Using only pure mountain water from the famous Silesian wells, the end result is a vodka of unrivaled character and body.
“Very clean on the nose,” Adrianna added. “Beautifully balanced on the palate.”
“I like its delicate character and long finish.” Karina concluded that this is a vodka of excellence.
“Weʼre hungry,” Both ladies said with a chuckle. Delight filled my eyes.”Iʼm feeling Italian and musical.”
“Oh Gregory, just admit that you want to drink barolo.” Karina took me by the arm as we all laughed in unison, “Bordoʼs.”
Bordoʼs is my favorite Italian cafe in Warsaw. But that my friends is another story …