While we continue to stand by that belief, Bak’s Bison Grass Vodka (produced in Poland) is a bit different. Okay, a lot different. And there is prior controversy and mystery surrounding the starring ingredient, which naturally peaks our interest. Any liqueur with an aphrodisiac legend and a ban on use in the States deserves a second glance.
For hundreds of years buffalo have roamed the fertile fields of eastern Poland; fields lush with wild flowers and bison grass (Zubrowka). It is this herb that is cloaked in mystery, intrigue and a dash of romance. Vodka in general is a long-time staple of the Polish people. The Polish nobility would celebrate successful hunts with a vodka flavored with the bison grass herb. The belief was that the liquid mixed with bison grass provided youthfulness, stamina, virility and great power.
You know what happens when these stories reach the FDA years later. Remember Coca-Cola and coca leaves? The absence of absinthe? Well, the rumors of the herbal properties of bison grass raised lots of eyebrows, and in the late 1970s the FDA found it objectionable and banned its use in the U.S. God bless the Polish. Their ingenuity and tenacity led to a creation of a tincture or essence of bison grass that contained none of the properties offensive to the FDA. Bison Grass Vodka was approved for sale in the U.S.
A premium Polish vodka, Bison Grass Vodka is 41% alcohol and produced from potatoes and the lovely bison grass extract. And while it may be mostly for presentation, each bottle comes with a single blade of bison grass in the bottle.
The color alone gives you pause. The pale green hue is close to that of absinthe. Swirl a bit of the liquid in a glass and you will notice the thick, somewhat oily nature that is unusual for vodka. The aroma is a strong mix of grass and hay, with a bit of vanilla sweetness. Again, unusual for vodka.
The taste itself is full of earthy sweetness . . . wet sweet grass, honey, some wild floral notes, dried mint, citrus tones, and a warm herbal quality. Some cardamom perhaps? It has a silky, slightly oily feel up front, then a burst of flavors, finishing with a smooth lingering warmth. It is a very unique flavor, but enjoyable.
Leaves of Grass
We have played with Bison Grass Vodka in the lab a couple of times, making variations of martinis and cider drinks. We were happy to walk into JCT Kitchen recently and find a Bison Grass drink on their cocktail menu.
“Leaves of Grass” is a blend of Bison Grass Vodka, Dolin Blanc vermouth, house-made lemon grass syrup, and a touch of fresh tarragon. The vodka and vermouth make for a simple martini, but add in the lemon grass syrup and the tarragon and you get a fabulous smooth, earthy and herbaceous cocktail with lots of depth and flavor. There is the essence of sweet, but not a sugary sweet; just an earthy sweet.
Swing by the Westside of town, head up to the rooftop bar at JCT, and settle in for this nice little cocktail. And no, you don’t have to wait for a bison hunt celebration to partake. But we would love to hear any stories of renewed vitality and stamina resulting from your libation!
All four of our featured Unusual Spirits are in stock at Tower Wine and Spirit on Piedmont Road in Atlanta. Check them out online, or stop by their store.
Tomorrow’s featured Unusual Spirit is Root Liqueur.