Bak’s is a Polish potato vodka distilled three times and charcoal filtered, giving it a richer terroir than most ultra premium vodkas. Aside from that, the not-so-secret ingredient that makes it unique among the world of vodka is an herb named Hierochloe odorata. Never heard of it? You may know it as sweet grass in North America, holy grass in the U.K. or bison grass in Eastern Europe. Don’t worry, it has nothing to do with the kind of grass you may have tried in college.
Bison Grass grows wild and has been used for centuries by cultures around the world in a variety of ways due to its fresh sweet scent. In Poland, it is infused with vodka to create Żubrówka, which from 1978-1999 was banned from importation to the U.S. due to health concerns over a toxic compound in bison grass called coumarin. However, all Żubrówka imported to the U.S. has had this compound removed in much the same way thujone is removed from modern absinthe. Each bottle also includes one long blade of bison grass which is somewhat gimmicky, akin to a low-end bottled Mezcal (which shall remain nameless) which includes an agave worm. At least you don’t have to eat the grass.
The color is a pale clear green and the nose has a light herbal and unique almost buttery scent, unlike anything else in the world of spirits. The first taste reveals burnt cinnamon and more of that same butter quality. It’s sweet and layered with notes of crystal barley hard candy. A lingering finish goes on to reveal notes of caramel and light nuttiness. The distillate also has more character, due to it’s small triad of distillations. This allows for the flavor of the herb to unify with the earthier vodka.
This makes an excellent spirit for a vodka martini sans dry vermouth. It also works fantastically with lemon juice. The sugared caramel flavor is exceptional with apple juice or cider, and is a traditional Polish cocktail known as Tatanka. Try mixing this with Calvados and simple syrup for a really unique cocktail, or for a pre-sweetened cocktail use Cidre de glace. For an especially decadent treat for two, drink ice cold shots of Bak’s with freshly shucked oysters on the half shell. After all, bison grass is rumored to be an aphrodisiac and it just may make your night!
GSN Rating: A