The Beginner’s Guide to Polish Vodka Drinking

Poland has been making vodka for centuries, and no trip to Warsaw would be complete without sampling the famous drink. Our guide will help you to drink like a local and avoid the common traps that can catch out the uninitiated.

Polish vodka – meaning ‘little water’ – is filtered numerous times, a process that removes the hangover-inducing impurities to leave just water and alcohol. If your only experience of vodka so far has been a lukewarm shot of smirnoff, or mixed with coke, then prepare to be amazed.

But first, a few guidelines…

Vodka is always served in shots. Polish singles are 35ml or 50ml, larger measures than in many other European countries. You have been warned!

Vodka should be served from the fridge at the very least, and preferably from the freezer. As it nears freezing point the liquid becomes like a syrup, and the crispness of the flavour is enhanced.

If you’re having a big night out you need to decide on your drinking strategy. Starting with beer is fine before moving on to vodka, but once you step up, stick to vodka only. Mixing shots and beer over an evening is a one-way ticket to an early night and a banging head in the morning. Trust us on this!

The Polish toast is ‘na zdrowie’ [naz-drove-ee-ah] meaning ‘your health’. Finishing your vodka in one gulp and drinking with your right hand will get you extra brownie points.

Drinking is a social event in Poland, drinking on your own will make you look like a sinister alcoholic. Luckily, with a bottle of vodka it shouldn’t be too hard to find some drinking buddies.

Even if national pride is at stake, don’t try and out-drink a Pole. They have been training their whole lives, and you are just a beginner. Accept it.

Don’t mix your vodka with coke, orange or any other mixer. Polish vodka is lovingly crafted, so to do so is considered an abomination. If you need to drink between shots, have some juice or water.

In Poland vodka comes in a dazzling array of flavours. The Soplica brand is consistently delicious with blackcurrant, quince and hazelnut being the pick of the bunch.

Eating is definitely not cheating. Fatty foods are rumoured to slow down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream so tuck into some delicious Polish sausage. And to replace the nutrients that the body loses due to alcohol, nibble on some tasty pickled cucumbers.

For all this, being drunk in public is frowned on in Poland. Unlike the UK you will not find gangs of marauding drunks tearing up the city centre on a weekend. If getting drunk to the point of forgetting your own name and climbing the nearest lamp post is your thing, best to stay in Northampton.

Overdone it? Warsaw is awash with kebab shops who will serve you a hearty doner (baranina) for around 12 złoty. The standards are high and the prices reasonable. Easy on the chilli sauce…

Are you wise in the ways of Vodka? Have any tips to share with us? Let us know by commenting below.  


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