Enjoy Vodka like the Polish

Two women holding shot glasses in a "cheers" motion to each other.

If you travel to Eastern Europe, you might notice the prevalence of one beverage in particular. The region is known unofficially as the “Vodka Belt,” and the spirit is a large part of the culture in many Baltic countries.

Poland, an entry point to the Vodka Belt, is no stranger to vodka, and is even home to the Polish Vodka Museum. The museum, which opened in 2018, celebrates the heritage of Poland through vodka. According to their website, “Polish Vodka is not only our national heritage, but it is also an essential attribute of ‘Polishness’ recognised all across the world. It [is] also a crucial element of Polish culture, which has been served on Polish tables during celebrations for centuries.” The museum itself is housed inside the former Konesor vodka factory complex, where Luksusowa and Wyborowa vodka were previously produced.

The Polish Vodka Museum’s website points out that the country has official laws about what can be designated as Polish vodka. Every year, January 13th is celebrated as Polish Vodka Day, the day on which the definition of Polish vodka was legislated. While Polish vodka can be created from potatoes, rye, barley, oats, wheat, or triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye), the materials themselves must be of Polish origin.

So how do you drink vodka like the Polish? Many believe that the ideal temperature that your vodka should be at is between 6° and 8° Celsius (or 43° to 46° Fahrenheit). Vice News notes that Polish sausages like krakowska and kaszanka are a common companion to vodka; fatty food “supposedly inhibits the absorption of alcohol into the blood,” one reason why it’s believed the Polish can handle large amounts of vodka at a time. That, and the mere fact that vodka drinking is such a large part of the culture that people are better able to develop high alcohol tolerances over time. Poland doesn’t consume the highest amount of alcohol annually—that distinction in Europe belongs to Lithuania—but the Polish do tend to drink the most in one sitting.

A strong culture of alcohol does, of course, lead to issues of public health: according to an article on France 24, 1500 Poles die of alcohol overdose annually and more than 800,000 are alcohol-dependent. Drinking is a major part of the culture, but should you visit Poland and find yourself socializing with Polish friends, colleagues, or classmates, remember to drink responsibly and know your own limits.

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