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Żubrówka [ʐuˈbrufka] (About this sound listen) (Russian: Зубровка, Zubrovka; Belarusian: Зуброўка, Zubroŭka), also known in English as Bison Grass Vodka, is a dry, herb-flavoured vodka that is distilled from rye and bottled at 40% alcohol by volume (80 US proof). Its flavour is unique and is described as having woodruff, vanilla, coconut, cinnamon and almond notes.

Zubrowka vodka 01.jpg
Type Flavored Vodka
Manufacturer Polmos Białystok (Poland), Belalco (Belarus), Bulbash (Belarus)[1], Minsk Kristall (Belarus)[2]and others
Country of origin Belarus/Poland
Introduced 16th century
Proof (US) 80
Related products List of vodkas

The rye distillate is flavoured with a tincture of bison grass (Hierochloe odorata), which also gives the spirit its yellowish color. This grass grows in the Białowieża Forest and elsewhere. A blade of bison grass is traditionally placed in each bottle of Żubrówka, though this is largely decorative.



The words Zubrouka in Belarusian language and Zubrovka in Russian are the words for bison grass. In Polish, the word Turówka is used for the grass. The name comes from zubr (Polish: żubr, pronounced zhubr), the word for the European bison in many Slavic languages.


The Zubrovka has been produced since at least the 16th century[1] in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, in the region of the contemporary Polish-Belarusian border. By the 18th century it was one of the favorite raw drinks of nobility (szlachta) and peasantry alike.

In the 19th century, the famous Odessa-based brandy manufacturer Shustov began producing zubrovka.[3]

In 1926, the company Polmos from Brześć nad Bugiem (now Brest, Belarus) invented a method to mass-produce Żubrówka, which was then copied by numerous companies worldwide, under a variety of brand names. The original distillery company in Brest (nationalized by the Soviets after 1939 and now known under the name Belalco) still produces Brestskaya Zubrovka. There are also brands of zubrovka in many countries including Lithuania (Stumbrinė), United States (Bison Vodka), Ukraine (Зубрiвка, Zubrivka), Germany (Grasovka and Blauer Bison), Russia (Зубровка, Zubrovka), the Czech Republic (Zubrovka), and others.

The brandEdit

Currently the brands "Zubrovka" and "Żubrówka" are registered by Sojuzplodoimport/Russia and the Polmos Białystok company in Białystok, Poland.[4] However, Żubrówka is considered a generic name for a type of liquor by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, so anyone may use the name for products in the United States, and the name has been used by various companies there.[4]

Popular cultureEdit

Żubrówka in the United StatesEdit

Bottle of export Żubrówka

The tincture of bison grass found in Żubrówka is prohibited as a food additive by the Food and Drug Administration because it contains coumarin, which showed hepatotoxic effects in rats and has a blood thinning effect.[6] Importation of Żubrówka was banned in 1978 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Canada has no similar regulations on coumarin, so the alcoholic drink is legal there.

When produced according to traditional methods (between one and two kilograms of grass per thousand litres of alcohol), Żubrówka contains approximately 12 milligrams of coumarin per litre. In 1999, distilleries that were not connected with the Polish brand introduced lower quality reformulated versions of the product,[4] sometimes using artificial flavours and colors, with the emblematic blade of grass in every bottle but "neutralised" so as to be coumarin-free. In 2011 the American licensee of the Polish company worked with Rémy Cointreau to introduce a new American formulation, which they called "Żu".[4]

In addition to the Coumarin problem, American authorities determined that the trademark on Żubrówka brand was diluted and unenforceable, as it was a generic name, like "Aspirin".[4]

Serving suggestionsEdit

Like most vodkas, Żubrówka is usually served chilled on its own. A very popular alternative is mixing it with apple juice[7] (a drink known in Polish as tatanka (Lakota for "American bison") or szarlotka (Polish for "apple cake"); known in the UK as a Frisky Bison;[8] and in the US as a Polish Kiss). It is sometimes served over vanilla ice cream.[citation needed] Another common mixer is ginger ale.[citation needed] While a "Black Bison" is Żubrówka mixed with black currant juice.


External linksEdit