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Tag Archives: Polishfest

June 18, 2011 – Milwaukee

Ahh, Polishfest weekend in Milwaukee at the Summerfest grounds!  What could be better than Polish food, Polish beer, Polish vodka and polka music all day long!  On this day, nothing!

As is our usual custom, Gwen and I took the girls down on Saturday afternoon to eat, browse the market and listen to some polka music.  The day was perfect, sunny with just enough breeze off the lake to keep us comfortable.  We picked up our lunch at Busia’s Kitchen and had a sampling of everything they had.  The pierogi’s stuffed with potatoe were excellent with a nice buttery flavor and the fried onions that they were served with were a nice touch.  I enjoyed the stuffed cabbage.  The filling was tender and the tomato sauce had a touch of sweetness that I liked.  The sauerkraut was also good, slightly sweet (again) and with a touch of caraway seed.  Finally, Gwen had the Polish nachos – homemade potato chips with a creamy cheese sauce, diced polish sausage and tomato.  They were delicious, if not truly Polish!  The only disappointment were the potato pancakes which were limp and very doughy.

During the afternoon, while we browsed the market, I enjoyed a Tyskie beer.  Although Tyskie is owned by SABMiller (I know, disappointing), it is a very nice pilsner that still has its Polish character and beats a Bud or MGD any day of the week (and twice on Polishfest!).  It’s a full bodied pilsner and goes down smooth.

With our bellies full, we headed home for a short siesta and a Stanski. Round two was Saturday night with our friends Greg and Patti (and a brief cameo by Mark and Sue).  We started off with polka lessons and within 30 minutes could do a passable Polish Hop.  Next was dinner – more pierogies, yum!  Then, the vodka tasting.

The vodka tasting was again sponsored by Sobieski.  However, I have to admit that the Sobieski brand has been diminished in my mind with their recent introduction of flavored vodkas.  I always had admired them for not jumping on the flavored bandwagon, so this was very disappointing. 

Fortunately, I got over my disappointment and enjoyed several Krupniks on ice as we polka’d the rest of the night away!

Hey, save some for me!


Day 58, Cocktails 51, 52, 53 

Whew, another Polish Fest is in the books!  To say it was fun would be an understatement.  The food – pierogies, stuffed cabbage, kielbasi…hmmm!  The polka music and dancing.  And of course, the vodka!  You have to love a festival that features vodka tastings! 

My vodka weekend started Friday night with a classic vodka martini.  Yes, I normally prefer to drink gin martinis.  However, the vodka martini is sometimes a nice change of pace and is the only other cocktail that you will see me refer to as a “martini”.  Besides, if it’s good enough for James Bond, it’s good enough for me! 

  Vodka Martini 

  • 3oz Chopin vodka
  • 1/4 oz Martini & Rossi dry vermouth
  • 1 dash Agnosturo bitters

Combine in a shaker with 4-5 ice cubes.  Shake vigourously to chill and mix.  Pour into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with three unstuffed cocktail olives.  

Enjoy as all your troubles slip away! 

Saturday was the big day for us.  We piled into the van with Brett, Greg and Patty and headed down to Polish Fest.  Sue and Mark and Don and Dawn joined us after a delicious dinner for the main even of the evening – the Sobieski vodka tasting!  We actually tasted 6 vodkas and then 4 meads – another Polish delicacy.  I am taking the liberty of counting the vodka tasting as one cocktail and the mead tasting as one cocktail.  Considering that the tastings covered a total of 10 shots (OK, so they were only 1/2 oz, but still), I think they count towards my mission. 

Vodka (Wodka) Tasting 

I’ll give my review of each of the vodka’s in order of least favorite to most favorite. 

Sobieski Vanilla – I’m no fan of flavored vodkas, as my regular readers know.  I’ve had other vanilla vodkas, and to be honest, this one just wasn’t very good.  I’m sure it could be mixed with something that would make it worthwhile to drink, but I’d rather add vanilla extract if I want vanilla flavoring in my drink.  The taste was harsh and almost more coffee flavored than vanilla to me. 

Sobieski Citron – Pretty much the same story here.  Although this was better than the vanilla, I thought it was a bit harsh and not all that lemony.  Real lemon juice mixed with vodka tastes much better. 

Sobieski – This is the flagship of the Sobieski brand.  This vodka is an exceptional value!  At about $18 for a 1.75l bottle, it is cheaper by far than premium vodkas, yet compares very favorably.  It is very smooth, particularly when chilled.  This is good enough for a martini, and as I said, at half the price of the “premium” brands, you just can’t lose. 

Stawski Koneser – This is a slightly “premium” label for Sobieski.  Like Sobieski, it is distilled from Polish rye.  Just a bit smoother than the Sobieski, it was very pleasant to drink.  You may have a harder time finding it, but it’s definately worth the work. 

Debowa Oak Tree – OK, so I know, this is a flavored vodka.  The difference here is that its flavor is primarily derived from a sliver of oak that is placed in the bottle.  The oak combined with Black Elder flower makes for a delightful vodka to sip.  Smooth yet oakey (really?) I would drink this one neat. 

Polmos Extra Zytnia – This was the class of the bunch for me.  A high quality rye vodka with the very small addition of apple spirits, this was delicious, mellow and smooth.  This would be great with a twist or on the rocks with just a touch of cranberry.  Again, harder to find, but worth it. 

Mead Tasting 

Polish mead is a honey based liqueur that is aged between 1 and 6 years before aging.  Most meads also incorporate additional flavorings.  Not quite as sweet as krupnik, but very, very tasty nonetheless. 

Bernardynksi Royal Mead (4 years) – This mead has subtle cherry flavor with the honey.  I bit harsh on the aftertaste, this ranked fourth for me. 

Kurpiowski Polish Mead (5 years) – A lighter color than the Bernardynski, this mead spent 2 of its 5 years in oak barrels, contributing to its complexity.  Smoother, this was my third favorite. 

Lednick Mead (1 year) – Suprisingly dark and with little beyond the honey on the palate, this was very good.  I was suprised given that it had been aged only for 1 year, but the bright flavor really appealed to me. 

Jadwiga Miod Pitny (6 year) – The best of these meads, this compared very well to many of the better tawny ports that I’ve had.  Ideal for an after dinner drink, this had a deep amber color and was rich and mellow.  I really enjoyed this one and am looking to pick a bottle up. 

Well, there you have it, the final Polish Fest report.  I hope you can make it next year! 


Day 54, Cocktail 50

Round one of Polish Fest is over, with round two to come later tonight.  The pierogies and stuffed cabbage rolls from Busia’s were great and a nod also goes to the potato pancakes (although they were not quite as good as my own homemade pancakes).  Among tonights festivities will be the vodka tasting, which I will report on in my next post.

Several years ago, I was getting ready for Polish Fest and fooling around with my first bottle of Old Krupnik.  After a few tweaks, the Stanski was born – one of my earliest original cocktails.  It is still a Polish Fest favorite at the Twilight Lounge.


  • 1 oz Chopin vodka
  • 1 oz Old Krupnik
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • ginger ale

Fill a shaker with ice cubes and add the vodka, Krupnik and Peychaud’s.  Shake to mix and then strain into a rocks glass with 4-5 ice cubes.  Top with the ginger ale.


You really want me to drink this?

Day 52, Cocktail 49 

As previously mentioned, sometimes the drinks at the Twilight Lounge don’t work out so well.  Tonight was one of those nights.  I had noticed that apple juice was a common ingredient in a few of the meager number of Polish cocktail recipes using Old Krupnik that I had been able to find.  Being the explorer that I am (and an afficianado of the “boozy” drink – thanks Chad!) I thought “why not use Calvados instead of apple juice?”  The answer is simple…because Calvados doesn’t mix particularly well with Old Krupnik!  I used a base of Chopin vodka and varying amounts of Old Krupnik and Calvados.  But no matter what I tried, I just couldn’t come up with anything that I’d drink again, let alone serve my friends.  In the end, I threw the mix I had into a rocks glass over ice and tried adding ginger ale to make it palatable.  Yeah, like that really helped.  So, like a doctor that buries his mistakes, this little cocktail adventure will also be buried. 

Don’t despair though, tomorrow I will have a winner for you – the Stanski, which has been a Twilight Lounge staple for years. 


That's a fine looking mule there...

Day 50, Cocktail 47

I’ve done a couple of other mules previously, but figured it was time for a Polish twist (did I mention Polish Fest is this weekend?).  Really, like Mexico and Moscow are the only places that have mules?  I started thinking about this one last night as I was tinkering with the Old Krupnik and saw a variety of recipes that mixed it with ginger beer or ginger ale.  I tried two versions of this little number tonight and with Gwen’s tasting help (and she got the winner).  After talking through the pros and cons,  I settled on this final version.  So, without further adieu, the Polish Mule.

  Polish Mule

  • 1 oz Sobieski vodka
  • 1 oz Old Krupnik
  • ginger ale

In a collins glass mix the Sobieski and Old Krupnik together with 3 ice cubes.  Add 3-4 more ice cubes and top with ginger ale.  Garnish with a lime slice.

The honey flavor of the Old Krupnik and the ginger ale work very well together.  The vodka is used to give this drink the backbone it needs.  If I had used 2oz of Old Krupnik the honey flavor would have overwhelmed the ginger ale.  This makes a very nice summer cocktail that’s different from your run of the mill rum and cola or gin and tonic.  Try it and let me know what you think!


The Archies knew what they were singing about...

Day 49, Cocktails 45 & 46

The Polish Fest countdown continues.  You know that this has to be the biggest, best Polish festival in the country when the web site is simply … no “Milwaukee” or any other modifier!

Tonight, I wanted to work something with Old Krupnik.  Krupnik is a traditional Polish liquor that has been around since the 1300’s.  It is distilled from grain and is flavored with honey and an unnamed host of herbs.  The Old Krupnik that I have at the Twilight Lounge comes from the Starogard distillery located in Gdansk.  It is honey flavored, but hints of all the other goodies inside hit you at different times when sipping. 

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), recipes that use Old Krupnik are few and far between.  I have one that I created a couple of years ago for Polish Fest that will be posted later this week.  Most of what my research turned up calls for apple juice, which I didn’t have.  Another common mixer with Old Krupnik seems to be ginger beer or ginger ale.  Now that did make sense, but I wanted to see if I could use the ginger flavored Domaine de Canton instead.  So after a couple of iterations, here’s what I was able to concoct:

  Chopin’s Honey

  • 1 oz Chopin vodka
  • 1 oz Old Krupnik
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau
  • 3/8 oz Domaine de Canton

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass with 4-5 ice cubes.  Stir until you can’t stir any more and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with an orange peel.

Between the Krupnik, Cointreau and Canton you have pretty sweet drink.  For me, I couldn’t drink these all night.  But having one before dinner will certainly help whet your appetite.  This vodka gives this cocktail its base while the honey of the Krupnik takes front and center.  The orange and ginger flavors of the Cointreau and Canton provide interesting undertones for you taste buds to discover.

Tonight’s second effort is similar but different (yeah, right…).  I found this recipe on line while looking doing a google search for Polish cocktails.  Incidentally, for the amount of vodka produced and consumed in Poland you’d think there would be more.  Apparently, the folks in the motherland just drink the stuff straight! 

  Rose of Warsaw

  • 1-1/2 oz Chopin vodka
  • 1 oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau
  • 1 dash Agnosturo bitters

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with 4-5 ice cubes.  Stir, stir, and stir some more.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a cocktail cherry.

This drink really showcases the Luxardo.  Although I enjoy Luxardo, I wish I had dialed back to amount to maybe 1/2 oz so that the Chopin would have a chance to shine.

Well, that’s all for tonight.  Have a favorite way you like your Polish vodka?  Let me know!



Hooray for Polish vodka!

Day 48, Cocktail 44

Polishfest is next weekend and is always the highlight of June for us.  We all love the pierogies and sausages, the polka music is fun and the vodka, well, what is there to complain about there?  So, in preparation, we’ll have a week of Polish cocktails and Polish vodka!  This first offering was something I found on line and decided to give it a try.


  • 1 oz Polish potato vodka
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth
  • 1/8 oz triple sec
  • 1 oz grapefruit juice

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker over 4-5 ice cubes.  Shake vigorously to chill and break up the ice.  Pour, unstrained, into a large rocks glass.  Garnish with a lime slice.

I have to admit, this one didn’t tickle my fancy.  The vermouth is simply too much and overpowers both the vodka and even the grapefruit juice.  If you’ve got a good recipe using Polish vodka, let me know!