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Drink of the Week

Zubrowka Bison Brand Vodka

My friend Matt was bragging about what a fabulous bowler he is, crediting his Polish heritage for his prowess. Yeah, bowling was fine, I told him, but what about a more practical ethnic legacy, like a thorough knowledge of Polish vodka? Rising to the challenge, Matt insisted we go to Red Square Euro Bistro to drink shots of icy-cold vodka accompanied by dill-pickle slices. His favorite, and now mine, is Zubrowka (bison-grass) vodka, specifically Bison Brand Zubrowka vodka ($4), which has a delicious, sweet, just-mowed-the-lawn flavor. According to legend, bison grass grows in a primeval forest in Poland and is the only thing keeping Eastern Europe's remaining bison herds from going extinct. The grass has defied all attempts at cultivation, and families vigilantly guard the location of their secret glades. That sacred charge is not without hazards: The fragrant grass stimulates bison the same way the scent of truffles turns on a pig -- and if you know what a nuisance deer are to farmers, imagine having to deal with an aroused bison. In 1978, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms banned the importation of any bison-grass vodka on the grounds that bison grass -- specifically the coumarin within the grass -- thinned the blood and might be carcinogenic. Happily for us, vodka-makers found a way to eliminate most of the coumarin and thus steer clear of BATF restrictions. Fueled by a little liquid courage and possibly a few carcinogens, I proceeded to expand my Zubrowka experience with Bak's Bison Grass vodka ($4), which tasted more like bison than grass. Even with a terrible cold, I couldn't choke it down, so I passed the rest to Matt. He made up a new Polish proverb on the spot: "You can't catch a cold when you share vodka." His ass is grass.

 
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