Poland is on the border of European vodka and beer culture and Poles enjoy alcoholic drinks at least as much as other Europeans. When it comes to drinking in Poland, you will find beer, vodka & wine in many shops including the smallest supermarket chains with larger supermarkets providing a full range of alcohol from around the world including well-known brands.
Although Poland is known as the birthplace of vodka, local beer seems to have much more appeal to many Poles. Drinking in Poland has changed for many due to the larger choice of alcohol available such as craft beer & real ale which is increasingly popular. In the cities, you will find specialist bars providing a staggering range of brews & flavours.
In many cities, you will find a surprisingly large amount of bars and restaurants serving drinks and food from outside of Poland. Although Polish drinks and Polish food continue to be the first choice for older Poles, the younger generation are developing other tastes.
Prices for alcohol in Poland tend to be much cheaper than in the UK with a pint of strong lager costing around £2 in most bars (even in the major cities). On the downside, alcoholism is rife and you will encounter drunks sometimes on a daily basis!
Poland’s brewery tradition began in the Middle Ages. Today Poland is one of top beer countries in Europe. Although not well known internationally, Poland produces some of the best Pilsner-type lagers worldwide. The most common brands include:
- Lech (pronounced LEH)
- Żywiec (pronounced ZHIV-y-ets)
- Tyskie (pronounced TIS-kee)
- Okocim (pronounced oh-KO-cheem)
- Warka (pronounced VAR-kah)
- Łomża (pronounced Uom-zha)
Drinking in Poland will usually involve vodka. The most popular brands of vodka in Poland are:
- Żubrówka (Zhe-BROOF-ka) – vodka with flavors derived from Bison Grass, from eastern Poland.
- Żołądkowa Gorzka (Zho-want-KO-va GORZH-ka) – vodka with “bitter” (gorzka) in the name, but sweet in the taste. Just like Żubrówka, it’s an unique Polish product and definitely a must-try.
- Żytnia (ZHIT-nea) – rye vodka
- Wyborowa (Vi-bo-RO-va) – One of Poland’s most popular potato vodkas. This is also one of the most common exported brands. Strong and pleasant.
- Biała Dama (Be-AH-wa DAH-ma) is not actually a vodka but a name given by winos to cheap rectified spirits of dubious origin. best avoided if you like your eyesight the way it is.
- Luksusowa (Look-sus-OH-vah) “Luxurious” – Another popular brand, and a common export along with Wyborowa.
Deluxe (more expensive) brands include Chopin and Belvedere (Most Poles consider these brands to be “export brands”, and usually don’t drink them.)
Polish people usually take vodka in shots, not in drinks, accompanied by a chaser in the form of some juice or soda.
Poland does make a few quality wines around Zielona Góra in Dolnośląskie, Małopolskie and Podkarpackie in the Beskids.
They used to be only available from the manufacturer or at wine festivals, like in Zielona Góra. But with a law passed in 2008, this has changed and Polish wines are also available in retail.
As for imported wine, apart from the usual old and new world standards, there is usually a choice of decent table wines from central and eastern Europe, such as Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, the Balkans, and Georgia.
In the winter time, many Poles drink grzaniec (mulled wine), made of red wine heated with spices such as cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. A similar drink can be made with beer, although wine is the most popular method.
Mead – Miód Pitny is a traditional and historical alcohol drink in Poland. Mead is brewed from honey. Original Polish mead contain 13-20% alcohol. Sometimes it can be very sweet.
Tea and coffee
Throw stereotypes out the door. For Poles, one of the most important staples to quench their thirst is not vodka or beer, but rather tea and coffee.
Ordering a tea will usually get you a cup or kettle of hot water, and a tea bag on the side, so that you can put together a tea that’s as strong or as weak as you like. This is not uncommon in continental Europe, but may require some adjustment for visitors.
Carbonated mineral waters are popular, and several kinds are available. Poland was known for its mineral water health spas (pijalnie wód) in the 19th century, and the tradition remains strong – you can find many carbonated waters that are naturally rich in minerals and salts.
Opinions regarding the safety of tap water vary: odds are it’s OK, but most residents opt to boil or filter it anyway.