Szarlotka, the Polish apple juice and vodka cocktail

Szarlotka is Poland’s favourite way of drinking bison grass vodka in a cocktail. Clean vodka shots are a popular dinner accompaniment, but vodka cocktails are more popular during the summer. The addition of a cold juice tones the alcohol content down and adds interesting flavour profiles. Poland’s most beloved vodka and juice cocktail has to be szarlotka cocktail. Apple juice, bison grass Żubrówka vodka and a hint of cinnamon.

Apple and bison grass vodka give you szarlotka cocktail. A beloved Polish vodka cocktail that takes its name from Polish apple pie. Add a hint of cinnamon for the ultimate szarlotka experience.

What is szarlotka cocktail?

Szarlotka is actually the name of Polish apple pie. Made with a buttery shortcrust, its  most notable feature is the combination of apple and cinnamon. Have it warm and the cinnamon will bring out all the sweetness of this cake. Have it cold and the first thing to hit you will be the juicy tartness of the apples. Honestly, either way you have it you’ll be amazed by the multiple layers of flavour that this cake can deliver. And I haven’t even started raving about the role of butter. Or how wonderful this cake tastes with a generous serving of whipped cream.

The apple and cinnamon combo in Poland does not refer to apple pie only. Szarlotka is also something you can order at the bar, and it’s the recipe this post is about. Szarlotka cocktail is a Polish  apple and bison grass vodka drink named after Polish apple pie. Although you can make it simple and just stop there at apple juice and bison grass vodka, the addition of cinnamon really makes this vodka cocktail an unforgettable experience.

Related: mini apple cinnamon pies.

szarlotka apple vodka cocktail

Polish bison grass vodka

Bison grass vodka in Polish is called Żubrówka and what makes it immediately recognisable is the leaf of bison grass in the bottle and its pale yellow tone. Many believe it is the leaf alone that gives the vodka both the colour and the flavour, but that is not completely true. To make Żubrówka you infuse pure vodka with a tincture of bison grass.

Bison grass is special to Poland as it grows in Puszcza Białowieska, a national park that lays across the border between Poland and Belarus. The park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to the European bison, also known as wisent. The bison in Polish is called żubr, hence the name żubrówka for bison grass vodka.

Related: Polish honey cake with semolina cream.

At airport duty free shops I have seen various brands making żubrówka, so check with your liquor store to see what bison grass vodka you can find. To honour this Polish cocktail recipe, I used a Polish one.

szarlotka apple vodka cocktail

How to make szarlotka cocktail

To make żubrówka cocktail you will need:

  • apple juice
  • ice-cold żubrówka (bison grass vodka)
  • cinnamon
  • ice cubes

Szarlotka, like most cocktail recipes, follows a proportion. In this case it is 2 parts apple juice and 1 part bison grass vodka. For 2 servings I have used 200 ml apple juice and 100 ml vodka. Add ice to taste, but remember that the more you add, the more it will dilute your bison grass vodka cocktail.

The easiest way to incorporate cinnamon into szarlotka is by stirring a pinch of finely ground cinnamon into the cocktail. You will really feel it once it gets into your mouth. If you have cinnamon sticks to use up, feel free to do as I did and add a stick to each glass. It is not the cheapest option, but it’s a beautiful decoration and having a cinnamon stick in the glass you get to smell it at every sip. If you want a smooth cocktail without any gritty ground cinnamon mouthful and no sticks to use, a drop of cinnamon essence or syrup will do the trick.

szarlotka apple vodka cocktail

Enjoy it with Polish toasted sandwich zapiekanka as appetizer.

szarlotka apple vodka cocktail

What kind of apple juice to use?

The most common apple juice used in szarlotka cocktail in Poland is commercial filtered apple juice, the one that is smooth and see-through. Unfiltered apple juice tends to be somewhat more tart and is less used for this purpose. There is no rule set in stone as for the apple juice to use in szarlotka cocktail. Can’t call it szarlotka if the vodka is not żubrówka (bison grass vodka), but you can enjoy more freedom when it comes to the apple juice. I used freshly pressed Swedish apple juice for this photo shoot!

Did you know that Poland is the world’s 4th largest apple producer, the 1st in Europe? Vodka accounts for another of Poland’s most notable exports (Poland ranked 4th among world vodka exporters in 2018) and bison grass, from the very sacred Białowieża Forest is what makes żubrówka vodka so exquisite. Szarlotka is indeed the finest Polish cocktail you can have, as two of its key ingredients are so representative of Poland. Just add cinnamon.

Related: where to eat Polish food in Krakow.

This recipe has been reworded and updated with a recipe card in May 2020.

Szarlotka cocktail

Bison grass vodka and apple juice give you Szarlotka. Just add a pinch of cinnamon for Poland's most beloved vodka cocktail. Enjoy your szarlotka cocktail ice cold.
Course Drinks
Cuisine Polish
Keyword apple juice, bison grass vodka, polish, szarlotka, vodka cocktail, żubrówka
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 person
Calories 162kcal
Author Eva


  • 2 parts apple juice
  • 1 part bison grass vodka (żubrówka)
  • dash of ground cinnamon
  • ice cubes


  • Mix 1 part żubrówka bison grass vodka with 2 parts apple juice. Have all your ingredeints ice-cold. Trasfer to a serving glass and sprinkle a pinch of ground cinnamon on top. Serve with ice.


Sub the ground cinnamon for a cinnamon stick into every glass for a nicer presentation. Choose a drop of cinnamon essence if you prefer a smooth cocktail without ground woody bits.
Nutrition Facts
Szarlotka cocktail
Amount Per Serving
Calories 162 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 5mg0%
Potassium 101mg3%
Carbohydrates 11g4%
Sugar 10g11%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


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  1. Christina October 10, 2017 at 13:45

    sounds like a really good recipe! and it so happens that my parents actually do have pure apple juice at home and my bf’s best friend (which happens to be our neighbour as well) brought Żubrówka from his Poland travels! so I can actually try this one! 😀

    1. Eva October 13, 2017 at 07:29

      Well well then you have no excuses. Find some cinnamon and you’re set 😀 I hope you enjoy iy. After all, thank God it’s Friday!

  2. Ole March 16, 2019 at 21:42

    Brilliant article, thank you! Had a Szarlotka (“polsk eplekake” in Norwegian) for the first time last night and had to find the recipe. It’s a new favourite. 👌

    1. Eva March 20, 2019 at 16:48

      Oooh tusen takk! I hope you’ll enjoy this lovely cocktail many many times!

      1. Camellia Lesniak December 7, 2019 at 01:09

        Fantastic to find something extra Polish . I, born in Australia of Polish heritage , love to dringk Zubrowka – our Adult children do too with one whose husband is Aussie – so he buys a bottle for his wife especially . I will try to make this a Christmas gift for them with the easy recipe . Maybe there are other recipes with the famous Polish Zubrowka – there is another brand ” Wisent” but not the same taste . Oh well to each their own .
        Another recipe with Polish beer , Zywiec – add Raspberry cordial . yummmy .When I was overseas in Poland /Lithuania 16yrs ago (first trip of Polish Dance Group Polonez, invited to an evening – I tried the beer with the juice. Yummy , I am not an avid drinker of alcohol, but can’t remember having drunk so much of beer ) .
        Another recipe of odka alcohol is Przepalanka /Karmelowka- burnt sugar and Spiritus, Water, vanilla ; Allso Adwokaat – egg yolk /sugar , milk ,vanilla, Spirytus ‘n Koniak like – like brandy ( Chatelle or Remy BRandy .)
        These recipes I have from my Mama’s old “Kuchnia Polska ” . For sure now there are many other recipes to Google find amazingly. And yes to mix with your own thought up recipes . It’s the same with cooking /baking etc.
        Now , I wish You Good Luck that one day You will be able to travel back to Poland to the Bialowieza forest area , to,see the bisosns ( I did , a wonderful sight – yes my dream ( at 65) is still to,travel to Poland ( short of cashv very limited – musr win Tattslotto) . But here in Aussie world, live by the Polish heritage of food, traditions etc. entwining with Aussie traditions – our daughter is doing such with her 3yr.’n 20mth.old children , from time to time drinks the Zubrowka as a treat ( all is expensive) .
        Oh. Another irecipe is Krupnik Litewski – a honey based drink – ( the longer the botte stands , the better the taste buds . has honey, water, Spirytus, wanilla twirl, nutmeg, cinnamon quill, little of cloves, skin of orange/lemon.
        Therefore , hope I’ll try your Zubrowka version. Also fantastic you have written about the area and described the alcohol.
        Good luck Eva ( in Polish the name is written with a “w” -Ewa. ). smiles Camellia .
        Wishing You a blessed merry Christmas – ” Wesolych Swiat ( Ve- Soh -weeh Shvyont ) , Happy Prosperous Safe New Year 2020r .

        1. Eva December 7, 2019 at 18:37

          Dear Camellia, thank you very much for your comment! It was a pleasure receiving such kind words from you. And it’s so amazing to read that you can keep your Polish heritage alive in Australia where you are. I visited Australia a few months ago and I feel you when you say it’s very expensive! Still it’s amazing that you can get Zubrowka there! I live in Sweden and can’t get it here, luckily Poland is just a short flight away. I really hope to get to visit Puszcza Bialowieska one day, very much regret not being able to do so while I was based in Krakow.
          Zywiec with raspberry syrup is such a Polish thing! I actually like it, but to my Italian husband adding a fruity syrup to beer felt like sacrilege! 😀 I am also a big fan of grzaniec, hot beer with honey and spices! Did you ever have that one? I have the recipe for it here somewhere on the blog. As for the others you mention, the one I like best is Adwokat! It reminds me of my great-grandmother who was an avid fan of the eggy beverage! Wesolych Swiat i szczesliwego Nowego Roku zycze Tobie i Twojej rodzinie!

  3. Moe S April 21, 2020 at 18:55

    Smooth lovely drink. My partner is Polish and she didn’t even know there’s a name for it, I bet her there has to be a name… google led us here and I won the bet. Cheers for Szarlotka!😊

    1. Eva April 21, 2020 at 20:09

      Hi Moe! Glad I helped you win the bet 😀 You deserve your szarlotka glass now! Sto lat!


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