Szarlotka, the Polish apple juice and vodka cocktail

Szarlotka is the name of Polish apple pie. There is another item in Polish cuisine that goes by the same name and that features two of the same ingredients – apples and cinnamon. The third igredient is Żubrówka, probably the most famous Polish vodka out there, the one with a leaf of bison grass in the bottle. When szarlotka doesn’t refer to a pie, it is a drink, Poland’s favourite way of drinking Żubrówka when used as a cocktail ingredient and not enjoyed alone.

What makes Żubrówka immdiately recognisable is the leaf of bison grass in the bottle. Many believe it is that leaf alone that gives the vodka its pale yellow tone, but the pure vodka is actually infused with a tincture of bison grass in order to achieve this effect. 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. I spent two years in Poland wishing to visit the park yet I never made it there. My dream is to visit in the winter to see the bisons in the snow. I don’t know when this will actually happen, but I plan on visiting the park once I buy a proper telephoto lens one day.

szarlotka apple vodka cocktail Żubrówka is commercially available also pure, known as Żubrówka Biała. It is a very smooth Polish vodka, very enjoyable. I used it last year to make cocktail sauce to my shrimps. Although I really like the pure version, I consider the original one scented of bison grass to be more special. And seriously, it is the one you want to use for your szarlotka cocktail. No other vodka will do, as that peculiar scent is what makes this drink stand out.

szarlotka apple vodka cocktail

Szarlotka cocktail:

  • 2/3 chilled apple juice
  • 1/3 ice cold Żubrówka
  • a pinch of ground cinnamon
  • extra ice cubes

In order to make this cocktail I follow these proportions. Featured in the pictures here are the two glasses I made for myself and my mom. For the two of us I used 200 ml of juice and 100 ml of vodka. Instead of adding the ground cinnamon I let a cinnamon stick infuse the drink as I was taking the photos as I figured it’d be nicer on pictures, but this is a little bit of a waste of a cinnamon stick so I wouldn’t use that normally. Sure it makes the drink look nicer!

szarlotka apple vodka cocktailszarlotka apple vodka cocktailNot only did I use original Żubrówka imported from Poland, but for my cocktails I also used 100% organic apple juice. In early October last year, when the apple harvest was at its fullest, I went to a musteri, a place that extracts apple juice. One of my friends has a few apple trees that usually yield too many apples just for himself and his family, so he likes to share his apples around. We took the fruits to this workshop where within minutes they were turned into delicious cold-pressed juice. I stored my share of juice in jars in my freezer and occasionally defrost one to have some pure apple juice. This is why the colour of my szarlotka is so vivid. One can of course make it also with boxed apple juice, but it is usually lighter and more see-through. When ordering this drink in bars it usually has this lighter colour. But as I said before I wanted this drink to be 100% fancy. My mom certainly liked it!

Szarlotka is the name of Polish apple pie. There is another item in Polish cuisine that goes by the same name and that features two of the same ingredients - apples and cinnamon. The third igredient is Żubrówka, probably the most famous Polish vodka.

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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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