A couple of summers ago, after extending an invitation to a friend to come around for afternoon cocktails, I found myself lost in the booze aisle in Tesco. I knew then nearly as much as I know now about spirits, which is to say next to nothing.
I texted the friend for advice: "have you ever had bison grass vodka?" Her response told me when that particular vodka was mixed with apple juice, the drink tasted remarkably like apple pie.
This Polish rye vodka, called Żubrówka, is a pale sandy olive spirit with a single thin stalk of straw coloured grass in the bottle. The distinctive herbal qualities are imparted with the infusion of this aromatic bison grass, although the strand in the bottle is purely decorative.
On its own this vodka has floral aromas backed by toasted almonds, coconut, lavender, vanilla, and even hay. Unlike other vodkas this one doesn't get lost once introduced to mixers, an assertion easily illustrated when Żubrówka is combined with apple juice and plenty of ice. Surprisingly, it really does taste like apple pie.
I only noticed the remaining contents of that bottle recently, more than a year later, after a rare wine shortage that allowed a view to the back of the cupboard (also found: a fleeting sense of security after a few mouthfuls and some missing cat toys).
So now what? Sorbet, of course. I mean I don't know why I say "of course" because the most obvious answer is probably to drink it, but YOLO or something else cool people say.
Tip: after you drink half the bottle with a friend, spend your time together lobbing popping bubble tea pearls at the tiled shower wall. It's kind of like a less painful and edible version of paintball, only you do it indoors and actually have to clean it up afterward. Maybe I'm not selling this too well.
Apple, Plum, and Bison Grass Vodka Sorbet
Flavours of toasted warming spices are coaxed out of the combination of bison grass vodka and apple juice, so expect a plum and apple pie flavour in this sorbet. Alcohol lowers the freezing point, which in combination with sugar helps to achieve an easily scoopable frozen treat.
- 400 grams plums, pitted and quartered
- 225 millilitres apple juice
- 50 grams (¼ cup) sugar
- ½ inch piece ginger, peeled and grated or finely minced
- Pinch salt
- 30 millilitres (2 tablespoons) Żubrówka bison grass vodka
- 5 millilitres (1 teaspoon) fresh lemon or lime juice
- 5 millilitres (1 teaspoon) liquid glucose (optional, but will improve texture)
- In a medium saucepan, add the plums, apple juice, sugar, ginger, and salt. Simmer gently for around 15-20 minutes, until fruit is very soft.
- Allow the mixture to cool and then tip the contents of the pan into a blender. Liquidise until smooth. Add the lemon juice, vodka, and glucose (if using) and whizz through quickly before transferring the container to the fridge for at least a couple of hours.
- Process the sorbet mix in your ice cream maker per manufacturer’s instructions.
- Author: Kip Dorrell
- Cuisine: Polish fusion