Our friend Russel is growing Sweet Grass (or bison grass) in his garden. Sweet grass is the main flavoring in M:s and my favorite vodka, Zubrowka. Zubrowka is based on rye distilled vodka and the grass gives it a smooth herby taste with a touch of bitterness. The smell is grassy and has a barely noticeable vanilla accent.
Sweet grass has been used for ages by the Native Indians for ceremonies and healing rituals. In many places it’s still grown for basketry. In the 70-ies the US discovered that Sweet grass contains a small amount of coumarin and decided to ban the import of Zubrowka. Coumarin has the ability to thin your blood, the same effect Aspirin has. Well whenever I will need to prevent my blood from clotting, I will prefer a Zubrowka to an aspirin. I also think a cold Zubrowka goes better with herring. Today you can find artificially flavored “Zubrowka” in the US but it’s very distant from the real thing.
In some parts of the world, Sweet grass is growing wild but you can also find Sweet grass clogs on the Internet. Russel planted his clogs last spring and was able to harvest his first straws in September the same year. Russel grew up on a farm so we were quite certain the result would be lovely. As the Sweet grass is a perennial, Russel will soon be able to harvest it again. This time we think the result will be even better as the straws will be fresh and delicate!
for the essence you will need
1/3 liter rye vodka (however we used the wheat grain vodka, Svedka)
8 fresh blades of sweet grass cut into one inch lengths
Let the blades soak in a the vodka in a sealed glass jar for seven days. Any longer and this ‘essence’ tastes too bitter. Take the blades out, filter the essence through a coffee filter and mix approximately two parts vodka with one part essence.
If you mix Zubrowka with apple juice topped with a slice of lime you will have the cocktail that we call a boy scout. In Poland they call the cocktail tatanka or szarlotka (apple pastry).
There is off course other ways to make your own Zubrowka.