Sunday, November 28, 2010

Drinks for the Season: Krupnik

As a person of Polish heritage, I feel that I would be remiss if my list of seasonal/holiday drinks did not include a taste of Polish culture.  So with that, I bring you:   Krupnik!  Krupnik is a traditional Polish spiced honey liqueur with an origin that dates back (in some form) to at least to the 18th Century, and some claim as far back as the 5th Century (although the ingredient list has evolved over time).  It is also drunk in Lithuania, where it is called Krupnikas.  Krupnik is said to have been used as an herbal/medicinal remedy for certain ailments, including the common cold.  Krupnik is also a traditional drink during wigilia, the traditional Polish celebration of Christmas Eve.  There are commercial versions of Krupnik available, including one made by Starogard Gdanski distillery, the maker of Sobieski vodka.  Homemade recipes for Krupnik (which are clearly where the fun is at) are said to be common family secrets handed down from generation to generation (although alas, I had to come up with my own).

Without further ado, here's the recipe I have used for making homemade Krupnik, a variation combining elements from a number of different recipes I've come across (see e.g. the sources at the bottom).

16 oz raw honey
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp cold water
3 cups boiling water
6 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 whole vanilla bean pod (split open)
1 small nutmeg, grated
zest from 1/2 lemon
zest from 1/2 orange
4 juniper berries, whole
10 allspice berries, whole
10 black peppercorns, whole
3 star anise fruits
750 ml vodka  (I used Lukosowa potato vodka)
- Combine 1 cup sugar and 2 tbsp cold water in large saucepan.  Heat until dissolved, then bring to a hard boil until caramelized, stirring well in the meanwhile.  The mix will begin to turn yellow-brown, and then begin to darken pretty quickly once the sugar begins to melt.  I suggest turning down the heat a bit once about half the sugar has melted and begun turning color.
- Remove from heat, then add 3 cups boiling water, being careful to avoid splatter.  Warning:  the mix will also steam heavily as the water is added. 
- Add in spices and zest. 
- Heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.  You should now have a wonderful smelling mix reminiscent of mulled cider (frankly, if you wanted break off here and blend in some apple cider instead, I wouldn't blame you and I bet the result wouldn't be half bad!). 
- Let cool for approx 30 minutes.
- Strain the syrup mixture through cheesecloth and coffee filters.
- Return syrup to a pot.  Begin heating and stir in honey until dissolved, straining off any floating residue with a slotted spoon.
- Bring to a boil, then immediately remove from heat.
- Gradually stir in vodka.
Serve hot, or let cool and bottle.

The resulting liqueur has a potent honey taste to it with a number of delightful spiced notes.  

Some other recipes can be found here, here, here, here, and here.  Most use a similar general methodology to what I used, although some suggest a cold mix with more aging.  In some cases, the recipes suggest using rectified spirits (grain alcohol, or if you are Polish, spirytus) rather than vodka as the base.  I might go that route the next time around for comparative purposes (in Connecticut at least, there's some Polish import stores where you can actually buy Polish spirytus).  If you want to go this route, then, assuming you are using approx 190 proof neutral spirits, I would use between 1/2 and 2/3 the amount of spirits in the recipe (depending on how much bite you are looking for).  You can also tone down the sweetness some by dropping the amount of honey to 12 oz. 

If you are looking for something more do to do with your Krupnik than just drink it straight, some suggestions I've seen include adding it to either champagne or beer.  The Drinkgal website also has some cocktail ideas that use Krupnik here.

Na zdrowie!


  1. really enjoyed the krupnik the other night. great flavor though as one would guess, it is sweet. i liked the way it mixed with the riesling we were drinking. made me wonder how it would taste when added to a mulled red wine. up for some experimenting?

  2. This is delicious! I doubled your recipe and added 1.75 liters of 100 proof vodka--I know my audience!--and a dark late fall local (western PA) because that's what I had. The honey taste is wonderfully pronounced but I'll make it again with clover honey.

    I also enjoy making mead so this is a great addition to my repertoire. Thanks for sharing!

    Pittsburgh, PA