Bottle #47: Polmos Wisniak

After recruiting a native Polish speaker to help me figure out the backstory of bottle #39, Wawel honey wine, I was a little worried about starting to research Bottle #47: Polmos Wisniak. But it was actually one of the easiest bottles I’ve had so far!

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Wisniak is a Polish cherry liqueur. That was easy to learn, since the front of the bottle says “Polish Cherry” right on it. But searching for it pulled up dozens of recipes for making your own. It couldn’t be easier: mix unpitted cherries with high proof neutral spirit and sugar, and let the mixture sit for at least 3 months. According to some sources, if you make it with sweet cherries than it’s wisniak, and if you make it with sour cherries, then it’s wisniowka. If that’s true, then mine would be made from sweet cherries. There are versions of this liqueur with similar names made throughout Eastern Europe.

And not just there. As soon as I read the recipe, I thought of Cherry Bounce, which is another liqueur made basically the same way, traditionally with brandy, then whiskey, and more recently sometimes vodka. I had tended to think of it as a US Midwest thing, but apparently George and Martha Washington were serving it up at Mount Vernon. North Carolina hosts a cherry bounce festival every year, and “Cherrybounce” is listed as a person’s nickname in a 1670 House of Lords report from England. Bounce has been around for a long time! It seems everywhere cherries grow, people soaki them in alcohol.

The bottle label is really striking, with a man riding a rearing horse. As I looked for similar bottles, I noticed that the modern Stawski brand Wisniak has a nearly identical label. But my bottle is from Polmos, not Stawski, which seemed strange, since both brands seemed to still be around. But then Wikipedia came to the rescue. It turns out that Polmos was the name of the Polish state-owned liquor monopoly from the late 1920s until 1989. After the fall of Communism in Poland in 1989 Polmos was split up into several different companies, with different entities getting control of different distilleries and specific brands of drinks. So my guess is that the Stawski got the rights to the Wisniak production and this specific label design.

Lots of recipes and stories about Wisniak/Bounce suggest starting it when cherries are fresh and in season, and then putting it away until Thanksgiving or Christmas (or the High Holidays if you are an Eastern European Jew). Most recipes also say that it “keeps forever,” which I will be putting to the test with this bottle! Based on the tax label, I can confidently say that it was imported into the US between 1983 and 1985. So if “forever” is more than 40 years old, maybe this one will be as much of a treat as the Wawel mead was!

Watch me taste this bottle with Tony Jimenez.

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Bottle #47: Polmos Wisniak

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After recruiting a native Polish speaker to help me figure out the backstory of bottle #39, Wawel honey wine, I was a little worried about starting to research Bottle #47: Polmos Wisniak. But it was actually one of the easiest bottles I’ve had so far!

Wisniak is a Polish cherry liqueur. That was easy to learn, since the front of the bottle says “Polish Cherry” right on it. But searching for it pulled up dozens of recipes for making your own. It couldn’t be easier: mix unpitted cherries with high proof neutral spirit and sugar, and let the mixture sit for at least 3 months. According to some sources, if you make it with sweet cherries than it’s wisniak, and if you make it with sour cherries, then it’s wisniowka. If that’s true, then mine would be made from sweet cherries. There are versions of this liqueur with similar names made throughout Eastern Europe.

And not just there. As soon as I read the recipe, I thought of Cherry Bounce, which is another liqueur made basically the same way, traditionally with brandy, then whiskey, and more recently sometimes vodka. I had tended to think of it as a US Midwest thing, but apparently George and Martha Washington were serving it up at Mount Vernon. North Carolina hosts a cherry bounce festival every year, and “Cherrybounce” is listed as a person’s nickname in a 1670 House of Lords report from England. Bounce has been around for a long time! It seems everywhere cherries grow, people soaki them in alcohol.

The bottle label is really striking, with a man riding a rearing horse. As I looked for similar bottles, I noticed that the modern Stawski brand Wisniak has a nearly identical label. But my bottle is from Polmos, not Stawski, which seemed strange, since both brands seemed to still be around. But then Wikipedia came to the rescue. It turns out that Polmos was the name of the Polish state-owned liquor monopoly from the late 1920s until 1989. After the fall of Communism in Poland in 1989 Polmos was split up into several different companies, with different entities getting control of different distilleries and specific brands of drinks. So my guess is that the Stawski got the rights to the Wisniak production and this specific label design.

Lots of recipes and stories about Wisniak/Bounce suggest starting it when cherries are fresh and in season, and then putting it away until Thanksgiving or Christmas (or the High Holidays if you are an Eastern European Jew). Most recipes also say that it “keeps forever,” which I will be putting to the test with this bottle! Based on the tax label, I can confidently say that it was imported into the US between 1983 and 1985. So if “forever” is more than 40 years old, maybe this one will be as much of a treat as the Wawel mead was!

 Watch me taste this bottle with Tony Jimenez.

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