The first step in vodka production is very similar to that of brewing beer. One begins with the production of the so-called mash, the mixing of the respective raw material, i.e. ground and malted grain or crushed potatoes, with water, whereby in the case of potatoes, additional enzymes, e.g. from malt, must be added. During subsequent heating, the enzymes contained in the malt (especially amylase) become active and break down the starch molecules. Yeast is added to the now sweet mash (the wort) to start the fermentation. During fermentation, the sugar in the mash is converted into alcohol, up to a content of 6 to 7 percent alcohol by volume. Then the actual distillation takes place, whereby the so-called raw alcohol is obtained. Filtered water will then be added to bring it down to the drinkable level which is usually around 40% volume.
Vodka in Poland is enjoyed in good company and not ment to be drunken alone, if so, you are considered an alcoholic. Usually you drink it with food and that might be a reason for the hour long meals, with the food being brought to the table until far after midnight. To drink properly, hold your breath and down the small glass at once, breathing out deeply after. Even considered a neutral spirit, vodka has different tastes depending on the base ingredient and the percentage of alcohol. So there are differences in their aromatic character, sweetness or texture (smooth or a little harsh in the throat).
Being in a good mood after the vodka tasting, which is ment to be swallowed not like on a wine tasting, we went only around the corner to Zoni restaurant. Located in parts of the former vodka factory, this restaurant is quite a place to be in Warsaw for contemporay fine dining. The interior relies on the history of the building, combining copper, wood and metal and the guests can enjoy the open kitchen as a stage for the ambitious chefs.
A choice of Polish white and red wine was offered together with bread and butter. I got to admit, that I did not expect Poland to grow wines at all and they have not been too memorable yet, but a starting point is set and good vines need decades to carry excellent grapes. Nevertheless both variations have been easy going, not being complex at all for my taste. Fortunately Magda, our guide was willing to share the menu with me, so we could have a taste of each dish from the menu that offered two choices for each course.
This dinner has been by far the most complex one in terms of composition and technics, not meaning being better than the others we have tasted. Yet it was a great way to end the trip and to be able to see what chefs are up to here. I really liked the roasted cauliflower with brown butter for starter and the tender ribs we had as a choice of main. Zoni restaurant would not be booked out for long in advance if it would not offer the standard we could taste that last evening. I was just a very nice location with great staff and very fine food.