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Drinking in Polish bars

What to drink, how to order it, and everything else you need to know about drinking the Polish way.

Photograph: Martha Williams; Vodka Courtesy of Sam’s Wines and Spirits

Pay for your drinks. Don’t start a fight. No groping anybody you don’t know. There are some rules you have to follow at every bar. But if you’re trying to blend in at a Polish bar like Ola’s Liquor (947 N Damen Ave, 773-384-7250) or Bim Bom (5226 W Belmont Ave, 773-777-2120), you need to follow an extra set of edicts. The first one: Don’t speak loudly and slowly to the bartenders—they’re Polish, not deaf, and they probably understand English as well as you do. For more guidelines on how to avoid acting like a typical American jackass, read on.

DO
drink at least one cocktail that’s fruity. Polish drinkers have a sweet tooth—try the bison-grass vodka with apple cider.

DON’T
order wine. You would not believe what passes for wine at a Polish bar.

DO
order Sobieski vodka. Only recently available in the States, this vodka—one of Poland’s most popular—is much more nuanced than its low price tag suggests.

DON’T
order a Bud Light. You’re in a Polish bar. Only Okocim (“oh-KO-chim”) and other light-as-water Polish lagers will do.

DO
order a shot with your beer. Poles drink their light beers with a side of something stronger—vodka, usually, or krupnik, a honey liquor.

DO
ask the bartender if he can make you a furious dog shot, which, according to TOC’s Polish intern, involves vodka, fruit syrup and Tabasco.

DON’T
be surprised if he has no idea what you’re talking about and makes you a Polish flag (vodka and cherry juice) instead.

DO
try to hit on the beautiful Polish bartender. Couldn’t hurt.

DON’T
tell her she looks like Anna Kournikova. Anna Kournikova is Russian, genius.

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