Polish Krupnik is a winter drink that combines vodka with honey, spices, and aromatics like orange, cinnamon, and vanilla. It's a festive, aromatic drink that's traditionally enjoyed at Wigilia (Christmas Eve supper) in Poland.
First to clarify, here we're talking about the sweet honey vodka liqueur called Krupnik, not the Polish barley soup of the same name!
Krupnik (or Krupnikas in Lithuanian) is a winter drink in Poland, Lithuania, and Belarus. It's said to have been created by 16th-century Benedictine monks in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonweath, which is the modern-day city of Niasviz in Belarus. (Learn more about the origin of this honey liqueur on Difford's Guide.)
It's a vodka-based drink that's sweetened with honey and flavored with spices and aromatics, such as cinnamon, vanilla, and orange. Krupnik is a festive liqueur that's traditionally served as part of the Christmas Eve feast known as Wigilia in Poland. It only needs 2 hours to steep, so it's a great last-minute homemade Christmas gift or hostess gift option.
If you're familiar with a classic Hot Toddy, you can think of this drink as the spiced up version!
Polish Vodka and Honey Liqueur Ingredients and Substitutions
In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas where applicable. For the full recipe (including the ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.
- Water - I add water because otherwise I find that Krupnik is too strong for my preference; however, you can omit the water for an even more highly concentrated drink
- Honey - clover honey is common, but you can use any type of honey you like; or you can use 1 ½ cups of sugar instead of 1 cup of honey
- Vanilla bean pod - or you can use ½ tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
- Cinnamon sticks - or ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Whole cloves - or ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- Fresh ginger - or ⅓ teaspoon dried ginger
- Whole peppercorns - this is optional, but I like the piquancy pepper adds for balance; if you don't have whole peppercorns, you can use ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Whole allspice berries - or ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
- Peel from 1 lemon - use organic if possible and wash it well
- Peel from 1 orange - also use organic here and wash it thoroughly
- Vodka - the nice thing about this festive drink is that you're mixing vodka and honey with spices and aromatics, so you don't need to use an expensive vodka (read: no Grey Goose or Belvedere required!)
- Add everything except the vodka to a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cover, and let it simmer for 5 minutes, adjusting the heat down as necessary so it doesn’t boil.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the vodka. Let it steep (covered) at room temperature for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
Strain the mixture.
Pour the liquid into sterilized bottles and seal the bottles.
You can store the Krupnik in sterilized, sealed bottles at room temperature for up to 1 year. If you don’t seal your bottles, you can store Krupnik in the fridge for up to 1 month.
Polish Krupnik Vodka Drink FAQs
What is the Difference Between Liquor and Liqueur?
Liquor is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grains, fruits, vegetables, or sugar. For example, tequila is made from agave, rum is made from sugar cane or molasses, and vodka is made from wheat, rye, corn, or potatoes. (Read more about what different liquors are made from on SOMM TV.) Another term for these types of drinks is a spirit or a distilled spirit.
On the other hand, liqueur is a spirit that's sweetened (with sugar, honey, etc.) and commonly flavored (with things like herbs, botanicals, spices, fruit, etc.).
Liquor usually (but not always) has a higher alcohol content than liqueur.
Historically, liqueurs have been used medicinally for centuries, and were thought of as a cure for a variety of ailments. They went by the names of elixir, cordial, balm, tonic, and even potion. Eventually, liqueurs became popular recreational drinks. (Find out more about the history of liqueur on Martha Stewart.)
What is Honey Liqueur?
Honey liqueur is a combination of a distilled spirit and honey. Krupnik is an example of a honey liqueur, as it's a combination of vodka and honey.
What Does Krupnik Taste Like?
The type of honey, as well as the particular herbs, spices, and other aromatics (such as citrus) impact the flavor.
This Krupnik recipe is heavy on the citrus and vanilla with a hint of ginger, and perfectly sweetened with honey.
How Do You Drink Krupnik?
Traditionally, this honey vodka liqueur is served hot during cold winter months. It will warm you up from the inside! It's commonly sipped warm from cordial glasses as an aperitif before a meal or as a digestif after a meal.
However, if you prefer, you can serve Krupnik chilled (aka "neat") or over ice (aka "on the rocks") for a refreshing beverage. Additionally, you can serve it at room temperature.
My favorite way to drink it is over ice!
More Festive Christmas Drinks to Make
- 10-Minute Gingerbread Cocktail
- Tom and Jerry Drink
- How to Make Drinking Chocolate (French Hot Chocolate)
- Hot Buttered Rum Cocktail
Polish Krupnik Vodka (Spiced Honey Liqueur)
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup honey
- 1 vanilla bean pod split the pod lengthwise and scrape the seeds (I also add the pod to get the most flavor out of it)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 inch piece fresh ginger scrubbed and sliced (peeled if not organic)
- ½ teaspoon whole peppercorns or ¼ teaspoon black pepper (optional)
- 8 whole allspice berries or ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
- Peel from 1 lemon use organic if possible and wash it well
- Peel from 1 orange use organic if possible and wash it well
- 2 cups vodka
- Add everything except the vodka to a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cover, and let it simmer for 5 minutes, adjusting the heat down as necessary so it doesn’t boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the vodka.
- Let it steep (covered) at room temperature for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
- Strain the mixture and pour the liquid into sterilized bottles and seal the bottles.
- Once they’re sealed, you can store the bottles at room temperature for up to 1 year. If you don’t seal your bottles, you can store Krupnik in the fridge for up to 1 month.
- Recipe Yield and Serving Size: This recipe makes about 3 ½ cups of liqueur, or 14 (¼-cup) servings.