Poland is on the border of European "vodka" and "beer culture". Poles enjoy alcoholic drinks but they drink less than the European average. You can buy beer, vodka and wine. Although Poland is known as the birthplace of vodka, local beer seems to have much more appeal to many Poles. Another traditional alcoholic beverage is mead. Polish liqueurs and nalewka alcoholic tincture are a must.
Officially, in order to buy alcohol one should be over 18 years old and be able to prove it with a valid ID which is strictly enforced.
Poland's brewery tradition began in the Middle Ages. Today Poland is one of top beer countries in Europe.
Although not well known internationally, Poland traditionally sports some of the best pilsner-type lagers worldwide. The most common big brands include:
Å»ywiec pronounced ZHIV-y-ets
Tyskie pronounced TIS-kye
Okocim pronounced oh-KO-cheem
Lech pronounced LEH
Warka pronounced VAR-kah
ÅomÅ¼a pronounced Uom-zha
Micro-breweries and gastro-pubs are on the rise, in particular in the larger cities, and many delicatessen or supermarkets carry smaller brands, including hand-crafted beers of many types.
Drinking water with a meal is not a Polish tradition; having a tea or coffee afterwards is much more common. If you want water with a meal, you might need to ask for it - and you will usually get a choice of carbonated gazowana or still niegazowana bottled water, rather than a glass of tap water. As a result water is never free, and is pretty expensive too compared to the average price of a meal about 4zl for one glass. Beware that even "still" bottled water, while not visibly bubbly, will still contain some carbon dioxide.
Carbonated mineral waters are popular, and several kinds are available. Poland was known for its mineral water health spas pijalnie wÃ³d in the 19th century, and the tradition remains strong - you can find many carbonated waters that are naturally rich in minerals and salts. You can also travel to the spas such as Szczawnica or Krynica, which are still operational.
Opinions regarding the safety of tap water vary: odds are it's OK, but most residents opt to boil or filter it anyway.
tea and coffee
Throw stereotypes out the door. For Poles, one of the most important staples to quench their thirst is not wÃ³dka or beer, but rather tea and coffee.
When ordering a coffee, you'll find that it is treated with respect reminiscent of Vienna, rather than, say, New York. Which is to say: you'll get a fresh cup prepared one serving at a time, with table service that assumes you'll sit down for a while to enjoy it. Mass-produced to-go coffee remains highly unpopular, although chains such as Coffee Heaven have been making inroads. Curiously, there are still only a few Starbucks shops in the whole country.
Ordering a tea, on the other hand, will usually get you a cup or kettle of hot water, and a tea bag on the side, so that the customer can put together a tea that's as strong or as weak as they like. This is not uncommon in continental Europe, but may require some adjustment for visitors. Tea houses with large selection of good quality teas and a relaxing atmosphere are gaining popularity.
For the most part, a good coffee can be had for 5 - 10 zÅ a cup, while a cup of tea can be purchased for the same, unless you happen to order a small kettle, in which case you'll probably pay something between 20 - 30 zÅ.
Mead - MiÃ³d Pitny is a traditional and historical alcohol drink in Poland. Mead is brewed from honey and has excellent unusual taste similar to wine. Original Polish mead contain 13-20% alcohol. Sometimes it can be very sweet. Today Poles have a strange relationship with mead. All of them have heard of it, almost none have ever tried it.