Przepalanka

The name comes from the verb przepalać, which means to overheat, blow, or scorch. For instance, when a lightbulb (żarówka) blows out, the verb of choice to chronicle the event is “przepalać” (with the reflexive “się” added to confuse foreigners). Likewise with a fuse — they’re still fairly common in Poland and in much of Europe, with the old buildings that still have old wiring.

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Cleaning the bottles

It also means “scorch,” though, as in to scorch sugar, as in to caramelize sugar. It’s from this that the name “przpalanka” comes from.

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The finished product

I first encountered przepalanka when my neighbor, a fellow American who was getting married in early 1997, invited me over for a Friday evening game of chess. I still didn’t know how to play chess, and he less so. We were basically just moving pieces around without any sense of strategy, but we could chat. And so when I entered, he greeted me with a strange declaration: “Look, we made vodka!”

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Measuring the sugar

We made it for our wedding, too. And it was the result of a jolt of terror during the wedding celebration.

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Przepala się

“We’re about out of vodka!” K proclaimed at about ten in the evening, when the party was just getting started.

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Dilution

Fortunately, she just meant przepalanka — else it would have been the end of the party.

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