Dyngus Day 2016 may go down in history as the year of the great krupnik crisis.
The Poland-made honey liqueur is a favorite among revelers. But this year, it is in short supply, leaving taverns and social clubs scrambling to stockpile whatever they can find.
There are conflicting reports as to why krupnik is so hard to find. Distributors have heard it’s due to a shortage of ingredients or materials – either honey or bottles. Retailers have heard that Warsaw manufacturer Polmos relocated to a new facility, disrupting production. Others have different theories.
“I think they heard Buffalo has too much fun on Dyngus Day and they wanted to curb our enthusiasm,” said Jeff Walker, district manager for Opici, which distributes the preferred Old Krupnik brand of krupnik for Poland-based distillery Polmos.
Polmos couldn’t be reached for comment. But one thing is certain: The shortage is real.
Tom Golimowski, owner of the Happy Swallow tavern on Sycamore Street, has about six bottles of Old Krupnik stashed away for the big day. He knows it won’t last long.
“There’s no backup plan,” he said. “There’s no replacing krupnik.”
Premier Wine & Spirits sold out of Polmos Old Krupnik weeks ago, and the product is back-ordered until August.
In its place, the store posted a do-it-yourself recipe for those interested in making their own krupnik. The recipe calls for vodka and honey, as well as citrus peel, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and peppercorns. Premier also ordered extra cases of a less popular, off-brand of krupnik in hopes it will appease customers in a crunch.
“Krupnik is one of those silent sellers that you don’t pay much attention to,” said Kevin Driscoll, the store’s general manager. “But it’s something you know you have to have or people will get mad.”
The Buffalo region consumes more krupnik than any other market in the country, according to Opici. The locals also drink 82 percent of all the krupnik sold in New York State.
The second largest krupnik buyer is Chicago, which is known for its large population of Poles. The liqueur is consumed year round, especially by older Polish-Americans, and has been promoted heavily during Forgotten Buffalo’s Polonia tours.
But on Dyngus Day, it’s the star of the show.
Polish Cadets is using its supply of krupnik to attract more Dyngus Day visitors to its Black Rock lodge. The social club searched as far as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Syracuse to fill its larder, and managed to secure more than 50 bottles.
To promote its robust stash, the club completely reconfigured its Dyngus Day parade float to incorporate the bears from the Old Krupnik label, as well as a honey hive, bumblebees and a beekeeper. A sign on the back says, “We have krupnik.”
“We heard the buzz about the shortage, so we wanted to let everyone know, ‘Hey, we’ve got your krupnik, so come on down,’ ” said James “Corky” Johnson, Polish Cadets vice president.
The 80-proof drink retails for about $16. It’s usually consumed by the shot glass or over ice and is often used as a digestif, consumed after a meal to aid in digestion. It’s also used as a home remedy to treat colds and the flu.
“Some of the older people use it like medicine,” said Golimowski at the Happy Swallow. “You drink four or five of them, put your head under the covers and you’ll feel a lot better the next day.”
It’s too early to tell how revelers may feel Tuesday morning, after a Dyngus Day celebration lacking krupnik.