There are very few practices around the world as common as drinking alcohol and almost every culture has a different tipple that is traditional or exclusive to their area. If you are passing through, a dose of the local drop can often add to your travel experience and in some cases such as Oktoberfest or Spain’s Haro Wine Festival a particular beverage is at the very core of the experience. Below are details of some unique experiences where myself and other travel bloggers have partaken in iconic alcoholic drinks from different corners of the globe. Round the world in famous drinks anyone?
It’s not Champagne unless it’s from Champagne, France
Written by Shanti from A Wanderphile
France is famous for many things; cheese, chocolate, croissants and beautiful woman. It is also famous for Champagne!! Yes, that’s right the Real McCoy, famous, bubbly wine from the Champagne region of France. None of this pretend crap. You might have guessed by now that I am a huge Champagne fan and one of my best ever travel experiences was a few days in the home of Champagne. The commercial centre of which is Reims. Reims is a grand, gothic city situated in the north eastern corner of France. And oh my, oh my, if you are looking for a fantastic way to spend a few days add this to your wanderlist. Reims and the surrounding regions are where anything legitimately referred to as champagne comes from. There are numerous champagne houses throughout the city and surrounding vineyards and most of these can be visited easily. Taittinger, Pommery, Moët et Chandon (please don’t pronounce this Mo-e, it is Mo-et!), G H Mumms, Vueve Clicquot they are all there.
Let’s just say we might have joyfully ambled down Champagne de Avenue a few times after learning about the Champagne process from the vine to the glass. The end being the most important part of course where you can taste and purchase all the different kinds of champagne. Enjoying the delicate taste, sparkling euphoria and gentle nuances of this seductive drink while also sampling the local cheese and canapés. Champagne is the perfect drink for celebrations but we’ve all got something to celebrate every day right?! As F Scott Fitzgerald said “too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right”.
Peru’s Potent Pisco Sour
Written by Ashlyn from The Lost Girl’s Guide to Finding the World
An iconic cocktail in South America is the Pisco Sour. Pisco is a clear brandy and the base liquor in the drink. It is turned sour by whipped sugar, lime and egg as a tangy froth on top. Found mainly in the southwestern part of the continent, the drink originated in Peru. Although I’m not a fan of sour flavours, I actually enjoyed the cocktail and drank it several times on my journey through the country. I also learned more about it at a vineyard and a local pisco and wine cellar near Ica. You need to be careful though as it goes down easy and really packs a punch.
A Well Deserved Lao-Lao in Laos
Written by Ruben from Gamin Traveler
Lao-Lao is a Laotian rice whisky produced in Laos. Here’s the story on how I came to try this amazing whisky.
It was New Year’s Eve in 4,000 Islands, the party place in Laos. A local man asked for my help to pull a boat from the water. It was deep into the water and he needed help to get it out. We spent a couple of hours working on it and after resolving that, he invited me to his home on a nearby island. He cooked fresh fish on the barbecue and bought Lao-Lao liquor. We ate the fish and finished the whole bottle! Then finally ended up sleeping on the floor outside his home. This was definitely one of my most memorable experience in Laos!
Warning! Sangria does contain alcohol! (from Spain & Portugal)
Written by Wei Xin Lee from Miss Happy Feet
Sangria is an iconic beverage both in Spain and Portugal. It consists of cut fruits, red wine, a small amount of brandy and tons of sweetener. Although it seems like the perfect drink to top up your paella or tapas experience with, for me it was clearly not the case. No one told me Sangria was alcoholic and I failed to realize. When I was first introduced to Sangria in Barcelona, I thought it was merely a bitter local juice, just like grapefruit juice. I took a few sips and everything started going in the wrong direction. I eventually stumbled to the ground right after stepping out of the metro and my friends dragged me all the way to the El
Corte Ingles Mall, only to find the ladies rest room locked. Knowing that I “might” be dying, I rushed into the men’s restroom to induce vomiting. Someone called the medical center so I ended up being pushed around, in and out El Corte Ingles Mall in a wheelchair by the guard. What an experience! Even now I still can’t stand the words “Sangria” and “El Corte Ingles”, they bring back these memories, and my friends couldn’t stop teasing me with those two words. Sigh!
Tackling Mezcal from Mexico with Aplomb!
Written by Stella from Travelerette
I’ve never thought of tequila shots as being especially appealing, so I was very pleased to learn when I was in Mexico City that the trendy drink of the moment in the Distrito Federal is Mezcal. I was first introduced to this drink on an Urban Adventure’s tour of Mexico City’s nightlife. According to our guide, Mezcal, like tequila, is made from agave but unlike tequila it has a strong smokey flavor, a little bit like whiskey. The traditional way to drink Mezcal is straight with chili salt around the rim of the glass and a slice of orange. You can just suck on the orange either before or after drinking it, just like you would with tequila and lime.
The most memorable Mezcal drink I had in Mexico City was this concoction (pictured) I was served at a fabulous restaurant in the Polanco neighborhood called Dulce Patria en las Alcobas. This mixed Mezcal with orange juice and then a chili powder foam on top instead of just the chili salt. On the side came a piece of chili candy on a stick. I wasn’t exactly sure how to consume this, so I would just suck on the candy in between sips of the cocktail. Maybe all the waiters were secretly laughing at me, but I prefer to think they admired the aplomb with I tackled this complicated beverage.
It’s Clam Juice, Tomato Juice & Vodka?! Caesar from Canada
Written by Jen from The Snow Chasers
I was working in a restaurant in Canada a while back and on one of my first days, I spotted a big box labelled Clamato. Puzzled, I asked one of my teammates what it was to which they casually replied, “Clamato? It’s just clam juice and tomato juice mixed together”. Hang on, what? Someone decided to mix seafood into a juice?
Clamato is used to make a cocktail called the Caesar, a cocktail which is unique to Canada. It was created by a restaurant manager in Calgary and it’s pretty much a Bloody Mary on steroids. It contains vodka, clamato juice, worcestershire and hot sauce. It is served in a tall glass with a celery salted rim, a stalk of celery, wedge of lime and olives.
I love a good Bloody Mary and after a while of living in Canada, the idea of clamato juice didn’t seem so weird anymore so I decided to try the Caesar. And you know what? I loved it! The clamato adds depth and a lovely saltiness which really complements the tomato. And I love the touch with the olives and celery salt. If you love a Bloody Mary, then you’ll love this. Give it a go next time you’re in Canada!
The Singapore Sling Raffles Experience
Written by Vicki from Make Time to see the World
I think the Singapore Sling is one of the most famous cocktails around and on my first visit to the country it was high on my list of things to do. Naturally, I wanted to try it where it had been created and so made my way to the famous Raffles Hotel. Standing outside the Colonial Building I felt a little nervous – it looked a bit upmarket for broke backpacker and I wondered if I would even be allowed in! But in I went, taking photos at every other step (I know, way to stand out like a tourist!) and headed to the Long Bar. Opulent and high class – the building and decor were beautiful – and I felt like I had been transported to the far east of bygone times.
At around $30SGD – the Singapore Sling was certainly a luxury item on my backpacking trip and although I wish I could say it was worth it – I really didn’t like it!! The colour was amazing, but unfortunately that was about the only thing it had going for it! I’m not a fan of gin based cocktails so I shouldn’t have been surprised but the faint hint of cough syrup and the sweet and sour flavour combination just did not thrill me. But hey, at least I can say I had a Singapore Sling at Raffles!”
Take me to the Cuba Libre in Cuba
Kari from Words And Other Such Things
Going to Cuba had been a personal goal of mine for years. Ever since I learned that I, as an American, was forbidden to visit. When I went the summer of 2014, I was eager to see as much of the country as I could in the month I would be there. But I was also eager for another reason. Along with the country being forbidden, a very famous rum, Havana Club, was also off limits for me in the states. As a rum connoisseur, this was unconscionable.
So, after landing in Havana and taking an overnight bus to the other side of Cuba, Santiago de Cuba, I walked into the first bar I saw and ordered a Cuba Libre. And while I usually take my rum and cokes NFL (no f*&%ing lime), this was a proper Cuba Libre. It was made with Havana Club three year, Tu Kola, Cuba’s answer to Coca Cola and a very interesting pun, and squeezed lime from a used ½ liter with a straw through the cap. It was one of many, many Cuba Libras I would have during my time traveling back up to Havana, but it was the best.
Note to self: Don’t drink 10 Rakis in Crete
Written by Gabi from The Tiny Book
It is widely known that when in Greece you have to try Ouzo, a drink with a strong aniseed flavor. However, if you travel to Crete there is a whole different story going on. Cretan Raki (ρακή) is not just a drink. Sharing a bottle of Raki involves a moment of friendship and communication. There is always a glass of Raki when the Cretans welcome guests, or have long conversations in traditional tavernas. Also known as Tsikoudia, it was given the name of Raki during the Turkish occupation of Crete. Both names are used, but theTurkish Raki resembles the Greek’s ouzo more than the Cretan spirit.
For the locals, Raki is the king of drinks, not only for its delicious flavor of sweet raisins but for its pureness; it has no dyes or industrial alcohols. Basically it is a fragrant grape-based spirit with about 50-65 % alcohol by volume and it is mostly home-produced.
Raki is the metaphor of hospitality. When you visit a local restaurant, they will bring a small bottle of homemade Raki and don’t be surprised if the restaurant owner joins you for a toast! This is how they express their gratitude for your visit, offering it as a complimentary aperitif with fruit and sweets after the meal.
With their amazing sense of humor, Cretans have created the Decalogue of Raki. Keep it in mind:
The first glass of Raki brings appetite
The second health
The third brings joy
The fourth happiness
The fifth brings excitement
The sixth, chatter
The seventh brings fight
The eighth brings the police
The ninth brings the judge
And the tenth, funeral!
Sake from Japan. Kanpai!
Written by Mihaela from World Travel Bug
My favorite drink is definitely wine… well wine and champagne if I have to be more precise! Luckily Sake, is nothing but Japanese “wine”, rice wine in fact. It can be served hot or cold and my favorite has always been hot for some reason. Although it is served in small cups, it should not be drunk as a shot but instead savored sip by sip. And don’t forget to say Kanpai (cheers) while touching your cups together 😉
One lesser known things about sake is that the term “sake” is used in Japan for all alcoholic drinks, including wine, beer and so on. The actual Japanese word for sake is Nihonshu. Just like grapes for wine, there are also many varieties of rice for making sake but they result in only five basic types of sake, classified based on quality. Recently there have been more and more discussions about sake and food pairings just like for wine. Sake can be combined with almost all Japanese food which is generally lighter than other types of food. For example I could never have sake with Indian spicy food, but sake with sushi is a match made in heaven 🙂
There are hundreds more iconic alcoholic drinks around the world that deserve a mention. If you’re a travel blogger and would like to have a short write up and pic included on this post eg Guiness, soju, schnapps, aguardiente… Please email me your contribution at email@example.com for consideration.