Throw one back local-style with our guide to global alcoholic offerings.
Boozy beverages are backpacker staples. Most backpackers will shamefully admit to stashing a half-drunk bottle of wine in their already overloaded rucksack or, even more embarrassing, placing it with the legion of plastic bags that poor-packers use to deal with the spillover. You never knew when an adult beverage would come in handy – on the train to your next destination, the next night at the hostel or when you’re walking around town and you need something to quench your thirst (ok, that last one is something of a stretch). Regardless, if it cost more than 3€, there is no way in hell you were leaving it at the hostel.
This stinginess confuses many a lay-person who mistakenly endow backpackers with the “alcoholic” label. I admit, a slight penchant for the hard stuff may also contribute this reputation. Don’t let these labels upset you – an easy way to justify your love for firewater is to reject your classic Bud Light and immerse yourself in the culture by guzzling the local brew. By drinking the local liquor, you can enjoy (“experience” may be a better word) what that particular country’s breweries, distilleries, wineries and bartenders have to offer. Below is a list of local specialties, by country/region. There’s even a toast list to help you break down those cultural barriers. Know of a toast, drink or country not on the list? Shoot me an email at court at bootsnall dot com.
- Lemon, lime & bitters: Contains exactly as the name says. Not alcoholic.
- Victoria Bitter: One of the most popular beers Down Under, from the state of Victoria (duh).
- Shiraz: Known as ‘Syrah’ when grown outside of the country, shiraz is Australia’s red wine specialty.
Belgium: Op Uw Gezonheid!
- Stella Artois: Comparatively high in alcohol content, this beer is famous in many countries around the world but originates here.
- Cachaça (aka Pinga): Sugarcane spirit from Brasil. Used in a “caiparinha” drink, also good with honey in a shot glass or alone. Avoid the “Pitu” brand exported to Europe.
- Caiparihna: This lime creation uses the above sugarcane spirit for its base alcohol.
- Canadian Ice Wine: Sharp, refreshing white wine.
- Newfoundland Screech: A dark rum whose roots trace back to fishing ships that used to visit the Caribbean Islands.
- Bloody Caesar: This bloody mary contains a twist of clamato – seasonings, tomato juice and clam juice.
- Mojitos: This rum-and-mint drink can also contain lime juice, club soda and sugar or syrup. Best when drunk on a hot, sunny day, while sitting on the beach (but is also popular in bars around the world.)
Central/South America: Salud!
- Aguardiente: Cane liquor found throughout Latin America.
China: Wen Lie!
- Maotai: A clear 55% alcohol, drunk alone in shot form.
- Rakija: Croatian moonshine made mostly of plum or pears
Czech Republic: Na Zdravi!
- Absinthe: A bitter, bright green liquid with a high alcohol content, made of herbal extract including wormwood. Often mixed with crystallized sugar and water and taken as a shot. Absinthe with high wormwood levels is associated with side effects including delirium and hallucinations (see: Green fairy in Moulin Rouge of frequent user Van Gogh). It is only available for purchase in a few places around the world, and is only really drunk for enjoyment in the Czech Republic.
- Becherovka: This drink, taken alone in shot form or mixed with water, includes more than 20 herbs. This slightly-cinnamon booze is made in Karlovy Vary.
- Red wine and coca-cola mix: Rumors have it locals swear by it.
- Aquavit: Potent schnapps
- Pims: A liquor with only 25% alcohol. Usually mixed with another sweet drink such as lemonade.
- Tej: Fermented honey (mead), served spiked with hop shoots.
- Kava: A traditional Fijian drink made of water and ground kava roots, used in both ceremonies and drinking sessions. Tastes like muddy water and numbs your mouth – high quantities are said to produce hallucinogenic effects. Kava roots are banned for sale in many countries, due to health concerns, but many Fijians believe it has healing characteristics.
- Hefferweizen: A sweet, smooth and creamy beer, sometimes served with a lemon.
- Eiswein: A dessert wine created from frozen mature grapes, resulting in an intense, concentrated taste.
- Stroh: An artificial rum with 80% alcohol content. Should be avoided at all costs.
Greece: Iss Ighian!
- Ouzo: A dark black alcohol with a black liquorish flavor, drunk alone in shot form.
- Garifuna: This cane alcohol contains seeds and leafs and is only for those with strong stomachs!
Ibiza (Balearic Islands): Salud!
- Hierbas: Sweet liquor created with wild herbs and Anise. Very easy to make, but takes super-strong patience as it takes about a year to seep.
- Tauk: A cloudy-white Balinesian beer made from palm sap. Not recommended.
- Brem: This is a palm wine.
- Arak: A palm liqour, ofen mixed with honey, water and lime.
Ireland: Slainte! or Cheers!
- Guinness: Ireland’s infamous dark and heavy beer with enough hearty omph! to be classified as a meal.
- Kosher wine: Yeah, you can find this stuff elsewhere, but when in Israel… Super sweet and usually served for traditional meals – not bars – the unusual wine is worth a taste.
Italy: Alla Salute!
- Limonella: Sweet liquor with a bitter kick, best served chilled, mixed or alone.
- Sake: A clear, potent alcohol made from rice. Taken in shot or class form, warm or cold (depending on the brand and quality).
- Sapporo: Japan’s most famous beer.
- Sake Bomb: A drink combining the two above ingredients. Drop a shot of sake into a Sapporo and slam it!
- Rice whisky: In local villages, this can be served straight-from-the-still so be prepared!
- Kinney: This non-alcoholic orange soda also has flavors of nutmeg/cinnamon.
- Margarita: A cold drink made of tequila, lime and ice. Also comes in flavors.
- Negra Modelo: A rich, dark beer.
- Michelada: A drink of lime juice and mexican beer with a salted rim, topped off with freah lime.
- Superior: Mexican beer.
- Mezcal: Native to Oaxaca, this tequila is now famous due to the tiny worm that is kept in the bottle. If you get the worm in your drink or shot, you have good luck and must drink it.
Morocco: Saha Wa Afiab
- Mint tea: Enjoyed at almost every meal, visitors claim the mint tea sugar buzz alone will cause a hangover.
- Blue Curacao: From Curaçao, this electric blue liquor is a popular addition to numerous mixed drinks.
- Victoria: A local beer.
- Flor de Cana: A popular Nicaraguan rum.
- Chicha: This fermented corn drink is sold on numerous street corners and is most similar to beer.
- Pisco Sour: A drink containing egg and pisco, which is local firewater. Yikes!
Poland: Na Zdrowie!
- Zywiec: A popular beer brew in Poland
- Mad Dog: Layered vodka, raspberry syrup and lemonade with enough Tabasco on top to make you grab another drink.
Romania: Im Sanatatea, Noroc, or Dumnevoastra!
- Tuica (pronounced tzuica): A brady with varying alcohol content, made from pears, plums or mixtures of different fruits.
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- Palinca: A brandy stronger than tuica, with a mild tequila taste.
- Russian Vodka: 40 proof alcoholic drink invented by Mendeleyev (the author of the chemical periodical table as well).
Scotland: Doon the hatch!
- Scottish Whiskey: A strong alcohol, usually favored straight up by connoisseurs.
- Singapore Sling: Although you can find this mixed drink world-wine, why not try one while you’re in the country where it got its namesake.
- Slivovitz: Slovenian moonshine. Yee Haw!
South Africa: Gesonoheid!
- Amarula: A killer sweet liquor made from the marula fruit.
- Sangria: A mix of cheap red wine, sugar and fruit.
- Orujo: A local flavored schnapps, with various options including honey, herbs and bitter.
- Glog: Hot, spiced wine.
- Bee wine: This rice wine is famous for containing bees..
- Kaoliang: A liquor made of sorghum with a sweet, molasses-like aftertaste.
- Boukkha: A fig spirit, best when drunk with coke.
- Horilka: Ukrainian vodka often served with red pepper (Horilka z pertsem)
- Kvas: non-alcoholic sweet Slavic beer made of black bread
- Medovukha: sweet low-alcoholic drink made of honey
United States of America: Cheers!
- Moonshine: This hold-on-to-your-cowboy-hat clear alcohol is created with fermented corn or rice mash. Yee haw! Often slipped in with punch for a surprise kick.
- Whiskey: Single, double, barrel malt or a plethora of other ways, whiskey is a good ol’, down home, USA specialty.