One of the joys of traveling to a new place is experiencing local cuisine. Food and drink are intricately tied to culture. Alcohol is a particularly interesting aspect of local cuisine that is worth exploring if you drink. The social and cultural significance of alcohol varies around the world, which is why exploring a new place through alcoholic beverages is a fun way to immerse yourself in the culture. We’ve therefore curated a list of the most popular alcoholic drinks in different countries.
First, some disclaimers. If you decide to drink, please drink responsibly. Before you go out, make sure you have a plan in place to get back to where you’re staying safely. Going out with people you trust is recommended. Also remember that alcohol laws differ in different countries, so before you drink, make sure that you are legally allowed to drink in whichever country you find yourself. Underage drinking can have serious legal consequences. Know your limits. If you start to feel off from drinking, listen to your body and stop. To avoid sickness and/or a hangover, it is recommended to enjoy alcohol with plenty of food and water. Finally, if you don’t or can’t drink, there’s no shame! There are plenty of ways to have fun in a new place without alcohol, and you can still go out with people who drink and enjoy yourself even if you personally don’t drink.
Now without further ado, the most popular alcoholic drinks around the world!
In 1964, Bourbon was declared the “National Spirit of America.” The beverage is made of fermented grains that age in barrels. Bourbon can be enjoyed in a Hot Teddy, and Old Fashioned, or straight up. Fun fact: September is National Bourbon Heritage Month.
A Caesar is made with vodka, clamato (clam juice), hot sauce, celery, lime, Worcestershire, and salt and pepper. Walter Chell, a restaurant manager in Calgary, Canada, invented this drink to celebrate the opening of an Italian restaurant at the Calgary Inn, as it reminded him of Spaghetti alle Vongole (spaghetti with clams)—a Venetian dish. Fun fact: Almost all clamato sales in the world are in Canada.
Tequila is made from mostly hand-harvested blue agave. Most people enjoy tequila shots. Tequila typically comes the area surrounding the city of Tequila, which is located in the highlands of the state of Jalisco. Fun fact: Mexico has international rights to the word tequila.
Many Brazilians enjoy cachaca, a Brazilian rum, with lime and sugar to make a Caipirinha. This is a sweet, citrus drink, which masks its high alcohol content. Fun fact: Until recently, Brazil refused to accept Bourbon as distinctly American. As payback, the US refused to accept cachaca is distinctly Brazilian.
Sales of Guinness in Ireland are over $2 billion a year. It was first brewed in 1759 when Arthur Guinness signed a 9000-year lease on an unused brewery. Fun fact: Supposedly there’s some research that claims that the antioxidants found in Guinness are similar to those found in fruits and vegetables and can be beneficial for heart health. Drink up!
Unlike most other countries, Scotland spells whisky without an e (as do Canada and Japan). Scottish whisky is different from other types of whiskey in that it is aged in oak barrels for at least 3 years. When writing about whisky to Scottish people, include the e at your own risk—don’t say we didn’t warn you! Fun fact: World Whisky Day takes place on the third Saturday of May every year.
This first sparkling wine was created by accident—proof that it’s not such a bad thing if things don’t go as planned. Sparkling wine produced in Champagne, France follows specific rules about a second fermentation. When champagne was created, the French called it “le vin du diable”—the devil’s wine. Fun fact: The most expensive bottle of champagne costs $2.07 million!
Germany: Reinheitsgebot beer
Reinheitsgebot beer refers to any beer made under the Germany Purity Law, which was in effect until 1993. Under this law, beer ingredients were restricted to water, barley, and hops. You can be assured you’re getting the purest beer if you’re ordering a Reinheitsgrebot. Fun fact: Reinheitsgebot is enjoyed most during Oktoberfest season in Germany, which actually starts in September.
This is a sweet, delicious wine made from the grapes from the Douro Valley in northern Portugal. It makes an awesome dessert wine. Fun fact: The original Portuguese wines were invented for British sailors.
Distill stems and any other unnecessary “junk” left over after making wine and you get Grappa. Grappa is thought to be helpful for digestion, which will definitely come in handy when you’re enjoying all the pizza and pasta in Italy. Grappa is also versatile. For example, it can be blended with espresso. Fun fact: Grappa was first made in the Middle Ages.
Czech Republic: Absinthe
Absinthe is made from distilled aniseed, fennel, and wormwood. Historically, this drink was popular among the artists and the creatives because of its hallucinogenic properties. In bars, it’s usually prepared with a special spoon, a sugar cube, and a fountain. Fun fact: Until 2007, absinthe was not legal in all 50 states in the US.
Vodka makes up 70% of all alcohol consumed in Russia. It is typically made from fermented grains and potatoes. A versatile drink, vodka can be enjoyed on its own or in any number of cocktails, such as Screwdrivers, Bloody Marys, and tonics. Fun fact: Vodka can help heal jellyfish stings and make ripping off a Band-Aid less painful.
Literally meaning “burned liquor,” soju is clear and colorless and made from barley, rice, or wheat. It is similar in taste to vodka, but slightly sweeter. Restaurants without full liquor licenses often use soju as a replacement for vodka in cocktails. Usually soju is consumed neat. One study found that the average Korean adult (age 20 or older) had consumed 90 bottles of soju in the year 2006. Fun fact: When you’re out drinking with colleagues or friends, it’s considered bad etiquette to pour your own glass.
Nicknamed “white lightning,” Maotai’s ABV is around 50%. It has a potent taste and a soy sauce-like scent that lingers for a while. It’s also quite expensive. Fun fact: President Nixon enjoyed quite a bit of Maotai when he visited China in 1972.
While Nihonshu is known as sake throughout the world, the term “sake” in Japan actually refers to any alcoholic beverage. Nihonshu is a fermented rice drink. Often referred to as “rice wine,” it is actually fermented more like beer. It can be enjoyed hot or cold. Fun fact: Nihonshu is the oldest spirit in the world.
Akevitt translates to “the water of life.” It is usually distilled from grains or potatoes and can be spiced with caraway, dill, anise, cardamom, cumin, and fennel. It is aged in oak cases. Norwegians usually enjoy it at room temperature. It is especially popular during holidays such as Norwegian Constitution Day and Christmas. Fun fact: In the 1300s, Akevitt was thought to have healing powers.
Urwaga is banana beer. Because who doesn’t love bananas? They make your beer extra sweet. Fun fact: We couldn’t find any fun facts about Urwaga, so here’s a fun fact about Kenya. Kenya only has 2 seasons during the year—a dry season and a wet season.
Tej is honey wine with powdered leaves and gesho twigs. It can be produced cheaply and is served out of a fancy vase-like bottle. Fun fact: The first honeymoon started with honey wine. In the Middle Ages, honey wine was thought to promote fertility and virility, so the couple was given enough honey wine to last one full moon. Hence the term “honeymoon.”
South Africa: Springbokkie
This is a cocktail made with mint liqueur and Amarula—a cream liqueur made with marula fruit. Its name comes from South Africa’s rugby team’s colors, green and gold. The ratio of mint liqueur to Amarula can vary, which can make the color of the drink vary. Fun fact: In 2006, Amarula won a gold medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Australia: Bundaberg Rum
Often referred to as “Bundy,” this is a dark rum produced in Bundaberg, Australia. It was first produced because local sugar mills didn’t know what to do with the waste molasses after the sugar was extracted. Some of the workers pondered the idea that profit could be made from distilling it. A town hall meeting was held, and thus was born the company. Fun fact: In 2012, Bundaberg Rum had its first female distiller.
India: Old Monk Rum
Old Monk Rum, or OMR, is a dark Indian rum blended and aged for at least 8 years. It has a vanilla flavor and an alcohol content of 42.8%. Fun fact: Old Monk Rum has never been advertised. Its popularity spread through word of mouth.
Krupnik is a sweet alcoholic beverage made with a spirit (usually vodka) and clover honey. It is popular in all Slavic countries. Fun fact: Krupnik was used as a medicinal disinfectant by Polish soldiers in World War II.
Unicum is a bitter, dark-colored, cask-aged digestif made from more than 40 herbs. It was invented by Jozef Zwack, royal physician to the Habsburg Emperor. Fun fact: Legend has it that when Zwack first presented the drink to Kaiser Jospeh II of Autria, he proclaimed “Das ist ein Unikum! (That is unique!”)
Ouzo is distilled grape remnants flavored with anise and other spices. It has a licorice-like flavor. Ouzo is traditionally served with small plates, such as grilled octopus, olives, and fried potatoes. It is particularly popular during the summer. Most people enjoy it neat or with a little bit of water, as it’s looked down upon to mix it with anything else. Fun fact: Headaches and the flu can be treated by having warm ouzo before going to bed.
If you’ve been to any of these countries or are planning a trip, you’ll want to join Konversai—a knowledge-sharing platform that allows you to connect with anyone, anywhere, about anything all via live video. Konversai was founded under the premise that the best way to learn about anything is to connect with someone who knows a topic well or who has experience with it. On Konversai, any and all knowledge—no matter how mainstream or obscure—has value. Therefore, providers of knowledge are encouraged to charge for their time. They may also hold free sessions or donate their earnings to a charity of their choice. You will not only find well-traveled folks on Konversai, but also people who can tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know (and more) about alcohol—including how to make some tasty, mouth-watering cocktails. So check out Konversai today! Your experience, whether as a provider or a seeker of knowledge, is sure to be fun and informative.
- Alexander, Kevin. (2014). World Booze Guide: The Best Things to Drink in 43 Countries. Thrillist.
- Rice, Jessica. (2013). 59 National Drinks from 59 Awesome Countries. Matador Network.