NATIONAL DRINKS AROUND THE WORLD. PART I
It's holiday season! After a long, busy year, what is a better way to wind down than to relax with a glass of something pleasant and reflect on everything we've achieved in the past months? And isn't extra nice when the drink reminds us of places we travelled?
So I invited fellow bloggers from around the world to join this collab post and asked them about their national drinks. Together, we bring you a list that will help you drink your way through countries far and near, from Chile to Korea. Cheers!
SCOTCH WHISKY / SCOTLAND
While there are different kinds of whisky such as bourbon, rye, and Irish, the only whisky that can be called Scotch whisky is made in Scotland. The Scots take this responsibility seriously and have strict legal requirements including rules for aging and types of grains and barrels used. There are single distillery and blended varieties. Scotch is usually served in a dram, about an 1/8 of a fluid ounce. For an enjoyable Scotch tasting experience in Edinburgh, Scotland's capital, the main thing is to decide what venue you want to taste at, there are hundreds of options!
- At a whisky bar or tasting room you generally receive a flight or set tasting menu of several whiskies for a specific price.
- Another option is a whisky monger who can guide you in a customized tasting experience to help you select that perfect bottle, there is no fee, but you often walk away with a purchase. You are usually standing in their shop with other customers so try to go on off peak hours to get more attention.
- You can also visit a local distillery to tour the production facility and taste that distilleries brand. You only sample that one brand, but get to learn about Scotch production.
Edinburgh's Whisky Trail has eleven participating bars and gives you a good overview. You get your whisky passport stamped at each bar to get a free tasting at The Scotch Whisky Experience on Edinburgh's Royal Mile.
SOJU / KOREA
Korean soju is a clear colorless alcohol traditionally made from rice, wheat or barley. Meaning “burned alcoholic drink”, it has been produced at least since the 1300s. Jinro Soju is one of the largest makers of the product that can be found worldwide. It is actually the largest selling alcohol brand in the world which means soju could be found literally around every corner. With a varying alcohol content between 18% and 45%, it’s important to know which kind is being consumed because it can literally knock the socks off of some people. Known to produce a killer hangover the next day, one would be wise to drink it the way Koreans do… with lots and lots of food.
While soju is served in a shot glass, it is not necessarily taken as a shot, though it could be. Often, soju is sipped while eating a large heavy meal. Another common way to enjoy the libation is to pour a couple shots into a mug of beer to get an all around intoxicated good time underway. The ubiquitous green soju bottles can be found in every market, corner store or restaurant in Korea and should be tried by any visitor to the Land of the Morning Calm though, anyone that has it is sure to have an anything but calm morning. For an even better time, try a more traditional soju that will cost a bit more, but will taste better too.
CHILCANO / PERU
The Chilcano is a refreshing Peruvian cocktail that is often overshadowed by the iconic Pisco Sour. Both cocktails contain Pisco, a grape brandy found only in Peru, but their temperaments could not be more different.
While a Pisco Sour can be fussy with its egg white foam, a chilcano is simply a shot of Pisco, ginger ale, and a twist of lime. Its simplicity makes a chilcano especially versatile as a low-maintanence party drink or a nice, refreshing drink to enjoy at a bar.
Because the cocktail is so simple, every ingredient matters. To start with, the quality and type of Pisco has a huge impact. There are eight types of pisco, all with their own characteristics and nuances. The ginger ale should not be taken for granted. One of best chilcanos I’ve had was made with a special brand of ginger ale that is only sold in Arequipa, a city in Peru known for its culinary tradition. Last but not least, Peru has some of the best limes in the world. The Peruvian lime (Limon Criolla) has a distinct and complex flavor and are used to power ceviche, Peru’s most famous dish.
Chilcanos are becoming increasingly popular in bars across Peru because they can be infused with variety of creative flavors that showcase Peru’s incredible arsenal of ingredients. Popular infusions include chicha morada (purple corn punch), hierba luisa (lemongrass), and coca leaves. When in Peru, you must try a Pisco Sour, but try to make a Chilcano your second drink.
PORT / PORTUGAL
Although Portugal has plenty of fantastic alcoholic drinks, Port is Portugal's most famous. A fortified wine, Port is made by adding a spirit (such as Brandy or Aguardiente) to the wine which increases its alcohol percentage. This also kills the yeast early allowing the wine to retain its sugar giving it a flavour that's sweeter than normal wine.
If you're buying Port, you'll come across several different types including Ruby, Tawny, White, Rosé, and Vintage. At least you will if you're buying Port in Portugal or in a specialist wine shop. Most other places will usually just stock Tawny or Ruby Port.
Personally, I think you can't go wrong with a Late Bottled Vintage or LBV. While vintage port is aged in the bottle, LBV is kept for longer in the barrel. This process allows it to mature faster, giving it the characteristics of a 10 or 20-year-old vintage port, but at a fraction of the price. A lot of people don’t like Port, or see it as something that’s just for drinking at Christmas. Give them a glass of LBV Port and they’ll quickly change their views on the subject.
If you really want to gain an appreciation for Port, go to Porto for the weekend. Spend an afternoon visiting the port caves, learning about the history of port, and sampling all of the different types*. You’ll soon fall in love with Port like I did.
*Anna's comment: be sure to have a hearty meal beforehand, as your sampling might get, well, pretty boozy (I've made that rookie mistake in Porto before)
USA / BOURBON
Bourbon is a smoky sweet all-American liquor. A good bourbon tastes of maple and vanilla and horse racing and freedom.
No bourbon is created equal. Each bourbon distillery has its own secret recipe of grains (typically, corn, rye and barley). The general process after these ingredients ferment is to distill the “mash” and then age it in toasted wood barrels, which gives the bourbon its distinctive sweet taste and amber color.
Bourbon is native to Kentucky and (as far as I’m concerned) should only be made there. And that’s not just because one of us is a Kentucky native: Kentucky bourbon is made with naturally sweet water that has been filtered through limestone.. So as much as I love a hipster distillery, stick to Kentucky bourbon.
Our favorite bourbon brand is Woodford Reserve. It’s triple distilled and extra smooth. Woodford is a great sipping bourbon, but it isn’t cheap; Maker’s Mark is a good budget-friendly bourbon.
The best place for Bourbon is in Kentucky, home to the Bourbon Trail: a collection of distilleries sprinkled in between horse farms and rolling hills. Our favorite distilleries to visit are Woodford Reserve and Makers Mark. If you can’t make it to Kentucky, the next best place to get bourbon is in San Francisco, at either Bourbon & Branch or Rickhouse. Purists drink their bourbon neat or with ice. It’s also incredible with chocolate or in the form of a Kentucky Bourbon Ball! For a good bourbon cocktail, order an Old Fashioned.
APEROL SPRITZ / ITALY
Aperol Spritz is an aperitif ritual served at happy hour and cocktail gatherings throughout Italy. Originally produced in the Padua region in 1919, Aperol didn’t start gaining popularity until after the end of World War II. It really took off after the Campari Group purchased Aperol and began marketing campaigns for the spritz. The spritz is said to be inspired by the Hapsburg practice of adding water (later replaced by carbonated soda water) to the local white wine during their rule of Venice in the 1800s.
Aperol is a light liqueur consisting mainly of bitter and sweet oranges, gentian, rhubarb, and other herbs and roots. The 3-2-1 formula for mixing an Aperol spritz was popularized in the marketing campaigns and is easy to remember: 3 parts Prosecco, 2 parts Aperol, and 1 splash of soda. The slightly citrusy spritz is usually served on the rocks with a slice of orange.
The Italian happy hour tradition, or aperitivo, began in in Milan but spread quickly to other cities. It’s an inexpensive alternative to dining out or socializing during tough economic times as most bars restaurants will provide snacks with the purchase of a spritz or other drink. Some even provide a big buffet with mini pizzas and fried appetizers. The wine bar at Gusto and Momart Café offer up some of the best aperitivo’s in Rome. For the best Italian ocean views to accompany your Aperol Spritz, head to Nessun Dorma in Manarola or one of the beach side bars in Monterosso al Mare in Cinque Terre.
JENEVER / NETHERLANDS
> Author: Anna from Abroad and Beyond (yours truly)
When visiting the Netherlands, have a sip of jenever, the ancestor of modern gin named after juniper berry (jeneverbes). It is a blend of two ingredients, malt-wine and neutral spirits. There are three main types of jenever: jonge ('young'), oude ('old'), and korenwijn ('corn wine'). Rather than being aged for different amounts of time, the styles differ in terms of distillation methods. Oude Jenever is distilled from at least 15% malt wine, with no more than 20g sugar per litre, and tastes more like whisky, with a malty, woody and sometimes even smoky flavour. Jonge Jenever is made with no more than 15% malt wine, and 10 grams of sugar per litre, which creates a more neutral flavour. Finally, Korenwijn contains more than 51% malt-wine and is cask-aged before bottling. These jenevers are the most intense in flavour notes,
It's served in ‘tulip glasses’ because such a shape enhances the smell of the drink hence enabling you to taste the flavours better. The drink is poured to the rim of the glass, and you are supposed to take the first sip without holding it, leaving the glass on the table. After the first sip, it is advised to drink the rest slowly like you would drink a glass of whisky.
Fancy trying it out? Head to Proeflokaal Wynand Fockink, a 17th-century distillery and a bar in the heart of Amsterdam. Here, you can choose from 70 Dutch liqueurs and jenevers. Another great place is a historic bar De Drie Fleschjes. In service since 1650, they serve a wide range of jenevers and spirits and offer tastings. One side of the bar contains several rows of barrels which locals can rent and have filled up with their spirit of choice, so you can have your favourite drink whenever you like (naturally, the waitlist for the casks is years long).
Have you tried any of these drinks? What is your country's national drink? Share in the comments below and stay tuned for Part II!
Merry Christmas and happy travels x