NATIONAL DRINKS AROUND THE WORLD. PART II
Welcome to part II of my collaboration project with fellow bloggers on signature drinks around the world. Together, we bring you a list of beverages that will help you drink your way through countries far and near, from Chile to Korea. Where to find the best Pisco Sour? What's in the Chilean cocktail called Monkey's Tail? Scroll down to find out! Cheers!
AWAMORI / JAPAN
While sake is the national drink of Japan, in Okinawa awamori is the spirit to drink. Both made from rice, awamori is distilled and sake brewed, giving awamori a higher alcohol percentage. In recent years the alcohol percentage of awamori has steadily gone down, as people seem to find the old awamori a bit too strong and distillers tend to water down the drink before bottling.
Awamori traces its roots back to a drink called Lao Khai, a popular homebrew in Thailand. In the 15th century, Okinawan traders brought the drink to the islands, the drink quickly became popular and the distillation technique was made more suitable to the subtropical climate. To this day awamori is made from Thai rice. Okinawa is simply not able to harvest enough to meet demand.
Awamori is served at almost every drinking den and restaurant in Okinawa, from hole-in-the-wall pubs to fancy cocktail bars. Aged awamori, or kusu, has aged in clay bottles for at least three years prior to bottling. Some of these varieties has been stored for decades and can fetch a very high price, at $50 or above for a glass. On the other hand, cheap awamori at the local bar sells for a few hundred yen. Usually mixed with water, awamori can also be drunk straight, served with oolong tea or as part of a cocktail.
If you ever are visiting Okinawa, make sure to try some of their awamori. In fact, try it twice. The first time it might put you off a bit, it just takes some time to get used to. It is an integral part of an Okinawan meal or night out, a drink that has seeped into their culture. A night out in Okinawa is not complete without a glass of Awamori.
COLA DE MONO / CHILE
There are not too many traditional drinks in Chile but there are all delicious. The drink with a funny name is called 'Cola de Mono' and its literal translation is: Monkey's Tale! We prepare it specially for Christmas season and each family has its own recipe that has been saved from generation to the present.
Cola de Mono contains three main ingredients: milk, coffee and a strong alcohol. It is served cold after or before dinner or as a way to congratulate your guests at home.
There are different theories about its name origins but most of them are related to one of the first Chilean presidents, Pedro Montt, whom acquaintances called 'Mono Montt'. One night at a party he wanted to go walking alone and said he would have no problem if it was spent his Colt brand revolver. It was raining heavily outside and to prevent him to leave (technique applied until today in Chilean parties) they wanted to offer him one more drink.
As they had finished the wine, they made an invention with a cup of coffee with milk to which they added one kind of local brandy (aguardiente) and so then the drink was called 'Colt Montt', which then led to 'Cola de Mono" or "Monkey's tail'.
Anna's note: you can find a recipe for this drink on Gloria's blog
ARTISANAL GIN / UK
In the 18th Century, gin was the drug of the poor. Slum ridden Georgian London was hell and for a few pennies, the poor found escape from hunger and cold through gin. During WWII, gin still being the British drink of choice, was called Mother's Ruin, because many a poor girl had a few too many and succumbed to the 'charms' of a soldier.
Now gin is back thanks to the slow food movement's encouragement to grow, make and buy local. The traditional 'G&T' is still one of the most popular drinks in England, but these days it is made with an artisanal gin and tonic. With the popularity of gin on the rise, new brewers have set out to make gin not only as pure as possible but also with the addition of flavours such as rhubarb, elderflower, and raspberry. Gin nights at specialist bars are all the rage and can be found from one end of the country to the other. In London, the place to really understand and learn about gin in is at the Ginstitute, in Portobello Road, where gin fans can create their own personalized sipping gin. The Ginstitute provides the botanicals from cassia and juniper to coriander and orris root for you to create your own flavoured gin and you get to take a bottle home with you.
These new gins are worth tasting, they don't tend to require a mixer although for summer drinks on the patio a shot of lemonade is very refreshing.
GINGINHA / PORTUGAL
Ginjinha, or simply Ginja, a liquor obtained from the maceration of tart cherry, is very popular in Portugal, especially in Lisbon, where you can easily find specialized establishments serving the drink.
With no preservatives or artificial colorings, the liquor has a beautiful ruby color and a fruity taste. It can be served pure or with a macerated cherry in the bottom of the glass, what is called a “Ginginha com elas”, meaning with them (the cherries). In this last few years, it became common to serve the liquor in a small chocolate cup, so if you like chocolate this is the way to try it.
Downtown Lisbon there are several traditional establishments specialized in Ginjinha, like the centenary Ginjinha Espinheira in Largo de São Domingos (next to Rossio). During the holiday season all the Christmas Markets in the city have Ginjinha stands and drinking one is a great way to keep warm in the cold nights.
PISCO / PERU
We spent 2 months backpacking in Peru. Peru is famous for many things, but the 2 most delicious are Ceviche and Pisco Sours. Pisco, the national drink of Peru, is technically a brandy made from fermented grapes and distilled into a sweet, smooth 80-proof liquor. If you’ve ever tried Italian Grappa, it’s quite similar to Pisco.
Pisco is at its shining best when mixed into a Pisco Sour. Pisco Sours are sort of like a delicious health food cocktail (at least, that’s what I tell myself). Topped with a protein-rich foamed egg-white, they’re almost appropriate for a post-gym snack (OK, maybe that’s a tiny exaggeration). Pisco Sours are made with simple syrup, lime, egg white, and of course Pisco, and traditionally garnished with a cute little dot of angostura bitters. And as we found out when we took a Pisco Sour & Ceviche class in Lima, they’re surprisingly easy to make yourself!
We recommend trying Pisco Sours at any & every bar in Lima: our favorite was at the ultra-posh world famous restaurant Central. We also recommend taking a trip to visit a Pisco winery on La Ruta del Pisco, the Pisco Trail. A few hours south of Lima you’ll find Huacachina, a small desert oasis town next to the larger city of Ica. In addition to sandboarding and delicious chocotejas, touring Pisco wineries are one of the area’s star tourist attractions. We had a blast tasting Pisco straight from the barrel! You can’t leave Peru without falling in love with Pisco.
Anna's note: you can find more info on the Pisco Sour & Ceviche class on Lia and Jeremy's blog
VODKA / RUSSIA
> Author: Anna from Abroad and Beyond (yours truly)
Vodka is a distilled spirit that is composed of water and ethanol. Traditionally, it is made by the distillation of fermented grains (rye and wheat) or potatoes. By definition, this beverage does not have much flavour - vodka is supposed to be a blank slate, smooth and pure.
In the popular culture, vodka and Russia are almost synonymous. The word vodka is a diminutive for 'voda' (water), so it is roughly translated as 'little water'. Back in the day, vodka was often referred to as "burning wine" or "bread wine". If you happen to be in Saint Petersburg and would like to learn more about the spirit's journey around Russia, be sure to check out the Museum of Russian vodka. Though quite touristy, it provides a thorough overview of how vodka became a national drink. For example, you can learn about how it became a kind of national currency that was used to pay for small services. They also offer vodka tastings paired with traditional chasers such as herring with onions or pork fat on dark brown sourdough rye bread and pickles.
Nowadays, vodka is still one of the cheapest hard alcohols available, For that reason, it's a common base for homemade infusions. Many families have their signature liquors that usually include cherry, cranberry, red of black currant, sea buckthorn, and other berries.
BONUS: GLÖGG / SCANDINAVIA
Gløgg (Norwegian and Danish), Glögg (Swedish and Icelandic), and Glögi (Finnish and Estonian) are the terms used for mulled wine from the Nordic countries. The drink is usually consumed around Christmas time and can be made non-alcoholic or alcoholic.
Here in Russia, Christmas is officially celebrated on January 7th (more on it here), so I decided to make December 25th more merry by making this traditional drink. Earlier that week, I had stumbled upon a non-alcoholic version of ready-made Glögi in a supermarket and wanted to try it out as well.
The main ingredients of alcoholic glögg are dry red wine, spices, and an (optional) generous splash of spirits such as cognac, rum, brandy or vodka. The essential spices are cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, orange, but there are also many varieties that include blanched almonds, star anise, raisins, ginger, dried fruit, and cane or brown sugar. The wine, mixed with spices, is heated to 60-70 °C and then left to simmer for about an hour. For my recipe, I used a bottle of Rioja from Spain, cinnamon sticks, bitter orange peel, cane sugar, raisins, ginger, cardamon, and cloves; since there were no stronger spirits on hand, I also poured a bit of the pre-made Glögi into the mixture. For lack of a proper glass, I served it in a wine glass (it's the content that matters, right?).
Have you tried any of these drinks? What is your country's national drink? Share in the comments below and don't forget to check out part I here!
Happy holidays and happy travels x