Let it be said that I do enjoy a good cold beverage on my vacations. And booze ranks right up there with food in the ways you can learn more about a culture. Some drinks have special glasses, others have folklore, and some just have a funny way you have to consume them.
Regardless, when you’re on vacation, there is always time for a tipple. Here’s a quick roundup of alcohol around the world – these drinks are best had in-destination and definitely worth traveling for.
Scotland: Knockandoo Whisky
Having lived in Edinburgh, I have developed an appropriate palate for the good stuff. It is not “Scotch”, it is whisky, without an ‘e’. (Irish and American whiskey has the ‘e’).
If you’re traveling to Scotland, hopefully you’ll be considering some Scottish Highlands travel, as this gives you an opportunity to visit the whiskey areas to the north in Speyside, where you’ll find my favourite whisky, Knockandoo, distilled in a town of the same name. Also, pictured above is Glenfiddich, one of the best (and FREE!) distillery tours.
Speyside is beautiful and a wonderful place to go tasting, but you may want to also visit the Hebrides Islands to the west, many of which have distilleries famous in their own right. Be sure to buy your whisky at the distillery – it’s usually cheaper than the airport, and more choice!
Czech Republic: Becherovka
If you have ails, Becherovka will cure them – at least momentarily, as you’re blinded by the bitter herbal taste and potency of this beverage. While you’ll find Becherovka anywhere in the country, you’ll want to head to the drink’s home down of Karlovy Vary for bragging rights. It’s a wonderful town featured on my Czech Republic sightseeing list for all the hiking and spas. Bottoms up.
Note: If you try this and hate it, I suggest you then try one of the liquors I keep around the house at all times: plum brandy (“Slivovitz”).
Portugal: Vinho Verde
I love bubbly beverages, and know that even the really awful champagnes can taste awful. Vinho Verde I actually discovered in the Netherlands at my local wine shop, but have come to love this crisp and refreshing wine, which is from the north of Portugal. It means green wine, which refers to the youthfulness of the grapes. If you find wine that says vinho verde, by law it must be from the Minho region of Portugal, which has plenty of sightseeing opportunities beyond wine.
I’m not a fan of Guinness, and I’d be reluctant to put a beer that you can get almost anywhere in the world on a list of “special” alcohol around the world.
Having said that, Guinness tastes better in Ireland. Yes, it does. And the best place in the world to drink a Guinness is at the Guinness Storehouse itself, in Dublin. At the end of the factorytour, you’ll be dropped off in the Gravity Bar, which has the best views over Dublin. Best time to end up here is around sunset.
Alcohol plays a heavy role in history. As Magellan prepared to sail around the world in 1519, he spent more on Sherry than on weapons. But alcohol was believed first made in 8000B.C. by Persians, who used honey and wild yeast. (Wine started a short time later on, in 6000 B.C.)
You didn’t think I’d write about the booze without including my personal favourite, the margarita. Margaritas are ubiquitous, particularly in the United States, where I think they are actually more popular than they are in Mexico. Nonetheless you don’t have to go far to find one in Mexico, particularly at a resort.
It’s believed that a Tijuana-area restaurateur invented this beverage in 1938. But of course, like many historical facts, it leaves a lot of wiggle room for interpretation. Regardless, when in Mexico, get yours on the rocks, with salt, and in the largest glass possible. (Note: careful on the ice, though – it could make you sick, so stick to reputable venues, or add more tequila.)
One of my house liquors (along with some plum brandy), I actually realized I don’t know a lot about grappa. What I did know, and confirmed, was that this alcohol is basically a wine leftover, used by distilling the stems/skins/seeds after winemaking. Although it is protected by name, it isn’t specific to a region of Italy – it’s the method of producing it that is protected by law. Venice, Lombardy, and Piedmont are all areas find to go on a Grappa Tasting.
Pronounced “ka-sah-cha“, this most popular alcohol in Brazil is the basis for the country’s national drink, the Caipirinha. You can buy Cachaça elsewhere in the world, but it is truly never as good as the stuff the Brazilians keep for themselves. The caipirinha is simply Cachaça with sugar and crushed limes. It has many derivatives – such as fruit-flavors. If you don’t like Cachaça or like me, you find it doesn’t settle well with you (I get a raging fever when I drink it, some sort of weird allergy I guess), the capiroska (the same drink but made with vodka) is your best bet.
When you visit Brazil, you’ll find this drink served in every resort, every restaurant, every bar. It is ubiquitous, almost moreso than water.
New Zealand: Monteiths
Last, but not least. It takes a lot for me to include another beer on this list, given that there are so many great beers in the world – Victoria Bitter from Australia, the amazing IPAs from the Pacific Northwest, or some of my favourite brain-blitzers from Belgium or the Czech Republic. But I have to say if you make it all the way to New Zealand, you are going to love a cold glass of Monteith’s. They still operate a brewery tour in small town of Greymouth (west coast of the south island). They have seasonal beverages, so be sure to sample what’s cold that season.
The Travel Blog Mob
Every month, a group of independent travel publishers converge on a chosen topic. Posts related to this feature this month…