Every city has its collection of tourist attracts, but some travel destinations, like Prague and Bavaria are known not for their city sights but their drinking. They call it drinking tourism, attracting people all over the world to taste the locals chilled yellow nectar that comes from a tap behind the bar. Drinking tourism is for travellers with sturdy livers who like to enjoy local customs, learn new drinking games and can say “Cheers!” in a dozen languages.
Tell me what you’re drinking and I’ll tell you where you should go to drink it. Here are just 10 (of the many) places around the world that offer something special, something fantastic and something that the locals do like no one else in the world. So put your drinking boots on, this is one virtual pub crawl around the world you don’t want to miss!
1. Eau-de-vie in a kert in Budapest (Hungary)
Hungary is a large producer of wines, most notably from Tokaj, but the drink that drives the masses to oblivion is their pride and joy, pálinka. Hungarians drink it both as a digestif as well as after a pint of beer. Flavoured with either pear, peach, apricot, plum and a dozen other local fruits, it’s even better when it’s enjoyed in a kert, one of Budapest’s open-air garden bars that seem to pop up out of nowhere as soon as summer hits. There are a number of Pálinka Festivals happening around the country all summer long.
How to say cheers: Egészségünkre!
2. Beer in a café in Brussels (Belgium)
One thing that definitely attracts British tourists in Belgium is the cheap prices of beers and the wide varieties that are available. Delirium Café, a laid-back place in Brussels, has a catalogue of mroe than 2000 beers to choose from as well as some collector’s bottles. I’m wondering how long it takes to get a collection that size!
How to say cheers: Op Uw Gezonheid!
3. Vodka at a bar in Kazimierz, Krakow (Poland)
Poland produces some of the best vodka in the world and drinking it is one way to get in with the locals. Never refuse the first glass, just drink it up. Krakow is a great place to go if you want a taste of Polish night life and the chance to taste some of the best vodkas, some of which reach 90%. Forget the trendy bars in the Old Town, head to Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter for a more intimate and local experience.
How to say cheers: Na zdrowie!
4. Cocktails at a bar stool in Tokyo (Japan)
A barman’s talent in Japan has no limits, they’re incredible. Tokyo is considered the capital of cocktails. They’ll mix you up something like you’ve never tasted before, and will probably never taste again. Don’t know what to pick, have a short chat with the barman and he’ll whip you up something to suit your mood.
How to say cheers: Kanpai!
5. Ice wine in a snowy vineyard in Niagara (Canada)
Ice wine can only really be made well in one part of the world. This place needs warm summers and ice-cold winters and of course great soil for growing grapes… the Niagara Peninsula in Canada. Grapes are left on the vine long after the harvest in September. The grapes sweeten and once the temperature reaches below freezing for 3-4 days straight the grapes are ready to be picked. The result is very concentrated, rich, sweet golden nectar that comes at a pretty price! Taste a ice wine at any of the dozens on wineries near Niagara Falls, I recommend Frog Pond Farm, the first organic winery in Ontario.
6. Wines from the cellars of Mendoza (Argentina)
Argentina may only be the 6th largest producer of wine in the world, just behind the USA, but the locals know how to drink it and most of all how to enjoy it. The grape harvest starts in February-March and is marked by a festival, Fiesta de la Vedimia, in Argentina’s largest wine producing region, Medoza. The party is one that shouldn’t be missed as the farmer’s bring in the summer’s crop.
How to say cheers: Salud!
7. Whisky from a distillery in Brittany (France)
Did you know that France has been producing some of the world’s finest Whisky from a dozen distilleries around the country, 5 of which are in Brittany? The French drink more whisky now than pastis. If you go to Lannion in Brittany make sure you stop at Warenghem Distillery. Taste the Armorik whisky which is make with pure water that’s been filtered with granite from the coastline.
How to say cheers: Santé! or Cin, cin!
8. Tequila in a village par in Tequila (Mexico)
Mexico is the only country in the world producing this wild nectar, tequila, which is made from the agave plant. It’s hard to drink slowly and I’m not going to lie even the Mexicans don’t think it tastes good. Served in shots, they drink it straight back with a slice of lime and salt. Usually in groups or rounds, this local custom can get pretty wild pretty quickly. Sharing tequila is a sign of friendship and only few produced are really used for “quality tasting” as we do for wines. The most famous tequilas come from Jalisco. Just remember: salt, tequila, lime (in that order).
How to say cheers: Salud!
9. Rum on the beach in Sainte-Marie (Martinique)
In 1694 Reverend Father Labat landed in Martinique and became very ill. The story says that he was brought back to health thanks to a local concoction made from treacle. Centuries later, rum from Martinique is among the best in the world. Spike your fruit punch with it or enjoy it straight under the shade of a palm tree. Plan at least one distillery visit while in Martinique to see how its made.
How to say cheers: Santé!
10. Absynthe in a café in Neuchâtel (Switzerland)
There are 400 absinthe distilleries in Switzerland. This drink is enjoying a renaissance since 2005 when its production and consumption became legal again. The Val-de-Travers region in Switzerland produces the most and you can taste absinthe in the traditional way in many different cafés in Neuchâtel. Although legal, it will always feel a little taboo no matter where you drink it.
How to say cheers: Proscht, Zum Wohl or Gsundheit!
Does your country have a special drink or drinking culture? Tell me about it!