This one is a bit of a joint effort between myself and Catherine H from Yeity.com. When she sent this list of five of the world’s most popular (and potent) drinks, I scrolled down and was shocked to see a few of my personal favourites on the list. Where was the soju from Korea or the Bundy from Oz? Sacrilege!
So, the first five below come from Catherine and I weigh in with the final five. Salut, gambae, prost, and cheers, mate. Wrap your laughin’ gear around a few of these.
How The World Gets Boozy
There’s nothing like pulling up a bar stool after a hard day of touring. And yes, despite what socialites would have us believe, it is ok to drink alone. So grab yourself some salted peanuts and start sniffing the barmaid’s apron, interesting things are almost always guaranteed to happen after the second or third round.
Without further ado – keeping in mind that water is your friend – here are the world’s favorite signature sips.
1. Russia – Vodka
It’s a wonder that Jesus even bothered turning water into wine when vodka seems the far more enticing option. Originating from Eastern Europe in the 9th century, this spirit conveniently doubles as a mildew remover spray, a facial pore cleanser, and even a foot deodorant—making it one of the world’s most multi-functional liquors.
From smoked salmon flavours to feijoa, these days, there are as many varietals as there are notches on Tiger Wood’s bed.
Your true Russian experience will require drinking the kicker straight from a shot glass and always accompanied by food. The tradition is a pickle after each blast, which surprisingly works wonders in clearing the palate from that rubbing-alcohol taste.
Whichever way you choose to consume this sexy booze, always keep in mind that vodka can be mixed with anything else, including more vodka.
2. Italy – Grappa
As the old saying goes “it’s all fun and games until someone wakes up pregnant”, one sniff of this Italian concoction and you’ll be bearing twins (true story).
Likened to moonshine, with undertones of nail polish remover, this spirit is not for the faint-hearted.
Made from pomace, the grape seed, stalk and stem detritus from winemaking, it’s not uncommon for Italians to light the firecracker under their mornings by pouring a little grappa into their espressos. It’s also believed to be a potent digestive and is commonly served cold after meals.
But drinkers beware; you’ll want to make sure your grappa is the real deal as homemade versions of this bitter elixir have been known to cause blindness (figuratively and literally).
Although we hate all sorts of ‘isms’ from prejudism to alcoholisms and grappaism, we must admit that this Molotov cocktail is absolutely vile but as the Italians like to say ‘when in Rome’. On the upside, if you’re still waiting for your balls to drop, a shot of this will probably do the trick.
3. Germany – Jagermeister
It’s urban truth in Germany that a shot of jager before a drinking session will coat your liver and ensure endless rounds abound. Although the statement may be scientifically far-fetched, there’s no denying that Jagermiester is a rite of passage for memorable piss-ups and great Facebook tagging opps. No matter where in the world, there always seems to be a round of Jagerbombs dished out on bar tops at the eleventh hour.
This sticky syrup was developed in 1935 and to this day its recipe blend made of 56 fruits, roots, and herbs, remains a closely guarded secret. The seventy-proof liquor is best served iced-cold and mixed with ginger beer or dunked inside an energy drink.
Aside from its inebriating effects, and its ability to make those around you a hell of a lot better looking, the German blend has also been used throughout the ages as an anesthetic, a flu treatment, and a steadfast digestive.
4. Mexico – Tequila
Is it sip, lick, and suck – suck, sip and lick – or lick, sip, and suck? If you know the answer, congratulations, you’ve obviously spent too many nights sniffing the barmaid’s apron (on the other hand, if your mind went straight into the gutter, congratulations, you’ve obviously scored too many dates with your right hand).
Made from the agave plant, this sweet nectar is absolute courage in a bottle. One margarita and you become the social butterfly, two and you’re breaking up, three, and well, that’s a mug shot and a sex change.
For a true hombre experience be sure to down a shot of mescal: the famed relative of tequila renowned for its little worm. The maggot lives in the agave and is seen as sacred to the plant. Obviously, we were too shitfaced to recall what it tasted like, but urban legend says swallowing the larvae causes hallucinations—we think this is more down to the fact that you just ate a bug rather than actual hallucinogens.
5. Sake – Japan
Kanpai! Saying cheers the proper Japanese way isn’t the only thing you need to know when drinking this addictive rice wine. With the same strength as wine and a minuscule cup to drink from, getting pissed up on this drop takes some real skills.
Contrary to Western custom, sake is actually meant to be served at or above room temperature and tradition forbids drinkers to decant their own drinks (making it very difficult if you’re a one-man- band).
When pouring, the ceramic flask containing the potion must be held with both hands if serving someone above your own status (like your wife). You should also hold your tiny cup with both hands if someone of higher status is pouring for you (like your wife).
As you can tell, the art of guessing socioeconomic classes can become a nuisance while on the out- and-bound, so for the sake (pun intended) of avoiding upsetting anyone, the simplest thing to do is to just buy yourself a Japanese beer.
Hold onto your hats, people. This is where I step in. Pray for me.
6. Soju – South Korea
Do they drink soju in North Korea? I’m not sure, but if I had to live among the paddies and billion dollar eyesores, I’d look forward to a shot or ten of soju after a hard day’s work in the salt mines.
For South Koreans, soju is akin to water (and with a liter or two coming in at under a dollar in some stores, it’s cheaper than water too). This is a tad deceptive for the tens of thousands of foreigners who roll into the country every year and find themselves waking up with their faces melted to the floor by ondol (the underfloor heating used to warm Korean apartments through the winter).
It might taste like vodka, but the Russian drop hasn’t got anything on the sheer head-crushing brutality of a soju hangover. It might be a weaker drop, but it’s a mean son of a bitch.
Traditionally, soju is sipped from shotglasses and – like neighbouring Japan – there’s a great deal of ritual to the pouring of the drink. You pour for those above you in age or station with both hands on the bottle. Meanwhile, they’re holding onto their cup with one hand and touching their arm with the other.
Of course, the foreigners have a far less formal ritual:
1. Buy soju
2. Pour soju into anything
I’ve had soju in smoothies, mixed with beer (so-mek), poured into milkshakes, served with soda, and diluted with Powerade (to create the magical, hangover curing poju). Like a Chinese gymnast, soju is flexible. Unlike a Chinese gymnast, soju is allowed out after 10pm. And thank God for that.
7. Bundaberg (Bundy) Rum – Australia
Australia might be a young country, but it’s also a country with a healthy appreciation of what is affectionately known as ‘the piss’. Beer and wine may be king, but there’s many an Aussie lad who has indulged in a bit of the biff after a night of knocking back Bundy & Coke.
“It makes guys want to punch on and women want to put out” describes it pretty damn well, although it doesn’t explain why my sister threw me through a bonfire at a high school party after she’d had a few. I guess I should be glad it didn’t go the other way.
Whether it’s served over ice or mixed in with Coke or Ginger Ale, Bundy is every bit as Aussie as Paul Hogan, Russell Crowe, or Matthew Newton. And just as likely to leave you with a black eye come morning.
8. Baijiu – China
China’s national beverage is every bit as deceptive as that alluring Thai girl with the Adam’s Apple across the bar. Clear like soju or sake and often translated as ‘wine’, Baijiu puts most other beverages to shame with an alcohol content of anywhere between 40% and 75%.
If the smell like crushed ants doesn’t warn you that this is a drink not to be fucked with, the fire it lights in your belly certainly will. Yet despite its obvious potency, the Chinese toss it back in the same way nerds at a LAN party might toss back Mountain Dew Code Red.
It isn’t a Chinese business meeting or gathering without bottles of Baijiu lined up like soldiers, and there’s never a time when it isn’t cool to tuck into the sorghum based booze. Breakfast meeting? Baijiu. Dinner party? Baijiu. Any excuse will do.
Deals are brokered, friendships formed, and political decisions made over this foul-smelling liquor, but 5,000 years of Chinese history can’t be far wrong. Just close your eyes and think of home for that first shot and you’ll be right.
9. Pisco – Chile/Peru
Ask a Peruvian who invented pisco and they’ll undoubtedly answer Peru. The Chileans will say Chile. The war between Australia and New Zealand for pavlova bragging rights pales in comparison.
When it isn’t causing headaches in those debating its origin, it’s causing them to thousands of slightly regretful revelers all around the world. To say pisco goes down smooth is an understatement. Mix in a little Cola or sours and you’re set. Hell, you’re drunk before you’ve even spied the bottle on the shelf. You can kiss your recollection of that night goodbye. I hear it ran off with your sense of inhibition.
But hey, if you’ve ever seen a Chilean or Peruvian girl, you’ll know there are worse alcohols to go all Coyote Ugly on.
10. Kava – Fiji
Yes, yes, I know that Kava isn’t an alcoholic beverage. You’re more likely to get a buzz on from the breath of the sweaty German guy leering over your shoulder than you are riding a Kava tsunami.
Look down into that hollowed out coconut shell full of muddy brown water. It tastes every bit as ‘grass mixed with mud’ as it looks like it will, but give it a chance. While you’re not liable to end up on a table (or under it) and you won’t be loosening any panties with a pro-offered cup, there’s more to this root vegetable beverage than meets the eye.
It starts with a tingling and numbess in the mouth and lips before progressing to feelings of well being, increased sociability, relaxed muscles, and a clear mind. It’s like alcohol that makes you less likely to punch on rather than more! It’s a miracle!
Like many national drinks, there’s a ritual involved here. Affectionately known as grog by the locals, kava drinking involves sitting around in a circle, passing a half coconut shell around, and clapping. It isn’t a visit to Fiji without a kava ceremony to start the night.
What is your favourite way to imbibe around the world? Got a favourite local liquor, liqueur, or appertif you’d like to wax lyrical about?