We’ve all heard of international cuisines, cultures and customs, and many of us make finding out about these a key part of that all-important holiday preparation. If you’re in the know about the places you’re visiting it can help you to make the most of your holiday by opening doors to fascinating hidden experiences and regional secrets.
One thing that often slips through the cracks in people’s pre-holiday research is what they ought to be drinking when they get to their destination. Alcoholic beverages can form a huge part of a nation’s cultural identity, and are often vital to local traditions. Some are obvious, but usually you won’t know what is actually in the native’s glasses until you’ve spent some real time with them.
We’ve compiled a list to help all that information go down a lot easier. Here are some of Europe’s least known regional tipples, which show you just how different some culture’s drinking habits really are. So, if you’re going away to one of these countries you’ll know what you need to order at the bar, and not only that, but you’ll know how its made and what to drink it with just like the locals do.
Greece – Tsipouro & Ouzo
If you’ve ever been to Greece you’ll know all about Ouzo, the anise-flavoured aperitif that turns white when added to water. It’s certainly an acquired taste, and is actually unpopular with a fair few locals, although it is still widely consumed across both Greece and Cyprus.
What you might not know is that Ouzo has its roots in Tsipouro, a drink distilled from the pulp of Greek olives that is consumed on the mainland and Crete. This spirit is far less well-known among tourists than its anise brother, but is also far more forgiving taste-wise. At 45% abv, it packs quite a punch, but it goes down well in small sips with water.
Bulgaria – Menta
A summer favourite for the locals, Menta is a cooling liquor native to Bulgaria and is distilled from spearmint oils. Served cold, over milk of all things, this 25% spirit is consumed to fight the heat of the sun in the summer months.
Slovenia – Viljamovka
The name of this fruit brandy comes from the Williams Pear, which is the most commonly grown pear outside of Asia. Slovenia, like many Central and Eastern European countries, has a rich heritage of brandy distillation, and among its most brilliant, and alcoholic, is Viljamovka. Hardcore locals drink this for breakfast to give them strength for the day, so they say.
Iceland – Brennivin
Considered Iceland‘s signature booze, Brennivin is an uncolored, unsweetened schnapps, distilled from grain or potato mash and flavoured with caraway. Icelanders traditionally drink this liquor at the mid-winter festival of Porrablot, but that doesn’t stop it being the drink of choice all year round.
Portugal – Ginjinha
Also known simply as Ginja, this liquor is made by infusing sour cherries in alcohol. A favourite in Portugal, and particularly in Lisbon, Ginja is served with a small piece of fruit in the bottom of the glass. Ginjinha is served as a shot, and it’s all too easy to sink half a dozen or so before you know it – yes, it’s just that tasty.
Italy – Amaro Fernet Branca
Italy has many famous liquors, wines and beers, but Fernet is certainly one of the most obscure ones. Made from numerous ingredients traditionally gathered from four continents, Amaro Fernet Branca is left to ferment in a barrel for up to a year. Named after the iron rod that is used to mix the ingredients, it’s said to settle the stomach after a hearty Italian meal.
Spain – Ron Palido de Motril
There’s a lot more to Spain than cerveza and sangria.
Ron Palido de Motril is an Andalusian rum made from the sugarcane crop that grows like wildfire in the area. Virtually unknown internationally, Ron Palido de Motril has a place in many of the native’s hearts, and is enjoyed fondly with friends while recounting the good times.
Montenegro – Amaro Montenegro
Now produced in Bologna, this spirit was named after Elena, the princess of Montenegro. Over 50 herbs are distilled to make this fiery tipple. Top of the flavour list for this liquor is vanilla pods and orange peel, and its 23% abv makes it an easy drinker for both the winter and summer months.