No visit to a new country would be complete without trying the native moonshine. Just as culinary tastes differ throughout the world, as do beverages. Most countries share the old favorites of beer and wine, but here’s a list of poisons solely unique to particular regions – for good reasons.
10. Argentinean Maté
Although not alcoholic, this mind-buzzing beverage, known as the “drink of friendship” does contain a concoction of stimulants, such as caffeine. It’s brewed from the Yerba Maté herb, which is found in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil. The time for consumption comes when friends are gathered round a hollow calabash gourd, all sharing from a metal straw.
9. Irish Guinness
OK, so Guinness is only potent if you drink more than 3 pints, but it deserves an honorary mention as one of the most famous national drinks in the world. “The Black Stuff”, which originated in Dublin in the 18th Century, is now present in any British or Irish themed bar, whether you’re in Texas or Taiwan. Sales are still going strong, particularly considering it’s scientifically proven to be good for the heart.
8. Brazilian Cachaça
This sugary little number is the main component in the popular cocktail, Caipirinha, when mixed with lime and sugar, or Bombeirinho, when mixed with gooseberry syrup. The liquor itself is distilled from fermented sugarcane, and has a percentage of up to 48 percent proof. In some regions it’s also known as “agudente” or “pinga”, but no-matter where it is, one thing stays the same – it will blow your head off.
7. South American Pisco
Pisco is also a popular tipple from South America, mostly from Peru and Chile, distilled from grapes until it goes beyond the potency of regular wine. It was invented in the 16th century by Spanish settlers, who were attempting to make a type of Brandy. What they actually produced was this tart liquor, which is now available in over 80 different brands.
6. Russian Vodka
Every bar in the world serves vodka, but none quite as potent as authentic Moscow moonshine. What makes it so bad, is that vodka is basically water mixed with ethanol – which explains the blindness and even death that can result in too much consumption of badly-made black market options. Nevertheless, so popular is this cold-weather-repelling concoction, that by 1911, it comprised 89% of all alcohol consumed in Russia. Na zdorovje!
5. Greek Ouzo
At first sniff, this drink seems like is would taste like those nice aniseed sweets that you get – but that’s where the similarities end. After the initial sup, the aftertaste hits you like a china plate in the head, which makes it even harder to understand why the Grecians mix it with water to prolong it. Regional variations of this drink are found in France, where they call it “Pastis”, “Mastika” as it’s known in Eastern Europe, or “Sambuca”, which is found in Italy.
4. Mexican Tequila
The best thing about tequila is that it’s made from a cactus plant – the agave, which grows best in volcanic soil. Makes it sound decadent, doesn’t it? In actual fact, Tequila is the poison chosen by students, good-timers and shot-lovers round the globe, due to its hard and fast potency. Whereas the Mexicans drink it straight, with Sangria on the side, Westerners take it with lemon and salt, and Europeans drink the gold versions with orange and cinnamon.
3. Japanese Sake
Sake, like many other things consumed in Japan, is made from rice. Its production originates as far back as the year 712, and it is imbibed today to mark anything from business meetings, traditional ceremonies, or nights out on the town. Mostly, the flavor of Sake is sweet, like wine, but the more hardcore drinkers go for the bitter versions, which can reach 20 percent proof.
2. Bulgarian Rakia
Bulgaria was one of the countries the credit crunch hit hard the first time round. After the two world wars, then Communism, and then a huge economic crisis, the best thing to do was produce homemade alcohol – both for financial and practical reasons – and Rakia was born. Rakia can basically be made from anything: grapes, plums, pears or cherries, or basically whatever is left of the summer fruit crop. They natives call it schnapps or brandy, but what it actually tastes like is spraying 50 percent proof hairspray in your mouth.
1. Czech Absinthe
Naturally, we have saved the best – and most renowned – for last. This spirit, famous for inducing Vincent Van Gogh to hack his ear off and Oscar Wilde to have extreme hallucinations, was actually banned in the 1800s, due to an increase in violent crimes and mental illness. It has since seen a revival, with less potent versions being sold, rather than the original head-spinner of 75% proof. Absinthe, or “The Green Fairy“, is made from the flowers and leaves of the wormwood plant and traditionally, was poured over a sugar cube to release its intoxicating flavors.