Top 10 Most Potent National Drinks

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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

mate

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

guinnessbeer

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

cachaca

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-peru

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

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

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

don-julio-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

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

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

absinthe-original

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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.


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34 Comments

  1. Complementing the info you have about the Argentinian mate there is also the same mate beverage but served cold called Tereré. It's a typical drink from Paraguay and is brewed in a hollow cow horn previously cleaned and handcrafted with silver details named guampa. It's also consumed using a metal straw called bombilla.

  2. Two problems:

    1. Unless there is some confusion with international standards, percentage of alcohol is one-half the "proof". So the cachaca — in order to be as potent as the apparent claim — would have to be 48% alcohol and therefore 96 proof. Strong, but not approaching the 190 proof (95% alcohol) of something like Everclear. "Percent proof" is just a confusing term.

    2. Ethanol — the drinkable alcohol — isn't the cause of blindness from poorly made alcohol. Blindness may be the result of drinking methanol (wood alcohol), which unscrupulous or stupid people might market as drinkable. Likewise isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol may kill you — or, if it has methanol added to it (as if may) lead to blindness.

  3. Aren’t you confusing Picasso with Vincent Van Gogh? Vincent cut his earlobe off after a tiff with Paul Gauguin.

    • Thanks, Terry. I have corrected the mistake. From Wikipedia: "Most of his best-known works were produced in the final two years of his life, during which time he cut off part of his left ear following a breakdown in his friendship with Paul Gauguin."

  4. This list reminds me of the Monty Python skit on Australian wines – one is good for fighting, while another is good for opening the sluices at both ends…

    BTW where is Southern Comfort, the unofficial national beverage of modern-day Confederates (a.k.a., rednecks)?

    Or Scotch Whiskey from Canada, I mean, Scotland?

    Or fermented yak urine from Nepal or Mongolia or wherever?

  5. You made a partial mistake with the raki(j)a. First of all, it isn't solely Bulgarian – Croats, Serbs and bosnians produce it as well. Second, the picture shown here is that of a CROATIAN rakija made by the CROATIAN company Maraska. So get your story straight in the future please.

  6. maybe you should look better at the label on sljivovica…it is produced in Zadar – Croatia…

    sljivovica is a "former yugoslavia" brand…

  7. hi there

    I suggest you do more research Master. (?)

    I am mexican and what we -sometimes- have with the tequila is the -s a n g r i t a- not sangria (that is a completely different drink made with red wine!)

    Second: Is to have tequila sipped (not in 1 shot like most of americans think) and 90% of the cases with lemon and salt.

    Conclusion: is not a ''westerners'' preference, but a typical mexican tradition.

    and.. can you define your term "westerners" ?

  8. Hi!

    Just to clear something up – rakia (or, more properly rakija, raki-ya) is centuries old (where did you find that post-WWII Bulgarian moonshine nonsense?) and bottle you have on the picture is Serbian slivovitz.

    You may go with the politically correct option and write that rakia is everybody's national beverage on the Balkans. Truth on who distilled it first is likely lost in the past centuries. Modern claims on origin all come down to vanity-prestige-commercialization.

    If you ask me (better check it with someone more credible), rakija came to Balkans along with the Ottoman conquests in 14/15th century – as Muslims, they were not allowed to drink wine and distilling fermented fruit was a workaround that everybody liked, regardless of religion.

  9. You missed out on Australia and Inner Circle Rum. You could get Triple OP which was about 70%. It would evaporate off your lips when you sipped it. Six of us could party the whole weekend on one bottle. I don't think you can get it anymore. I think you can still get Double OP though.

  10. on number 6, it says that black market versions of Russian vodka are associated with death and blindness due to it being a mixture of water and ethanol, but blindness and death are usually associated with lead poisoning, due to poor construction of the still.

  11. Hi, first a correction.
    Absinthe is swiss, from the “Val-de-Travers” in canton Neuchatel. No discussion on that.

    Second, a missing one in your list: Caribean rum.
    Rum is one of the most sold spirit in the world and Bacardi is the 3rd spirit most sold worldwide so definitely should make the list.

  12. Ohhh.. ????? is traditionaly BULGARIAN drink … Other countries steal that drink from us, like all time..Its not the first time that Serbia steal something from us, like food, drink etc…

  13. 75% absinthe is “the original head-spinner” ? I’ve got a bottle of 72% absinthe at home which doesn’t sound a million miles away from 75% !

  14. Also, this is what wikipedia says about rakia’s origins and beginnings
    ” It was believed that rakia was first created in the 16th century in the Balkans, the location unknown, but the recent discovery of wording on on a sherd of pottery (?? ??? ?????? ?? ???????? – I drank rakinja at the celebration (rakinja being the old word for rakia) indicates its presence in 14th century Bulgaria. This discovery may strengthen the case for rakia’s Bulgarian origins and allow its designation by the European Union as a national drink, with a consequent allowance to lower excise duty domestically”

    So I guess its the 14th century

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