05 Jan The World by Booze: Alcohol in Different Countries (Part 1)
Not that backpackers are all raging alcoholics, but a lot of us do like our booze. Alcohol runs to the corner shop for drinking games in the hostel, water bottles filled with vodka orange for that long bus journey, wine valley tours as an excuse to get a bit tipsy, games involving ‘goon’ bags in australia…a lot of it revolves around alcohol. But if you drink the local liquor it can actually be quite a cultural experience (or that’s the excuse I like to give).
Wherever you go in the world, countries tend to have their own traditional tipple, an alcoholic drink that they produce or the locals consume socially in street-side cafes. The creation of alcohol, and the way it is served is in fact an art form in itself and part of the culture and identity of the country. It got me to thinking about alcohol around the world- what it’s made of, how it was invented, what it tastes like and how it should be served.
There’s a lot of booze and a lot of countries out there, so here’s part one of my list of alcohol in countries around the world.
Guinness in Ireland– Guinness. The meal in a glass. This thick, dark stout isn’t always a favourite, a bit like Marmite, but you sort of have to love it anyway because it’s Irish. Guinness was invented in the brewery of Arthur Guinness in the 18th century in Dublin and is distinctive for it’s burnt, bitter taste, its dark colour and thick creamy head. It’s the best selling drink in Ireland and since there seems to be an Irish pub in every corner of the globe, its one of the most famous beers in the world. It’s particularly necessary to drink it on St. Patrick’s Day.
Ouzo in Greece- Ouzo is a clear spirit with a distinct flavour of aniseed, a bit like Sambuca, which tastes particularly strong. It’s produced in Greece and Cyprus and is usually drunk in shot form or mixed with water, making it become a cloudy white colour. When mixed with water it is served over ice cubes in a short glass. Ouzo is now recognized as a product exclusive to Greece and Cyprus, meaning makers in other countries can’t label the product with the same name. In Greece, people often drink ouzo in cafe-like ouzeries, where it is served with appetizers called mezedes.
Champagne in France– Although many people drink bubbly wine on a special occasion, it can only be called Champagne if it was produced in the Champagne region of France. Champagne is a sparkling wine, made using Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes. Its fizziness is created by bringing on secondary fermentation in the bottle. The dry white wine is placed in special heavyweight bottles and then more yeast and sugar is added. The bottles are sealed and then left in a cellar for a minimum of one and a half years, so that CO2 is produced and dissolves into the liquid. Champagne is associated with luxury and is served in a special Champagne glass called a flute.
Limoncello in Italy- Yummy Limoncello is a yellow lemon liqueur made in southern Italy. Made from Sorrento lemons, Limoncello is usually served as an after dinner drink either on its own or with an Italian dessert. This strong but sweet drink is kept in the freezer so it’s served nice and cold and is meant to be sipped and enjoyed slowly, not drunk as a shot. The southern Italians make this sweet but tangy liqueur from the skins of the many juicy lemons grown in the region. It is made from just four ingredients- lemon zest, grain alcohol, water and sugar and can be left to ferment for up to 80 days. How Limoncello was invented is the subject of myth and legend, but the best Limoncello comes from the Amalfi coast, where many families pass down their secret home-made recipes.
Pimms in England- Pimms is a traditional English summer drink served with lemonade, cucumber, mint, orange and strawberries in a jug. It’s one of those drinks commonly served at festivals in the summertime or at picnics where it can be shared. Pimms isn’t widely known in the rest of the world, and is a typically British drink. Pimms was invented by James Pimm who began serving Pimms ‘house cup’ in his Oyster Bar in 1823. Pimms is a brand of fruit cup- the most famous Pimms No.1 Cup is a darkish red liquid based on gin with a hint of spice and citrus. The clever advertising campaign in 2003 had everyone saying “It’s Pimms o’clock”.
Arak in Bali– Arack or Arak as they spell it in Indonesia, is a really strong rice wine and tastes a bit like you’ve drunk a glass of gasoline. Arak is a distilled alcoholic drink made from sugarcane and grain. In Indonesia, local red rice is fermented and combined with yeast and distilled to approximately 70% alcohol. The ‘moonshine’ of Bali was responsible for 20 deaths and hospitalization of others when it was contaminated with methanol.
Cachaca in Brazil- Cachaca is used in Caipirinhas, a cocktail made by grinding limes and brown sugar in a glass, filling it with crushed ice, pouring cachaca over the top and then shaking with a cocktail shaker. Cachaca is the most popular distilled alcoholic drink in Brazil, made by fermenting sugarcane. There are two varieties of cachaca, a white version and a gold version which is aged and is considered the premium variety. Cachaca was invented by Portugese settlers in Brazil and is a national product of the country.
Port in Portugal- Port is a sweet fortified wine with a red colour, produced in the northern region of Portugal in the Douro Valley. The sweet wine, which has a stronger alcohol content than wine, is usually served as a dessert wine, great with cheese. Just like Champagne, versions of port wine are made in other countries but cannot be a true Port if they are not made in the Douro Valley.
Sake in Japan- Sake is a drink that can be served hot or cold and is a form of rice wine. Most people will have tried it with sushi when they’ve been to a Japanese restaurant. Although it is called sake in English, in Japan it is known as Nihonshu. Sake is made from only rice and water and involves a fancy process called “multiple parallel fermentation”. The starch from the rice is converted into sugar, then the sugar is converted into alcohol using yeast. Sake requires a special type of rice with a high starch content and the better the rice, the better the sake.
Sangria in Spain- A backpacker’s first experience of sangria is often that pre-mixed Don Simon in a carton that’s incredibly cheap. There are many different recipes and ways of making fresh sangria, and everyone has their own personal favourite. Sangria is an alcoholic fruit punch typically made in Spain using red wine, although if you’re making white sangria, then white wine is used. Sangria usually contains red wine, some sort of sugar, spirits such as triple sec or brandy, ice, soda or lemonade and chopped up fruits like oranges and apples. It is usually served in a jug with a wooden spoon to stop the fruit going into the individual glasses when poured.