With every variation of “Cheers!” around the world, there’s often a traditional drink to complement the toast. Whether beer, wine, liquor or even non-alcoholic, regional beverage specialties can be a great way to delve into the local culture.
To get a taste of what’s out there, we visited question and answer community Quora.com, asking “If I visit your country/region, what is that one drink I should not miss?” Here are a few of those must-sips across the globe.
A trip to this South American country would not be complete without sipping a sweet caipirinha. “It is a tropical drink, very fresh and can be made of several fruits like lemon, orange, watermelon, peach and others,” said Natalia Polidoro, a student in São Paulo.
The key ingredient is cachaça, Brazil’s national spirit, distilled from sugarcane juice. Unlike rum, which is made from molasses, cachaça is made from fresh, fermented sugarcane juice. And the spirit is unmatched in popularity in its home country – hundreds of Portuguese synonyms exist for the liquor, from uísque brasileiro (Brazilian whisky) to água-benta (holy water).
A uniquely Swedish invention, punsch is a liqueur made from an imported southeastern Asian liquor called arrack. As Swedish resident Lucas Lundström explained, the Swedish East India Company started importing arrack in 1733. The resulting liqueur was “a smashing success in high society”, he said.At 20% to 30% alcohol, the liquor has a “spicy, sweet” flavour and is usually served on ice. But in winter, the drink should be heated to 40C and makes an ideal complement to Swedish pea soup, Lundstrom said.
When visiting French Canada, try Sortilège, a brand of whiskey made with maple syrup, advised Anna Demers, who lives outside of Ottawa. “We always had some kind of alcohol with maple syrup but now it [is] commercially produced,” she said. A sweeter liqueur called Coureur des Bois is also now available, and Demers said it’s more popular among women.She also vouched for the the liquid sap fresh from the maple tree that the native population first introduced to French settlers. “It’s very healthy to drink in its original form,” she said. The sap tends to be only 1% to 2% sugar and has a more subtle maple flavour than the boiled-down syrup.
For a natural caffeine high, reach for mate, also called yerba mate, the “official infusion” of Argentina, said Natalia Romano, an engineering student from Mar Del Plata, Argentina. “It's similar to tea, only it's a tradition to drink it in turns with friends,” she added. In social settings, the tea is traditionally served out of a single, hollowed-out gourd with a straw that filters out the tea leaves. The gourd is passed around in a circle and refilled as needed.
Today, you can also buy mate in a teabag and drink it out of a mug, adding milk and sugar to taste. “If you drink it that way, it’s known as mate cocido,” Romano said.
True to its slogan “World Famous in New Zealand”, Lemon & Paeroa, often called L&P, is quite popular in its home country – even if it doesn’t yet have worldwide recognition. “Its main ingredient is the mineral water from the [northern] town of Paeroa,” said Raymund Macaalay, an Auckland resident. Once mixed with lemon, “you have a fizzy lemonade loved by Kiwi[s]”.
In the southern Indian city of Madurai, jigarthanda is a popular, cooling street drink. Amruth Varshini, who lives in nearby Kerala, warned that the ingredients – which include milk, sarsaparilla syrup, and almond tree latex or the sea algae called China grass – may sound strange, but he promised that “the resulting product is simply wonderful”.
The word jigarthanda translates to “cool liver” in Hindi, said Varshini, but alternate meanings can also be interpreted. “Jigar means spirit or courage and thanda, derived from the Arabic word thandal, stands for captain/rower [of a boat],” he said. “This definition explains the use of sea algae gelatine in the preparation of the drink, which was thought to have been a staple food of seafarers in the olden times.”
Alex Pak of Santa Clara, California, considered a number of libations – including the martini and famous Southern sweet tea (iced tea loaded with sugar) – before settling on the root beer float as one drink every visitor should try. Getting its name from the sassafras tree root originally responsible for its unique flavour, root beer was an exclusively North American beverage until recently. Though sassafras itself is no longer used due to health concerns, its distinct flavour has been replicated today with a mix of spices, other roots and artificial flavours.
With unique versions now produced in every US state, root beer gets an extra special treatment with the addition of a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream. The resulting root beer float was made famous at the roadside restaurant chain A&W, where the treat is still served in a frosted mug.