From beer to distilled liquor, every country has popular national drinks to share with the world. Sweet, bitter, or flavored with fruits or herbs, there’s something tangy and unique to suit every taste.
Whether you like to spend Friday night in the bar, or you prefer non-alcoholic beverages; the following national drinks make it to the top of the list of unconventional tourist attractions! How many have you already tried?
The national drink in Argentina is, in fact, Italian. It arrived to South America in the middle of the 1800s, together with immigrants looking for a better life away from Europe. Fernet soon conquered the hearts and minds of the population.
Today, no party without Fernet seems to be the Argentinian motto, especially when mixed on the rocks with Coca-Cola. And this means they produce 25 million liters in national drinks like Fernet every year!
Locals say no foreigner likes Fernet when tasting it for the first time, so you’ll have to ask for another round to enjoy the bitter taste of this drink. You can also have it with coffee or espresso, or as most Argentinians like it, with Coke.
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After the sandy beaches, tacos and drug cartels, Tequila is next on everyone’s minds when thinking about Mexico. This agave-made liquor is the queen of national drinks. Tequila has been the best friend of many a partygoer and college student at some point in their lives.
The proof? 273 million liters of Tequila were produced in Mexico in 2016 alone. And around 200 million of those were exported worldwide. Everywhere you travel, you’ll find songs about it, with almost any bar about the globe offering at least one cocktail or long drink containing tequila, from Tequila Sunrise to the famous Margarita.
National drinks don’t get better than this. You can even down it straight with salt and lemon or, in some countries, cinnamon and orange, if you’ve got an iron stomach.
When it comes to national drinks, Bolivia is famous for its Singani, a distilled spirit made from Muscat of Alexandria grapes, using a 500-year old recipe.
This particular brandy has a complex, strong flavor, a result of fine ingredients and a long and cured process of distillation. If you’re looking to try the best, travel to Bolivia and ask for a Singani produced at high altitude, in the Andes (over 5,000 feet).
Locals drink Singani on the rocks, with a slice of lime. But if you don’t like strong national drinks neat, try it in a cocktail or a long drink.
The oldest branded spirit, rum is a drink with a past. Its history starts in the 17th century, in the sugar mills of the New World, and is filled with legends and tales about pilgrims, sailors, slaves and pirates.
Thanks to its sweet taste, rum is the main ingredient for Cuba Libre, Mojito, Piña Colada and Daiquiri, the national drinks of many a Caribbean country. When unmixed with other ingredients, good rum tastes like fire. No wonder pirates and sailors loved it!
Rum is one of the national drinks not only in Cuba, but in a wide range of other countries in Central America: Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Dominican Republic, French West Indies, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago.
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To appreciate a strong and perfumed liquor like bourbon, you must have an advanced knowledge of alcohol. Born in Kentucky, bourbon has been the USA’s national spirit since 1964. Pride of Americans, it has a unique flavor reminiscent of eggnog, toasted nuts, nutmeg, caramel, and even cinnamon.
Few national drinks have as much flavor as bourbon and it must be made with at least 51 percent corn, according to American laws. And because it has to be aged using charred new barrels only, in Kentucky there are more barrels than people! In 2016 alone, in Kentucky 1.8 million barrels were used to age bourbon.
6. Single Malt Whisky
Some national drinks will put hairs on your chest, and single malt whisky is the pride of Scotland, which exports about 99 million cases of Scotch every year.
Single malt whisky is strong as far as national drinks go and not for every taste. Appreciated today, as in the past, when whisky was the second most popular drink among pirates - who used to consider it a good source of Vitamin C.
Once you try it, on the rocks or mixed with other ingredients, you’ll understand what makes it so special among alcohol lovers. However, beware the spelling if you’re looking to try the original. If on the bottle is written “whisky”, then you’re drinking a Scottish product; “whiskey” is the spelling for similar spirits produced outside Scotland.
Whisky’s specific flavor comes from the barrels where Scotland’s national drink ages for at least two years. Once put in a bottle, the liquor can resist for 100 years, if sealed, and for up to five years, after you open it. National drinks that outlive the average life expectancy? Pretty cool, hey?
Absinthe is one of the strongest spirits in the list of national drinks. It usually contains at least 70 percent or more alcohol, so it’s served in small glasses, similar to the ones used for tequila.
Its name comes from Artemisia absinthium, the latin name for grand wormwood, the main ingredient used to make absinthe. Producing and selling absinthe was illegal for almost a century in Europe and in the USA, as it contained a toxic oil from wormwood.
However, the drink continued to be sold in most European countries under different names, after producers slightly changed the recipe to reduce the quantity from the toxic ingredient. In the ‘90s, the European Union allowed absinthe production again. Since 2007, absinthe is also legal in the USA.
All absinthe contains green anise and fennel, which give it a floral scent and a yellow-green color. And if you were wondering, the myth that absinthe causes hallucinations is 100 percent false.
Country of origin for absinthe is disputed against Switzerland and France, although it seems to have come from Val-de-Travers, which is Swiss territory.
It’s impossible to talk about national drinks without mentioning vodka. Generally made from potatoes or grains, Russia’s emblem is one of the purest liquors on the market today, thanks to the distillation process behind it.
Vodka is one of the most popular national drinks in the world, so you don’t have to fly to Russia if you want to try it. Russians drink it chilled it with meals, but you can make your own tradition for it: neat, in combination with Red Bull, orange or apple juice, or laced in cocktails.
Clear vodka is still everyone’s favorite, but lately most producers have come up with new flavored versions, including vanilla, ginger, apple, and even unsweetened chocolate.
The funniest thing about one of England’s national drinks is that it was created in Holland and sells the most in the Philippines. Yet it was the English that discovered the juniper-made liquor in the 17th century, during the Thirty Years’ War, and only later became the most important producers of gin.
The main difference between gin and other national drinks is that it’s meant to be mixed with other ingredients in cocktails, and not consumed neat. So, don’t simply ask for a gin the next time you go to a bar. Instead, try one of the classics: French 75, Vesper, Southside, Negroni, Martinez, Tom Collins, or simply mixed with tonic.
Back at the beginning of the 20th century, gin was the main ingredient in most modern cocktails, so there’s plenty of choices if you want to get into the English spirit.
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Similar to absinthe, pastis is considered one of France’s national drinks, together with Champagne and cognac. It’s highly appreciated in Southern France, as an important part of the local culture and lifestyle.
Recipes vary from one factory to another, but all pastis have similar tastes of anise, fennel and liquorice, which gives the liquor more sweetness. Some producers add particular flavors, such as cardamom, cinnamon or pepper.
The French drink pastis as an aperitif (apéro) before dinner, with ice water, or with water and ice. National drinks before dinner? Now you’re talking!
This is another anise-based liquor, originating in Greece. Ouzo producers obtain the alcohol from grapes, then they flavor it with anise and other herbs, so the taste can vary with the brand.
Just like with absinthe and pastis, ouzo shouldn’t be served as a shot. Sip the alcohol slowly, for a relaxing experience. Greeks chill it with food - shrimp, grilled octopus, cheese and meat bites. You can have ouzo as aperitif or as digestif (before or after dinner).
The Czechs drink Becherovka, a special mix of 32 spices and herbs, created at the beginning of the 19th century. The liquor was first meant to cure, being created for therapeutical purposes in Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), a Bohemian spa town.
The recipe invented by Josef Vitus Becher is still a secret today, known only by two employees in the Czech factory only. That means if you want to try all the national drinks on this list, you’ll have to travel to Eastern Europe.
When it comes to taste, even locals have different opinions. Some say it’s sweet, while others find it spicy or bitter. Tourists usually drink it in long drinks, together with soda, which adds sweetness to the liquor.
Maotai is considered the official “national wine” in China. In fact, maotai is a type of baijiu, a clear spirit, made from sorghum and grains.
It has a particular taste and most foreigners find it nasty and almost impossible to drink. Compared to fuel and even cleaning products, maotai is the deadly bomb of national drinks at 90 percent proof (and sometimes higher!).
Western myths say that the Chinese keep it in the car to use it if they run out of gasoline. But despite its bad taste, maotai is an expensive drink, and hard to find outside Chinese borders.
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Sake’s story starts more than five thousand years ago, in China, despite being famous in Japan, where it didn’t arrive until around 800 AC, where locals used to call it “The Drink of Gods”. In modern terms, it’s “rice wine”, a drink obtained by brewing rice - it’s called wine, but in fact it’s more similar to beer.
Drink sake when you eat, preferably when you order sushi. They’re practically made for each other. Even if you get sake in a small cup (called an ochoko), don’t drink it like a shot, but as you would drink white wine.
Sake should be served fresh - once you open a bottle, make sure you finish it in a week. National drinks with sell by dates? No problem.
Guinness is the symbol of Ireland, being the most popular drink in this country and widely appreciated all over the world - with ten million glasses sold every day!
A pint of Guinness packs a lot of calories, but also contains antioxidants, so if you drink responsibly, this dark beer can have beneficial effects on your heart and cholesterol level.
Each one of these national drinks tells a lot about the countries and people they come from (or where they’ve become famous). And even if you can’t travel around the world and taste them right at the source, thanks to globalization, you can order most of them in your favorite bar.
National Drinks All Round!
You have to admit it, though, national drinks taste better in their countries of origin. So, the next time you travel to a new country or region, take some time to go in a local bar and taste some of the traditional spirits or specialties. Just remember to take a GPS with you so you can find your way back after one too many!