Around the world in 15 National Spirits
When we think of ‘culture’ we all too often use it as a synonym for music, film and the fine arts, but a true look into a nation’s soul requires contemplation of everything the people cultivate – from language and gestures to food and drink. Of course, you won’t learn everything there is to know about a country by sitting at home with a bottle of tequila and a sombrero, but enlightening yourself on the drinking preferences of far-flung places can provide a little window on the world and make exotic destinations feel closer to home.
Even better, if you’re making plans to visit one region or another, is to brush up on the way things are done so that you’ll feel confident drinking in local homes and bars – and the people will welcome your respectful interest in their way of life. Downing that tequila with lemon and salt, for example, will quickly mark you out as a tourist. Sipping and savouring it from a brandy glass will aid your enjoyment of the drink, as well as letting your Mexican hosts know you didn’t just fly in with a stag party.
In England, you’re unlikely to offend with the way you drink your gin and tonic, but its genteel image of aristocratic grace can be misleading. Even your new English friends may be surprised to learn of gin’s grim history as a low-quality drink of the masses in the 18th century, which was even used by unscrupulous bosses to supplement the meagre wages they paid. Thankfully, the recipe and the culture are a little more refined today.
Costa Rica’s delicious guaro has a similarly shady past – it was illegal until 1851, but still popularly produced by moonshiners and enjoyed all the more, perhaps, as a forbidden fruit. In Hungary, the legality of producing their famous pálinka at home remains contentious to this day.
For further insights into the drinking preferences and histories of our global neighbours, be sure to check out this new infographic exploring the national spirits of twenty desirable destinations around the world.
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