Photo: Benoit Daoust/Shutterstock

59 National Drinks From 59 Awesome Countries

by Jessica Rice Aug 22, 2013
1. Singani (Bolivia)

Singani is produced from white muscatel grapes grown at elevations of 5,250 feet or higher. Rather than age, the quality of the product is determined by the quality of the grapes at the start of production.

2. Soju (Korea)

Soju has a taste comparable to vodka yet slightly sweeter. “In 2006, it was estimated that the average adult Korean (older than 20) had consumed 90 bottles of soju during that year.”[1]

3. Cachaca (Brazil)

Cachaca, or Brazilian rum, has over four centuries’ worth of nicknames coined by its various consumers. This list of over 2,000 terms includes: “abre-coração (heart-opener), água-benta (holy water), bafo-de-tigre (tiger breath), and limpa-olho (eye-wash).”[2]

4. Whisky (Scotland)

“Scotch whisky is always spelled without an “e” (as is whisky from Canada and Japan). Most other nations such as the United States, Australia, and Ireland call their similar spirits whiskey. There are lots of theories as to why this is the case, most of which are disputed. Just be sure you never add the “e” when writing to a Scotsman or you may be the cause of the beginning of World War III.”[3] Scotch whisky is also differentiated by the fact that it’s aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years.

5. Bourbon (USA)

Bourbon is made with corn and obtains its distinct flavor as it’s aged in barrels. America embraced bourbon to the highest extent, declaring it the “National Spirit of America” in 1964.

6. Pisco (Peru)

Its “smooth and almost non-alcoholic flavor”[4] deceives many first-time drinkers, who quickly become inebriated without noticing. Some people consider mixing pure Pisco with anything else to be a sin.

7. Caesar (Canada)

Spaghetti alle vongole, or spaghetti with tomato sauce and clams, served as Walter Chell’s inspiration for the Caesar, taking this classic from Venice, Italy all across Canada. The Caesar is made with vodka, clamato (clam juice) hot sauce, celery, and lime.

8. Maotai (China)

Maotai, or moutai, is pricey and has a very strong, potent taste. It’s “classified as ‘sauce-fragranced’ because it offers an exceptionally pure, mild, and mellow soy sauce-like fragrance that lingers after it is consumed.”[13]

9. Tequila (Mexico)

A popular “tequila worm” myth rumors that worms can be found in bottles of tequila. This belief stems from certain mezcals typically sold in Oaxaca “con gusano” or “with worm”[6] that actually contain a larval form of a moth that lives on the agave plant tequila is distilled from. In reality, finding one on a plant during production reflects an infestation and a lower-end product.

10. Mojito (Cuba)

The mojito is made from rum, sugar, lime juice, sparkling water, and mint. This refreshing cocktail with growing worldwide popularity “is one of the most famous rum-based highballs”,[7] and is also known as being Ernest Hemmingway’s favorite drink.

11. Guinness (Ireland)

Ireland brews this dry stout in a brewery right in Dublin. “Studies claim that Guinness can be beneficial to the heart. Researchers found that ‘antioxidant compounds’ in the Guinness, similar to those found in certain fruits and vegetables, are responsible for health benefits because they slow down the deposit of harmful cholesterol on the artery walls.”[8]

12. Becherovka (Czech Republic)

“It tastes like Christmas”[9] is the common reaction after someone takes a first sip of Becherovka. Its distinct flavor comes from a combination of anise, cinnamon, and a mixture of herbs.

13. Nsafufuo (Ghana)

Nsafufuo is palm wine made from the sap of palm trees. It’s also known as “kallu” or “toddy,” and is similar to “tuba” found in the Philippines (described below). This palm wine can be served either sweet or sour depending on its preparation.

14. Nihonshu (Japan)

Although it’s commonly known in many places as sake, sake actually refers to any alcoholic beverage in Japan. Nihonshu is fermented rice, sometimes called rice wine, that can be served hot or cold. It is the “oldest spirit in the world.”[10]

15. Mama Juana (Dominican Republic)

Mama Juana is a mixture of rum, red wine, honey, tree bark, and herbs soaked in a bottle. This concoction has “reported positive effects on health, ranging from a flu remedy, to a digestion and circulation aid, blood cleanser, and kidney and liver tonic.”[11]

16. Schnapps (Austria)

The word Schnapps itself comes from the German word for “swallow.” In Germany and Austria, “Schnaps” refers to any strong alcoholic drink, but it’s commonly known as being a fruit-flavored spirit.

17. Brennivín (Iceland)

Brennivín is Iceland’s version of gin. It’s also known as “black death” and means “burning wine” when translated into English, but this drink flavored with caraway, cumin, and angelica is widely popular across Iceland, making it its “signature distilled beverage.”[12]

18. Waragi (Uganda)

Waragi is comparable to gin, with a subtle flavor that’s easily overpowered when used in mixed drinks. The production of waragi is largely unregulated, causing an incident in 2010 in which 80 people died due to high levels of methanol.

19. Jinmen gaoliang (Taiwan)

Jinmen gaoliang is made from fermented sorghum in Taiwan. This white liquor’s distinctly smooth, sweet flavor works well in drinks, as the flavor remains prominent even when mixed.

20. Slivovitz (Serbia)

“Slivovitz is the national drink of Serbia and plum is the national fruit. Plum and its products are of great importance to Serbs and part of numerous customs … A saying goes that the best place to build a house is where a plum tree grows.”[5]

21. Rakı (Turkey)

Rakı is an anise-flavored drink, traditionally consumed straight or chilled with ice or diluted with a small amount of cold water. This twice-distilled grape pomace is similar to pastis or ouzo (both below), as it’s consumed with a variety of hot and cold appetizers.

22. Sangria (Spain)

Named after the Spanish word for blood, “sangre,” for its distinct deep red color. Sangria is typically made with cut fruits including apples, oranges, lemons, and berries mixed with red wine, although white wine can also be used. The fruit sweetens the wine and absorbs it as well. Sometimes orange juice, sugar, honey, or brandy is added to the sangria as a sweetener.

23. Kumis (Mongolia)

Kumis is unique in the respect that it’s a fermented alcoholic drink distilled from a dairy product, rather than a grain or fruit. Kumis is traditionally made from mare’s milk, although due to limited availability, production is now typically done with cow’s milk.

24. Pitorro (Puerto Rico)

“Also known as ron caña (cane rum), this is your basic illegal distilled moonshine, made from sugarcane. Straight pitorro is just as strong as any other moonshine you may have tasted, with alcohol levels into the 120 proof or more. Since it is illegal, the only way to get your hands on some is to have local friends track it down.”[15]

25. Chibuku (Zimbabwe)

Zimbabwe’s homebrew is a combination of water, sorghum, yeast, and enzymes that makes for the chunky, strong liquid known as Chibuku.

26. Chapalo (Niger)

Chapalo is a handcrafted millet beer found in Niger. In local bars, or cabarets, chapalo is brewed in large black caldrons and served in calabash bowls.

27. Arak (Jordan)

“The word arak comes from the Arabic word ‘araq,’ meaning “sweat.”[16] Arak is produced with grapes cultivated in the Mediterranean. The grapes are crushed and put into barrels with juice where they are left to ferment for three weeks. The end product is a milky white and is very similar to rakı in Turkey, or ouzo in Greece.

28. Grappa (Italy)

Grappa is a “fragrant grape based pomace brandy;” it’s strong, ranging from 70-120 proof, so it’s served in small, ornate flute glasses. One of several ways to taste grappa is “by rubbing a small amount on the back of the hand and sniffing. If the aroma is pleasant, the grappa is well made.”[14]

29. Ouzo (Greece)

Ouzo is exclusively Greek. “Clear and silky, with a distinct licorice flavor,” it’s looked down upon to mix ouzo with anything. However, caution is advised due to its high alcohol and sugar levels that will cause the alcohol to have a delayed release into your system. Don’t forget the customary toast that accompanies this national drink: “Stin uyeia sou”, or “To your health!”[17]

30. Arak (Bali)

Not to be confused with arak found in Jordan, arak from Bali is made from distilled coconut palm sap, or from a mixture of coconut milk and black sticky rice. It’s incredibly cheap and is sold in plastic bags. There has been a lot of controversy over arak after several people died from methanol poisoning, but it came from one batch that was unregulated and produced legally.

31. Sombai (Cambodia)

Sombai, or rice wine, is incredibly popular in Cambodia. When used in medicinal cases the taste is bitter, but when infused and distilled properly sombai can be very delicious. It’s infused with fruits and spices and is bottled with a sugarcane stick in bottles each decorated and painted by hand. Eventually, each is crowned and “proudly bears its traditional colourful krama over the bottle top.”[18]

32. Sang som rum (Thailand)

Sugarcane-distilled rum from Thailand, sang som rum “makes you fall on your head,” according to Matador staff writer Katie Scott Aiton. Although it’s virtually unheard of outside of Thailand, it has won gold medal competitions in Madrid and Dusseldorf.

33. Gin (England)

Gin is distilled from juniper berries and enjoyed worldwide due to its versatility as well as the popularity of the martini. Aside from martinis, “there are more classic cocktails made with gin than with any other spirit.”[19]

34. Fernet (Argentina)

Described as having a smell “like black licorice-flavored Listerine,” fernet is a “bitter aromatic spirit”[20] typically served as a digestif, but sometimes with coffee or Coke. Fernet is made with a variety of herbs and spices including myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, and most importantly saffron, giving it its distinct flavor.

35. Kilimanjaro Lager (Tanzania)

With a picture of Mount Kilimanjaro plastered on each label, Kilimanjaro Lager is a local favorite with its golden color and crisp, mild flavor.

36. Rakshi (Nepal)

This clear, strong drink made from kodo millet or rice has a taste similar to Japanese sake. It typically doesn’t require time to age like many other spirits.

37. Rum (Jamaica)

Rum is produced in pot stills, and its color varies drastically from dark to light. It’s commonly used for blending, rarely drunk neat.

38. Singapore sling (Singapore)

Originally called the gin sling, the Singapore sling was created at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. It’s composed of gin, cherry brandy, Cointreau, Benedictine, grenadine, pineapple and lemon juice, and angostura bitters, which all contribute to its tropical flavor.

39. Vodka (Russia)

Vodka is often drunk neat but is used in a variety of cocktails such as the Screwdriver, vodka tonic, and Bloody Mary. It’s typically 80 proof and made from fermented grains or potatoes. Today vodka makes up 70% of all alcohol consumed in Russia.

40. Koskenkorva Viina (Finland)

This alcohol is produced with a 200-step continuous distillation process. The result is high-purity industrial ethanol that is then diluted with spring water and a little sugar. Koskenkorva Viina is like Finland’s vodka, also commonly known as kossu.

41. Port wine (Portugal)

Port is a sweet red wine, typically used as a dessert wine. It’s made from grapes from the Douro Valley in northern Portugal.

42. Canelazo (Equador)

Served hot, canelazo is sugarcane alcohol (aguardiente), sugar, and water boiled with cinnamon. Canelazo is made traditionally with homemade aguardiente, but bottled aguardiente can also be used.

43. Tej (Ethiopia)

Tej is mead or honey wine, flavored with powdered leaves and gesho twigs. It has a light, sweet flavor.

44. Jenever (Belgium)

Jenever is a strong juniper-flavored liquor. There are two distinct types of jenever, “oude” (old) and “jonge” (young). Jonge jenever has a taste similar to vodka, “with a slight aroma of juniper and malt wine,” whereas oude jenever “has a smoother, very aromatic taste with malty flavors”[21] due to the fact that it’s sometimes aged in wood.

45. Guaro (Costa Rica)

Guaro is sweet liquor made from sugarcane and is clear in color. It’s considered ‘soft’ vodka due to its lower alcohol content.

46. Unicum (Hungary)

Unicum is an herbal digestif liqueur aged in oak casts, with an ingredient list of over 40 herbs. Traditional unicum is no longer sold in the United States. Instead, a sweeter version can be found under the name “zwack.”

47. Pastis (France)

Pastis is an anise-flavored liqueur and aperitif. It’s very similar to raki and ouzo from Turkey and Greece, respectively.

48. Horilka (Ukraine)

This Ukrainian vodka is usually distilled from wheat. Although there are different flavors and derivations, most are homemade.

49. Tuba (Phillipines)

Palm wine, commonly referred to as “kallu” or “toddy,” is called tuba in the Philippines. The name “refers both to the freshly harvested sweetish sap and the one with the red lauan-tree tan bark.” Tuba is made from palm tree sap from trees such as palmyras, date palms, and coconut palms, and has a taste described “somewhere between whisky and rum”.[22]

50. Akevitt (Norway)

Referred to as “water of life,”[23] Akevitt is made from potatoes, along with various spices and herbs. Although caraway is the most popular herb used, anise, cardamom, cumin, dill, and fennel can also make an appearance. Akevitt’s color can range from light to dark brown depending on how long it has been aged in its oak case.

51. Riga Black Balsam (Latvia)

Riga Black Balsam is Latvia’s specific type of balsam, an herbal liqueur. It’s made from natural ingredients and pure vodka. Although it has high alcohol content at 90 proof, it has a bitter yet sweet flavor.

52. Rhum Barbancourt (Haiti)

One of the finest rums in the world, Rhum Barbancourt is exclusively produced and bottled by the Societe de Rhum Barbancourt, making it one of Haiti’s most famous exports.

53. Vana Tallinn (Estonia)

This rum based liqueur has a full-bodied flavor. Vana Tallinn is “sweet with a hint of Jamaican rum,”[24] and is flavored with spices such as citrus oil, cinnamon, and vanilla. It can be drunk straight and is also mixed with coffee, resulting in a concoction similar to Irish coffee.

54. Akvavit (Denmark)

Akvavit, also referred to as “snaps” in Denmark, is dry flavored liquor with a strong presence of caraway. One of the best-known kinds is Ålborg, named after a small town in Jutland on Denmark’s northern coast.

55. Seco Herrerano (Panama)

Seco Herrerano is the national alcoholic beverage of Panama made from triple-distilled sugarcane. It’s typically drunk straight, or used as a substitute for vodka or rum in a variety of cocktails. Although are many types, the Seco Herrerano crafted by the Varela family is the most popular and available in comparison to any competing brand.

56. Tuica (Romania)

Tuica is strong alcoholic drink prepared through a complex, specific process. Most people take shots of Tuica, as it’s very strong, with an alcohol content ranging up to 60%. It’s made solely from plums and prepared only from early October to early December due to its sensitivity to temperature. Then the plums are left to ferment for another six to eight weeks.

57. Mastika (Macedonia)

Mastika is “liquor seasoned with mastic, (resin from the mastic tree, a small evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean Region).” It is “used as an aperitif, poured over ice and enjoyed with meze,”[25] a selection of small dishes that can be served at any meal, or at the start of a large-scale meal.

58. Rakia (Croatia)

Rakija, also known as rakia throughout the Balkans, can be made from a variety of distilled fermented fruits including plums, grapes, apricots, peaches, mulberries, apples, pears, figs and cherries. However, in Croatia it is typically made exclusively from grapes, where it retains its status as Croatia’s most popular spirit.

59. Aguardiente (Colombia)

Aguardiente, also called “guaro,” “is an anise-flavored liquor derived from sugarcane” typically drunk straight. Although this beverage can also be found in countries such as Costa Rica, “aguardiente has maintained, since the Spanish era, the status of the most popular alcoholic beverage in the Andean regions of Colombia.”[26]

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