Six Memorable Drinking Experiences Around the World

15 Jun Six Memorable Drinking Experiences Around the World

Part of the fun of overseas travel is partaking in local customs and that, naturally, includes a traditional beverage (or two). Whether you’re sipping tea in the Sahara or chugging a Fosters with your new Aussie mates, sharing a drink can go a long way toward building international goodwill – and the world can never have too much of that.

Here are some of my favorite drinks that I’ve sampled in my travels:

Moonshine in Russia
Moonshine Russia
© Aleksandar Nakic

I’m not a huge fan of spirits, but it seemed downright churlish not to accept the shot glass full of homemade liquor that our Russian host put in front of me. Brownish in color, the liquid smelled astringent; I found out later that it was 40 percent alcohol.

Our host told us that locals avoid drunkenness by smelling a piece of brown bread before downing their shots, and then eating a pickle almost immediately after. This method didn’t prevent my husband from getting loopy after a few, however.

Tea in Egypt
tea in egypt
© oonal

Tea has never had much appeal for me — unless it comes with a cucumber sandwich, I’m not interested. But I didn’t want to be rude when friends of my Egyptian guide motioned me to sit and have a cup outside a Cairo bookstore. It was 2011, about nine months after Arab Spring, and the men were full of questions about American foreign policy. I did my best to answer, even as I realized how uninformed I was.

The conversation also helped me recognize how long revolutions really take. I have a feeling it will be years before Egypt gets where it wants to be.

Flat White in New Zealand
Flat White New Zealand
© David Chadwick

A stint living in Seattle has turned my husband and me into coffee snobs – and the ground beans we were finding in grocery stores around the South Island weren’t cutting it. Then we stopped our campervan at an out-of-the-way cafe and scrutinized the offerings. Flat white? Just like a latte, we were told. And it was, with a velvety foam that equaled anything we’d find in Puget Sound. Just like that, our road trip was transformed.

Sake in Japan
Sake in Japan
© Aniol Hernandez Calm

Before my first trip to Japan, I had ordered sake once or twice in a sushi bar – and hated it. The taste seemed tinny to me and took away from raw fish, instead of adding to the experience.

During my two-week tour, which spanned Hiroshima to Nagano, I had ample opportunity to get rid of my misconceptions. While I’ll never be one to throw sake back with the abandon I witnessed in several izakayas, I did learn that I prefer the cloudier unfiltered sake to the clear, and that I like it better warm.

Malbec in Mendoza
Malbec in Mendoza
© Edsel Querini

I’m a red wine lover already, so attending the Park Hyatt Masters of Food & Wine event held in Argentina’s Napa Valley was already in my wheelhouse. What I didn’t realize: Exactly how MUCH wine and food would be served. Tastings started at 9 a.m., continuing through a typical three-hour lunch and culminating with an afternoon session. Then it was time to rally for the multi-course evening meal. By the end of the weekend, I felt like a goose that had been prepped for foie gras.

Tequila in Tequila
© Richard Gunion

To appreciate a drink, sometimes you have to go to the source. And that’s what I discovered when I toured distilleries in Tequila, a real city in Jalisco, Mexico. I never realized how much work and skill goes into creating the final product from agave plants – and how a good tequila can enhance a true Mexican meal. My margaritas have never been the same.

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Chris Gray Faust
Chris Gray Faust is the former travel editor at USA Today and the creator of the award-winning blog Chris Around The World. A journalist for 20 years, Chris has worked as a reporter and editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, in addition to USA Today. She writes for numerous outlets, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Budget Travel, Frommer’s, Gadling, Cruise Critic, the Independent Traveler and USA Today premium publications. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
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