If you’re bored of your local pub, why not try one of these drinking holes around the world? From kava in Fiji to caipirinhas in Rio, via the most remote beer in the world, we’ve rounded up some unique drinking experiences in our quest for the best bars in the world. Well someone had to do it. Salud, santé, and indeed cheers!
Sipping a real Bud in the Czech Republic
The best Czech pubs are straightforward places: tables, benches, beer mats and an endless supply of the best lager in the world. And there are few more atmospheric venues for drinking the stuff in than Masné kramy, the complex of medieval butchers’ stalls in the southern Bohemian town of České Budějovice (Budweis in German). Walk into the long central hall, sit down and place a beer mat in front of you. Soon enough a waiter will walk round with a large tray of frothing beer mugs and slap one down on your table. There’s another reason why Masné kramy is a great place in which to quaff the amber nectar – they serve Budvar, produced by the only major Czech brewery not owned by a multinational. Instead, the brewery still belongs to the Czech state, primarily to stave off a takeover bid by Anheuser-Busch, the world’s largest beer producer, responsible for the hugely inferior American Budweiser, or Bud as it’s universally known.
České Budejovice is 150km south of Prague. Masné kramy is just off the old town square on Krajinská. The brewery is 2.5km north of the old town.
Washing away the cider house blues, Spain
Prohibited under the Franco regime, cider is back with a bang – or, at least, with a sharp, mouth-watering fizz. The beauty of Basque cider is that it’s succulently simple. There are no must or extracts here, no gas or sweeteners added. Just a blend of three types of apple: bitter, sour and sweet, all lovingly combined in the perfect proportions. The best cider is drunk on site: head out to the orchards of Astigarraga and spend the day at one of the area’s many sagardotegiak, or cider houses, drinking the golden liquor straight from kupelas (large barrels). Empty the glass each time with one quick gulp – it preserves the cider’s txinparta: its colour, bouquet and that tangy, tantalizing taste.
The nearest main town to Astigarraga is San Sebastián. The cider season lasts mid-Jan–May. Devotees should check out www.sagardotegiak.com.
Drinking Tokaj in ancient cellars, Hungary
Harvested among the rolling green hills of the Tokaj-Hegyalja region in northeast Hungary, the most famous variety of Tokaj is Aszű, a devilishly sweet dessert wine that owes its distinctive character to the region’s volcanic loess soil and the prolonged sunlight that prevails here. Nothing beats a few hours in one of the cosy cellars lining Tokaj’s narrow streets, the most venerable of which is the Rákőczi cellar, named after the seventeenth-century prince Ferenc Rákőczi. Reposed in 24 eerily cobwebbed, chandelier-lit passages are thousands upon thousands of bottles of the region’s choicest wines.
No less esteemed is the cellar of the same name located in the town of Sárospatak. Hewn out by prisoners from the castle dungeons, the kilometre-long cellar, chock-full of handsome oak barrels, is thickly coated with penész, the “noble mould” – everything’s noble where Tokaj is concerned – whose presence is integral to the wine’s flavour. Whether quaffing this most regal of wines in the open air, down a cellar, or on a boat, the taste of Tokaj is something you won’t forget in a hurry.
The Rákőczi cellar in Tokaj is at Kossuth tér 15; the cellar in Sárospatak is at Erzsébet utca tér 26.
In high spirits on the Bourbon Trail, Kentucky
The country’s sole native spirit and, thanks to a congressional declaration, its official one as well, bourbon is a form of whiskey. And while bourbon can be produced elsewhere, the spirit of the spirit resides in Kentucky, home to the finest distilleries. The best place to find out more is along the Bourbon Trail, a meandering route through the rolling hills of central Kentucky that links several distilleries and historic towns.
Must-sees include Loretto, where you can watch the deliciously smooth Maker’s Mark being produced in a picture-perfect setting laced with green pastures and well-preserved nineteenth-century buildings like the Master Distiller’s House, and the Jim Beam Distillery an hour’s drive away in Clermont, whose pedestrian main brand is augmented by several “small batch” potions, like the fiery Knob Greek and silky Basil Hayden’s, which can be sampled on-site.
Tucked in between the two of these is friendly Bardstown, the state’s second-oldest city and best base along the Bourbon Trail, home to the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History and September’s lively Bourbon Festival.
For Bourbon Trail info, visit www.kybourbon.com.
Swigging the most remote beer on Earth, Tristan da Cunha
The Albatross Inn does a rather decent lobster quiche as a bar snack. The lager isn’t bad either. It’s a good job really, because there’s nowhere else to get a drink or a bite to eat for 2815 kilometres. This is the only pub on the most remote inhabited island on Earth.
Tristan da Cunha is one of the far-flung hotchpotch of islands that make up what’s left of the British Empire. None, however, are as isolated. Situated in the middle of the notoriously rough patch of the South Atlantic Ocean known as the Roaring Forties, its closest landmass is southern Africa, some 540km nearer than South America. The island has no airport and can only be reached by fishing vessel from Cape Town.
The sole settlement is the evocatively named “Edinburgh of the Seven Seas” which is where, in a motley collection of tin-roofed bungalows, the 261 resident islanders live and work, mainly as fishermen of Tristan’s number one export: crayfish. With no mobile phones, one shop, one school, one policeman and one available TV channel many things about Tristan remain unchanged by the twenty-first century. The accent spoken is a curious, and almost incomprehensible, dialect of early eighteenth-century seafaring English.
Shipping vessels leave twelve times a year from Cape Town to Tristan da Cunha. To enquire about permission to visit the island, go to www.tristandc.com.
Downing caipirinhas in Rio de Janiero, Brazil
What could be simpler than a caipirinha? Made with just cachaça (a rum-like spirit distilled from fermented sugar-cane juice), fresh lime, sugar and ice, the caipirinha (literally “little peasant girl”) is served at nearly every bar and restaurant in Brazil. Neither insipidly sweet nor jarringly alcoholic, it’s one of the easiest and most pleasant cocktails to drink.
There’s no better place to find a decent caipirinha than at Rio de Janeiro’s Academia da Cachaça. Opened in 1985, when Brazil’s aspirant whisky-drinking middle class tended to dismiss cachaça as the drink of the poor, the Academia is one of the world’s best bars. It has about a hundred varieties on offer, and the friendly owners and staff enjoy nothing more than offering tasting hints to their customers.
Academia da Cachaça, Rua Conde Bernadotte 26, Leblon, Rio de Janeiro (www.academiadacachaca.com.br).
Knocking back kava, Fiji
If you want to get to the heart of Fiji, drinking kava is a good place to start. First, you’ll be invited to join a group, languidly assembled around a large wooden bowl. Then, a grinning elder will pass you a coconut shell, saying “tovolea mada” – “try please”. You take a look – the muddy pool in the shell looks like dirty dishwater, but what the hell, you sip anyway. And then the taste hits you, a sort of medicinal tonic tinged with pepper. Resist the urge to spit it out and you’ll gain the respect of your hosts. Passing the cup back you exclaim “maca!”, which loosely translates as “thanks”. Keep drinking, and you’ll start to get numb lips, feel mildly intoxicated and if you’re lucky, end up as tranquil as your new friends.
Most resorts offer kava tasting sessions, but for a more authentic experience try a village tour with Adventure Fiji (+672/2935).
There’s a few suggestions from us, but where’s your favourite place in the world for a drink? And where’s the most unusual place you’ve stopped for a swift half?