The world's best boozy breaks

updated 7/27/2021
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Sample snake wine in Vietnam

Snake wine might be Chinese in origin, but it’s best-known these days in Vietnam where it’s used as an aphrodisiac or traditional medicine. Luckily the alcohol breaks down the venom of these creepy reptiles, just don’t Google the story of the lady who opened her home-brew to be bitten by the still-live snake sleeping inside.

Snake liquor in Vietnam © Nok Lek/Shutterstock

Celebrate food, wine and rum in Barbados

Barbados’s Food & Wine and Rum festival is an essential experience for rum-lovers. The organisers claim that “any discussion about rum is a discussion about Barbados, and vice versa”. The island is also home to the world’s oldest rum distillery, Mount Gay, founded in 1703, and a thousand or so rum shops.

Rum and mojito cocktail drink © bogdanhoda/Shutterstock

Discover the magic of mezcal in Mexico

Mezcal is traditionally produced in Oaxaca, where the raw material – agave – grows in abundance. Unlike tequila, which can be made from blue agave only, mezcal can be made from all agave varieties; it’s usually distinguished by a smoky taste. From distilleries to small-scale family enterprises, there are plenty of places to kick off a tasting tour.

Agave field in Jalisco, Mexico © csp/Shutterstock

Attend the Batalla del Vino in Haro, Spain

If drinking wine sounds a bit dull, head to the town of Haro in Rioja where each year, on the 29th of July, thousands gather to spray grape juice over each other. Oddly it’s traditional to wear white clothing to the Batalla de Vino, though it soon gets stained purple in the juice-squirting madness.

Vineyards in summer with Haro village as background, La Rioja, Spain © Alberto Loyo/Shutterstock

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Taste sake in Japan

Nada district near Kobe is the best place to try Japan’s famous rice wine liquor as about thirty per cent of the country’s output comes from here. Be sure to brush up on the drinking ritual: sake should be poured from tokkuri into small cups known as ochoko and it’s polite to pour for your companion using two hands.

Japanese sake © Shinari/Shutterstock

Down a wee dram on Islay, Scotland

The beautiful island of Islay, the “Queen of the Hebrides”, is famous for its robust, peaty blends. There are eight distilleries on the island, of which almost all offer guided tours and tastings; Laphroaig and Lagavulin are perhaps most famous. Just be sure you know what you’re doing before adding a splash of water to a single malt.

Lagavulin Distillery on the Isle of Islay, Scotland @ Russell Ouellette IV/Shutterstock

Go on a gin tour in London, England

Mother’s ruin has undergone a renaissance in Britain’s capital recently and today’s gin scene is a far cry from Hogarth’s sketches. As well as bar-hopping between the best speakeasies, you can also tour distilleries: Sipsmith and the City of London Distillery are excellent places to start your education.

© Bealf Photography/Shutterstock

Learn to love Limoncello in Italy

The best place to try this famous digestif is on the sunny Amalfi Coast, sometimes known as the “Path of the Gods”, where lemons grows in abundance (Italy produces seventy five per cent of the global crop). The origin of the liqueur is disputed, but some claim it was originally invented by monks.

© Andrew Pustiakin/Shutterstock

Tour the sherry bodegas in Spain

No longer your nan’s favourite Christmas treat, sherry, or jerez, is becoming increasingly popular. To learn about the intricacies of the solera system (and discover the story behind some very drunk mice), head to the bodegas of Andalucia. A seaside stop to try a Fino with some fresh seafood is essential.

Sherry dessert wine in a glass © Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Go underground in Reims, France

In Champagne, some of the most exciting drinking takes place underground. The cellars of the likes of Pommery, Veuve Clicquot and G.H. Mumm sprawl beneath Reims, storing wines on their lees for at least three years. Tattinger is one of the more fascinating caves, built in Roman chalk pits beneath the ruins of Abbaye Saint Nicaise.

Rows of dusty champagne bottles in Reims cellar © Natalia Bratslavsky/Shutterstock

Party hard at Oktoberfest, Germany

Beer lovers know there’s only one festival that counts. Munich’s Oktoberfest attracts six million punters at the end of September each year, who come to feast on Bavarian specialties and drink their bodyweight in one-litre steins. Traditional dress, or tracht, is an optional extra.

© Shutterstock

Take a vodka tour in Krakow, Poland

Vodka, here known as wódka, has been part of Polish culture for centuries. The country is at the heart of the “vodka belt” and one of the most famous brands, Zubrówka, has been produced here for over six hundred years. The spirit should be drunk straight and chilled. Remember to toast – “na zdrowie” – before you neck it.

Vodka drink bar © Vershinin89/Shutterstock

Wend your way through Welsh wineries

Wales might not be the first place that springs to mind for a wine-tasting tour, but there’s a burgeoning crop of boutique wineries, particularly in the Wye Valley. Most of the wines are dry, perfumed whites, though you’ll also find a few interesting reds and sparklers, plus ciders and perries.

Welsh vineyard valley © halans/Shutterstock

Celebrate St Paddy's with Guinness in Dublin, Ireland

The black stuff has been brewed in Dublin since the 1700s. These days we might not buy into the hype that Guinness is good for you, but it’s still common belief that a pint tastes better on home turf. Aside from a pub-crawl to sample the city’s wares, you can also tour the Guinness Storehouse or drop by for the Paddy’s day parties.

The Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland © Martina Brui Photography/Shutterstock

Follow in the Inca's Chicha footsteps in Bolivia

Once you’ve trekked the Inca trail in Peru, head to Bolivia to try the traditional Inca drink, chicha. Made from fermented maize, it was originally used as part of religious ceremonies. Today it’s Bolivia's national drink and still makes an appearance at festivals across the country.

Try toddy in Kerala, India

Palm sap wine or toddy is found all across Southeast Asia but is especially popular in Kerala, where it’s commonly known as kallu. It’s made by fermenting sap tapped from coconut and date palms for 24 hours or so until mildly alcoholic. The flavour is distinctive, and might take a little getting used to.

Toddy, Kerala, India

© Santhosh Varghese/Shutterstock

Sip a port in Porto, Portugal

There’s only one drink to try in Portugal’s second city: the fortified wine, port. By the river in Vila Nova de Gaia you can sample rubies and tawnies with expert guidance. Indigenous varietals such as Touriga Nacional and Touriga Francesa have been grown in the nearby Douro Valley since the 1700s, and the process has been honed to perfection.

Douro Valley © hermitis/Shutterstock

Mix a pisco sour in Peru or Chile

Both Peru and Chile lay claim to being the home of this famous grape brandy, supposedly bought to South America in the sixteenth century. Debate rages on, but the recipe for a refreshing pisco sour – pisco, lemon juice, egg white and a splash of Angoustura bitters – is unquestionable.

Pisco Sour cocktail © viennetta/Shutterstock

Meet the green fairy in Paris, France

Few drinks hold as many literary associations as absinthe, known as the fee verte, or green fairy, among bohemian writers and impressionists in the nineteenth century. Today you can still enjoy a l'heure verte in Paris, following the classic la louche ritual of dissolving a sugar cube on a slotted spoon over the liqueur.

Bottle of absinthe and glasses with burning cube brown sugar © Cegli/Shutterstock

Go mad for Malbec in Mendoza, Argentina

Few vistas can match the sight of rows of vines against the snow-capped Andes. The main grape to taste in Mendoza is, of course, Malbec, but you might be surprised by Argentina’s signature white, the highly perfumed Torrontes. Hire a remise to drive you around allowing you to drink uninterrupted.

© Shutterstock

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updated 7/27/2021
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