In Russia and Finland..? Vodka of course
DRINK LOCAL IN EUROPE: When it comes to Euro-hopping, travellers have to keep our common sense, if we don’t want to stand out like an inexperienced sore thumb. But how to go about blending into the background like a globetrotting pro? Well, more often than not, a little glass of something local is not a bad place to start.
The strongest aquavit. Located north of Scotland, Faroe Island is by all accounts a beautiful and peaceful place and where sheep outnumber people by at least two to one. The locals drink and serve visitors Eldvatn, translated to “Fire Water”, a premium Vodka made from water believed to hold healing powers.
Owner of the brands “Havið” (The Ocean), and “Lívsins Vatn” (the Water of Life) claims that “Havið”, at 50% ABV is the strongest aquavit in the world. Welcome to the Nordic Hawaii.
Snaps in Scandinavia. Snaps is a term used for a small shot of a strong alcoholic beverage. Most commonly supped around celebrations such as Christmas, Easter and Midsummer, the shot is accompanied by singing some traditional songs. Not to be confused with schnapps, the German term refers to any kind of strong alcoholic drink. Fruit used in German schnapps are apples, pears, plums, and cherries to drink local.
Sweden. In Sweden, snaps is more of general term describing infused vodka that you drink for a special occasion. Here snaps is a more general term; usually aquavit, vodka or some other kind of brennvin. In Sweden it is customary to offer guests a snaps when herring is served.
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Denmark. In Denmark, snaps will almost always be Aquavit. Danish schnapps and aquavit are the generic terms for strong spirits distilled from fermented grains or potatoes – and bottled without aging. In Denmark they say “A little one”, often connected with a traditional lunch. That means let’s have snaps. Bear and snaps is a typical combination.
Norway. If you’re doing a weekend break in Oslo, then check out Linie Aquavit. This spirit is matured in oak barrels and every single bottle has crossed the Equator twice, between Norway and Australia. Apparently it’s the constant movement on the ships that makes it taste good. However, there are many other Aquavits brands in Norway. And what’s most important, Norwegian Aquavit is concider as higher quality compare with bottles in Sweden and Denmark.
Spain. Forget red wine. Spain is secretly all about Vermouth. And we’re not talking the stuff that lurks around in the back of your granny’s old oak cabinet; we’re talking lashings of sweet red liquid splashed over rocks of ice, with a voluptuous wedge of orange and a salty, silky olive. Add a retro siphon on side for optional bubbles. Enjoy it in the light of the afternoon – or try Cava, the sparkling wine referred to as “Spanish champagne”.
Italy. Italy is sassy and seething and currently tangled in a full blown love affair with the mighty Aperol Spritz – a sweeter version of Campari, topped up with lashings of prosecco. At any time of the day, it’s a low alcohol, digestive drink that whets the appetite. Any excuse, really.
Croatia. In Europe, drinking for digestion is a big deal. You’ll find a number of traditional options to enjoy before or after your meal. In Croatia, you’ll be hard pressed not to come upon the strong digestif ‘Kruskovac’, which is almost always automatically offered after a meal and is one of the most sought after liqueurs in the international market. Distilled with the sweetest Dalmation pears, its funny yellow colour and vanilla smell is unforgettable. Quite like a good holiday, really.
France. Un p’tit kir, s’il vous plait. A glass of champagne with a splash of creme de cassis, a petit kir is basically a perfectly formed, mini Kir Royale. The French drink it as an aperitif, and so should you. Absinthe is far more stronger.
Greece. You know Ouzo. Most of us have negative associations with this heady beast of a beverage but it’s simply because we’re not doing it right. You’ve got to head down to the port, where the catch of the day is cavorting upon the coals, roasting slowly, and drink it slowly over rock upon rock of ice as the salt sea air wafts under your nostrils, peppered with the scent of char grilled octopus. That’s when you’ll know its right. You, Greece, the ouzo and the octopus.
Czech Republic. In the basements of most potravinys, or a bodega, you’ll find that the locals are drinking a velvety-gold liquid by the name of Becherovka. With the Christmassy tastes of cinnamon and anise, the alcohol content is a whopping 38% but who cares? In small doses, it’s perfect for warding off the crisp, cold chill of beautiful Prague.
Drink local specialities. What they drink in Russia and Finland..? Vodka of course. In Bulgaria it’s Rakia, Unikum in Hungaria, Brennevin in Iceland, Grappa in Italy, Jenever in Belgium and Netherlands.
Warning. When it comes to drinking on the continent, it’s always wise to graze as you drink. No one wants a filthy hangover when there are things to see and do. But it’s a great way to try local flavours and start conversations. Now start planning that trip! “Skål”, as the Danes say.