Throughout history, breaking bread has served as a symbol of communion and amicability. Many an acquaintance has become a friend or trusted partner over the course of a dinner. And though food is often at the heart of these exchanges, few are without a drink (or a few) as well. Throughout the world, people imbibe to relax, lower inhibitions and have a good time. Like a signature cultural dish, each country also has its drink of choice. We set out to find some of the most popular drinks around the world.
When you think of Germany, more than likely beer comes to mind. While the Czechs are Europe’s biggest consumers of beer, Germans carry on the biggest and most famed celebration of this libation in the form of Bavarian Oktoberfest. Beer isn’t just a seasonal drink, though. It’s available everywhere from gas stations to newspaper stands and is a beloved beverage year-round.
Uganda is one of the leading consumers of alcohol in Africa, and it surpasses its neighbors thanks largely to a very successful illegal moonshine trade. Waragi, also called Lira Lira or Kasese, depending on the region, is a highly potent liquor that’s quite popular throughout the country. Ajono, a semi-fermented beer drunk from communal pots, is also high on the list.
In South Korea, booze is a major part of stress relief as well as business dealings. Though the culture has strict social protocols, even the most reserved businessmen turn into a band of brothers by the end of the night. A solid night out will involve quickly downing as many “bombs” — mixtures of whiskey and beer — as possible, as well as drinking some soju. Depending on who you ask, soju is either a magical elixir or a surefire hangover that tastes like cheap, sweet vodka.
Ecuador is known for its coffee, so perhaps it makes sense that residents aren’t afraid to enjoy what’s known as “hangover in a bottle.” Zhamir, a best-selling, locally-produced liquor, is cheap and potent, made from sugar cane. Cristal, another local hooch (not the champagne), is also a popular libation. While many countries approach drinking as a free-for-all, in Ecuador it’s customary not to drink until after a toast has been made. But after that, it’s pretty much like anywhere else — you’re on your own.
The French wax poetic for their love of absinthe. The drink originated in Switzerland but rose to popularity in Paris in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mostly among French artists and writers. The highly-alcoholic, absinthe-flavored drink was a favorite among many famous French and non-French creatives, including Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Baudelaire and Marcel Proust.
Russia is one of the biggest consumers of alcohol per capita in the world. But rather than raging parties or daily three-martini lunches, it seems most of that alcohol is consumed less for enjoyment and more as a part of daily life. Russia has quite a nice selection of local brews, but the reigning liquor of choice is, as you may have guessed, vodka.
China has quite a divide when it comes to its people’s socioeconomic classes, so while billionaire businessmen in Shanghai pop $10,000 bottles of Chateau Margaux, the majority of Chinese opt for potent grain-based liquor like Baijiu. In China, drinking is most often celebratory — but any occassion will do.
The British pub has been integral to the community for centuries, and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. Drinking is a way of life in Britain. Somewhat similar to South Korea, drinking in the UK is a means of lowering one’s guard. Many an important life event, from business deals to marriage proposals, takes place in the pub. The drink of choice? Gin or a pint of traditional bitter ale.
For decades, vodka has reigned as the #1-selling liquor in the U.S. However, since 2014, whiskey has made a serious surge. While the amber spirit may be giving vodka a run for its money, it’s not likely that the multi-billion-dollar vodka industry is going to diminish anytime soon, which is just fine by us. When it comes to liquor, the more the merrier.
There are plenty of other delicious and dangerous local and national spirits out there — too many to list, in fact! Do you know of any beverages worth adding to the list or have a special recipe suggestion for one we did mention? Share it with us in the comments below!