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National Drinks? Tequila is to Mexico as ... is to Other Countries

Tequila is to Mexico as what is to the other countries of the world? I'm hoping to slowly develop a collection of my favorite international spirits. Unfortunately being a college student means it's rare that I get to experience different types of good alcohol so I don't even know what to look for. Please realize, I may be in college, but I like to at least think I have good taste; when i say tequila I'm talking 100% agave sipping tequila, I'd gladly take a nice Rioja over a warm Budweiser any day and the idea of a "sake bomb" makes be want to hurl. Please tell me your personal favorite international spirit that is available in the US.

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  1. cachaca - brazil
    vodka - russia
    aquavit - sweden (?)
    beer - germany
    fenni - goa
    mint tea - morocco

    7 Replies
    1. re: thew

      Can you recommend particular producers or is it all amazing?

      1. re: hungry_fox

        I recently had a good vodka from of all places France ... Sirius.

        Are you planning to buy bottles? I think on a budge the best to do is to find restaurants or bars where you can limit the damage financially to a single serving.

        Chartreuse - France
        This is one I recommend only trying at a bar. Despite the 120 herbs in it, both the yellow and green were very cloying to me and took a long, long ... long time to finish off.
        http://www.chartreuse.fr/pa_sommaire_...

        Fernet-Branca - Milan, Italy ... you either love it or hate it
        http://www.fernetbranca.com/

        As to cachaca, it can be good, but is often rot gut. The best is to try to find a place that offers flights.

        This was a pretty good roundup that includes wines and beers. The latter I won't list and will try not to repeat stuff mentined as of this post
        http://toolkit.bootsnall.com/food-and...

        Canada - Newfoundland Screech: A dark rum

        Central/South America: - Aguardiente:

        China - Maotai: A clear 55% alcohol

        Croatia: Rakija

        Czech Republic - Becherovka

        Fiji Kava

        Honduras: Garifuna

        Ibiza Hierbas:

        Indonesia - Arak

        Romania: Tuica Palinca:

        Well, it goes on ..

        1. re: sparkalina

          one time my brother and law and i drank a little much of the akvavit, and he then called it "aardvark." now it is a joke, to talk about drinking aardvark. ;-).

          (then it makes me think of john byner's characters in "the ant and the aardvark"
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zZlbj...
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPuLiL... ).

          1. re: alkapal

            I LOVE "The Ant and The Aardvark"--are you sure we weren't separated at birth or something? ;)

            And while we're going around the world, how about Vandermint from Holland?
            http://www.labodegawine.com/r/product...

            I used to be a BIG on the stuff--think adult Girl Scout cookie! ;)

            1. re: kattyeyes

              "hey ant!!" ;-).

              maybe we *were* separated at birth, kattyeyes. (ps, love your kitty pic).
              vandermint? oh yeah, i've done the vandermint. i see the bottle is still done in a delft-motif: http://www.drinkswap.com/ingredients/...

              i'd like to make some cookies using that vandermint, maybe with some added chunks of dark chocolate. have you tried this thin mint liqueur? http://www.drinkswap.com/ingredients/...

              btw, at christmastime, look at trader joe's for the white chocolate peppermint bark candy*bar* near the checkout counters. intense gs mint cookie flavor -- with REAL chocolate.

              1. re: alkapal

                Oooh! I recognize the Just Desserts label, but didn't try the Thin Mint. We had Creme Brulee. Checky checky:
                http://www.creamygood.com/brulee.html

                Note both drink AND dessert recipes on the site! I love their URL--they ARE creamygood! If you do make cookies, please post on Home Cooking to share. Vandermint (or now the Just Desserts version) is on my list of items to buy to pour over ice cream. I have to wait for our mint to grow back. It was one of the best ice creams I ever had and would be taken to a whole new level with a pour one of these liqueurs! New meaning to "Dutch treat!"

                And thanks for the TJ tip (as if I need to seek more calories at Christmastime, HA HA)!

      2. Japan- Shochu. Until 2003 beer has been the alcoholic beverage of choice in Japan for many, many decades. Sake was a very distant runner-up. Since 2003 Shochu has been the big drink in Japan.

        Shochu took over from beer a few years ago as the most drunk libation in Japan. The term mainly means spirits. It is lower in proof than most, at around 25-35% abv. It's usually drunk on the rocks, watered down 50%, or in winter, watered down 50% with hot water. It's always drunk with food, not sushi, but sashimi and cooked and marinated items. Shochu cocktails are just starting to become popular, but not overwhelmingly so.

        It can be made from any of apx. 30 ingredients, although usually no more than 2 or rarely 3 are blended in any one shochu. The main ingredients are: Rice, barley, sweet potato, buckwheat (soba), brown sugar, etc. sometimes including chestnut, sesame, shiso, or even milk. My favorite are the sweet potato ones. Just about any Japanese shochu I have tasted is excellent. Come to think of it I haven't had anyone that were less than very good. Awamori is a type of shochu made on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JMF

          Great stuff. Though, I would say that the figures on the consumption of shochu reflect the consumption of the "korui" type that is mixed in "cocktails". I would call shochu cocktails overwhelmingly popular in Japan and the real driver of things. But they aren't the highfalutin, mixology type of cocktails we think of. Mostly just mixing with tea or fruit juice. But as you well know, the otsurui shochu thing is what is really booming and what we really would call a fine spirit........Also, I believe the shiso variant is flavored, not actually made from shiso. But maybe you have other info...

        2. Korea- Soju, similar to japanese shochu, but usually not as fine a spirit. Some are good and some are not.

          1. Greece- Ouzo

            Mediterranean and middle East countries like Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Jordan and Palestine - Arak sometimes spelled Arrack.

            South Asia and South East Asia- Arrack or Alak

            1. The USA- Bourbon and Rye Whiskey, also the cocktail.

              England- Hard Cider, Ale, dry Gin.

              Holland- Genever (The predecessor to gin.) Drunk as cold shots with dinner.

              1 Reply
              1. re: JMF

                As an amusing aside, when RTD's first came out about 15 years ago, they were such a hit in the UK that there were periods where ACNeilsen scan data showed greater sales of certain RTD's than milk.

                RTD's = Ready to Drink i.e. Smirnoff Ice however I think it was Hooper's Hooch that was the big one at that time in the UK.

                I can't vouch 100% for the veracity of the statement as I never actually saw the Neilsen data but I do know they were absolutly HUGE in the mid-90's and still are an important part of the UK drinks business.

                And if true, it is awesome. "Brits like booze more than milk!"