Salut! Chin chin! Na zdorovie!
Raising a glass of Bordeaux in France, Aperol spritz in Italy or chilled vodka in Russia is certainly one way to familiarize and assimilate yourself in your surroundings while visiting a new country. Enjoying and sampling local cuisines also enhance sipping an archetypical tipple -- is there anything better than a caipirinha consumed by Brazil's famous beaches?
We've compiled a short list of the world's best spots to get a feel for your environment -- places that serve up the best local offerings, and do so in an authentically native atmosphere. We'll drink to that!
Smack in the middle of Sydney's iconic neighborhood Paddington, The Unicorn's historic building has been around since the 1800s. Proudly serving up local cuisine and bevvies, music, art and local talent are also important aspects of the welcoming, relaxed and lively venue.
Carefully respecting the architecture and design while adding personal touches, co-owner Jake Smyth explains, "We basically touched nothing, yet changed everything. We ripped up vinyl, but kept the incredible terrazzo floor. We kept the bar position, but had incredible blue-gum bar top installed." As for the locally sourced and patriotic art decorating the wall? "Our favourite moment is the map of Australia; it was hand drawn by local artist Michael Whooley. It took a full week, but the result is stunning."
Original elements, like art deco fittings, contribute to The Unicorn capturing the essence of a true Aussie pub -- "pubs are at the cornerstone of what it is to be Australian. What are we without pubs? We lose the larrikinism and we lose community, we lose the wild, arm-waving, storytelling drongo that we all have inside of us," -- Smyth declares.
This notion is elevated with The Unicorn's involvement in supporting local talent. "We have quietly begun putting shows on here, without too much fuss because we love to support artists wherever possible. We support them in the best way we know how -- giving them an opportunity to get paid and laid!"
But despite the history and commitment to local Aussie culture, there is definitely no lack of modernity; "The Unicorn is not a time-piece. Its not nostalgia. Its a living pub, so we wanted to give a nod to its past, yet allow it have a future. That's why there is empty space on the walls, and corners are left untouched. We want the venue to grow genuinely, to have its own story to tell in 20 years time. We believe that by over telling the story at the beginning, you stifle and choke the natural journey of then venue. The tradition is in the offering. Cold beer, bloody good food, music, art and happy people."
Smyth, in typical Australian manner, encourages dishes and drinks to be enjoyed in the outdoor space. "The courtyard is my favourite aspect. It's quiet, tranquil and it's where we keep our swans. They make us happy." We can't argue with that.
Established back in 1742, Wiltons was originally a shellfish monger in the Haymarket. By 1840, it had developed into a full-fledged restaurant and became famously known for serving the freshest fish, shellfish and game in the country. Today, ingredients and dishes are just as fresh and delectable. "Oysters are still shucked fresh to order; the crab, langoustine and lobster still arrive live from the market, and when in season, grouse, partridge, pheasant, duck and woodcock arrive fresh from country shoots," House Manager Michael Stokes shares.
So what's it like to dine in such a historically sound institution today? "The artwork that adorns the walls would not be out of place in a stately home. The staff are dressed in traditional black and white, or in dresses reminiscent of a British nanny, and the service offered is not as stuffy as some may expect, but still very attentive."
Traditional, original and truly patriotic touches have been maintained, throughout: "although we strive to keep the décor fresh, we do not and will not change the feeling of the restaurant. Guests soon decide which is their favourite table, and some still sit at the same tables that their grandfathers sat at. The whole ethos of the restaurant is that of a British country house."
Contemporary updates are best demonstrated on the plates served. As for what Stokes favours? "Being a traditionalist, the simple dishes are the best for me; the most outstanding example of this is our carving trolley, which is available and different each day of the week; Saturday brings beef Wellington." Perhaps the most exemplary quintessential British dish of all.
An iconic institution in Toronto's trendy Queen West, The Drake Hotel is a well-known and loved meeting place. Opening its doors in 1890, "the area was a major Canadian Pacific Railway hub that linked downtown with the lakeside summer homes of Toronto's western beaches at the time," explains The Drake's PR Manager, Jessica Rodrigues. "Then, in 1949, Michael Lundy purchased the property, renamed it the Drake, expanded the building and created many of the improvements visible today, including the grand staircase in the lobby and the addition of a lounge and restaurant."
The hotel continues to show their local love after guests check in: "When looking through the amenities in-room, we offer Canadian products, like David Chow Chocolate (from PEI) in unique, delicious flavours like lavender, dried blackcurrants, earl grey tea and vanilla sea salt; Hawkins Cheesies (made with real Canadian cheese!); Squish Candy (sourced from Montreal); Sapsucker Maple Water, and routine natural deodorant, which is based out of Calgary, is provided in our toiletry kits."
When guests need a bigger nosh than the Canadian-sourced room snacks, they can take comfort in knowing The Drake serves up dishes and drinks that also have Canadian flair. Rodrigues shares her favourites: "I personally love the Brown Butter Maple Old Fashioned and the Voodoo Child cocktails. The Old Fashioned gets a Canadian twist by adding real maple syrup, while the Voodoo Child uses J.P. Wiser's, an award-winning Canadian whisky, as its base.
We of course also feature Canadian beers and wines, which always go down well with our menu. I love the Drake burger. We get our meat mainly from Cumbraes -- they work exclusively with small, family run farms throughout Ontario! I do order the lobster nachos often as well: house made chips, creamy mornay sauce, pickled jalapenos and, of course, amazing (Canadian) East-coast Lobster!"
Cheers to that!
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That tea is the king of drinks in England should really come as no surprise. Introduced in Britain in the 1660s, the drink gained widespread popularity in the 19th century and has since become an essential part of the country's drinking culture. If we're talking spirits, however, the title goes to Pimm's No. 1 Cup, a gin-based liqueur invented by oyster bar owner James Pimm in 1823. It is the base for the iconic Pimm's Cup cocktail, a drink synonymous with the traditional events of the English summer season, including Ascot and Wimbledon. Some make the comparison that the Pimm's Cup is to Wimbledon what the Mint Julep is to the Kentucky Derby. Related: Pimm's Cup Recipe
Made from grape and apple juice concentrates flavored with herbs, this soda is second only to Coca-Cola in popularity in Austria. Developed in 1957, it's said to have a flavor not unlike ginger ale and is enjoyed either by itself or as a mixer with liquor or white wine. Related: 25 Wines to Drink this Summer
This "golden treasure" of the Amalfi Coast, also referred to by locals as "sunshine wine," is made by steeping lemon rinds in sugar and alcohol for at least a month. The potent liqueur is typically served chilled, either as a pre-meal palate cleanser or as an after-dinner digéstif. Related: Where to Drink Italian Craft Beer
Punsch is a traditional liqueur made from arrack, a strong distilled spirit made from fermented fruit, sugar cane, rice, and aniseed. It was imported to Scandinavia in the 18th Century from the Indonesian island of Java and has a characteristic color which may vary from golden yellow to dark yellow. Because of its exotic ingredients, it has a unique flavour with overtones of almond, banana, chocolate, whisky, and tobacco. It can be served hot, especially in the winter, or as a dessert drink, together with coffee and tea.Although popular and produced in various Scandinavian countries, akvavit (or aquavit), is often attributed as the national drink of Sweden. Essentially flavored vodka, the Swedish version is distilled from grain and then infused with various spices, herbs, and fruit oils. Related: 150 Best Bars in America
This widely consumed anise-flavored apéritif, a well recognized symbol of Greek culture, is typically consumed either neat or mixed with water. Modern ouzo distillation largely took off in the beginning of the 19th century following Greek independence when absinthe fell into disfavour in the early 20th century. Related: 5 Myths About Greek Wines
It may be one of the most successful beer brands in the world but there's no question that this dark, dry stout, brewed in Dublin since 1759, counts itself as the Emerald Isle's national drink. The iconic Irish brew, characterized by its distinctive burnt flavor, even uses a derivative of the country's national emblem -- the harp -- in its logo. Related: A Quest for Craft Beer in Ireland
So many drinks come to mind when you think of France, and pastis in particular is emblematic of the southeastern region of the country, specifically Masrseille where the drink originated. The anise-flavored liqueur, popularized by Pernod Ricard, is well-known as a summer drink that is served diluted with water. Related: Best Bar Crawls in America
Behind only the Czechs and the Irish in per capita beer consumption, Germany is nevertheless host to the world's largest annual beer festival, Oktoberfest. Need further proof of the seriousness with which Germans approach this national drink? From 1487 to 1987 a law called Reinheitsgebot was in place to protect the purity and quality of German beer. It decreed that the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley, and hops. And although the law has been repealed, many German beers continue to abide by the rule.Others also contend that German schnaps (not to be confused with the American schnapps) carry the distinction of national drink. The German variety is a clear, colorless spirit distilled from the fermented must of fruits including apples, pears, plums, and cherries. Related: Best Beer Gardens for Oktoberfest
The Scotland's national drink? You're thinking the answer in glaringly obvious. And you're right -- it's essentially in the name, after all. But aside from the highly revered Scotch whisky, there is another beverage that holds signature drink status in the country. That drink is a super-sweet orange soda called IRN BRU, dubbed "Scotland's Other National Drink," that actually outsells Coca-Cola in Scotland. Around since 1901, it's said that only two people in the world know the top secret recipe to the drink's "essence." Related: Best Dive Bars in America
This non-sweet, anise-flavored spirit is traditionally produced by twice-distilling either pure suma or suma that has been mixed with ethanol in traditional copper alembics and is then flavored with aniseed. It is similar to several kinds of alcoholic beverages available around the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Colombia, including pastis, ouzo, and sambuca. Typically served as an apéritif with mezze it is often either served with water, diluted with water, or straight. Related: Secrets to Low-Calorie Cocktails
Produced in both Hungary and Transylvania, this double-distilled fruit brandy is made from a variety of fruits, such as plums, pears, apricots, applies, cherries, mulberries, or quince. This meant-for-sipping drink is traditionally served slightly warm and in a special glass that narrows at the neck to enhance the aroma. Related: Fast Food Chain's Worst Summer Drinks
Those with any doubts about vodka's title as the national drink of Russia need only visit Moscow's museum dedicated to the spirit. Though it now ranks as one of the most popular liqours in the world, it is said to have originated in Moscow in the 15th century, and has particular significance in the drinking culture of the countries of the Eastern European "vodka belt." While these days it gets mixed into just about any kind of drink, in Russia it is traditionally simply enjoyed neat. Related: 10 Most Ridiculous Ways to Get Drunk
This high-proof juniper-flavored liquor -- and the precursor to modern gin -- was originally sold for medicinal purposes in the late 16th century, and it wasn't until the 17th that it was actually appreciated for it's taste. Today the drink is achieving popularity in cities like New York as the base for craft cocktails, but traditionally it is served either chilled, at room temperature (for high-quality brands), or as a chaser with beer. Related: "Nouveau" Gin & Tonic
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