It’s a great way to experience a new culture by sampling local food and drinks. International Living surveyed its correspondents around the world to suggest the best cocktails for travelers visiting their country.
These are their top picks. These are great ideas to try at home.
1. Peru: Pisco Sour
This refreshing, yet delicious alcoholic cocktail is Peru’s signature drink and it is easy to enjoy. The whipped egg whites make it sweet and tangy, and it’s creamy.
Jeff D. Opdyke (editor of The Savvy Retiree) says that pisco sour can be described as an adult SweeTart. One part simple syrup, one portion lime juice, and one part egg whites are combined with three parts pisco (a brandy that is endemic to both the wine regions of each country). This concoction is great for summer sipping.
2. Italy: Spritz
” Italy is well-known for its wines. But, come summer, it’s Spritztime–a chilled sparkling glass of summer sun that’s been all the rage in Italy for many years,” Valarie Schneider, IL Italy correspondent.
It all started in Venice (or Padova; they vie for ownership rights). The drink can be made with Aperol, Select (hello Venice), or Campari (for rebels), and then topped with white wine (usually prosecco, but true Venetians use still-white) and a “spritz” of sparkling waters.
It’s one of few Italian drinks that has generous amounts of ice and goes down easily. In Emilia Romagna, the Spritz craze is at its peak. Bars offer their own unique combinations of liqueurs and herbal essences.
3. Colombia: Chicha de Maiz
Nancy Kiernan (IL’s Colombia Correspondent) says that Chicha de Maiz was traditionally sold in the markets and streets of the Andes mountain regions of Colombia. The chicheros (as they are called) make this liqueur by fermenting cooked dried corn skins, pineapple skins, and panela (solid, refined brown sugar cane), as well as cinnamon sticks.
It’s easy to make and has a unique flavor.
“Mix all ingredients in a large pot. Add water. Bring to boil. Let simmer for 60 minutes. Continue to cook for 20 minutes more. Let the mixture cool on the stovetop. Blend about half of the corn in a food processor. Mix it well in a pot. Mix everything in a clay pot. Let it cool for a few days before you use it.
4. Panama: Pintado
“HTMOLOGO_ Panama makes many rums. My favorite is Abuelo, which was awarded a Gold medal at the 2009 Ministry of Rum Tasting Competition. Here in Panama, it’s only $30 for a 750 ml glass bottle,” Jessica Ramesch (IL Panama Editor).
The 7-year Anejo is $16.50, so you can have it straight or over ice. The regular Anejo is $8.25, which is perfect for a pintado, with two shots of rum, club soda, lime and a half ounce of coca cola. Abuelo is the Spanish word for grandfather. This means that Abuelo Rum is Panama’s grandfather rum. It has been around longer than any of its rivals with fancy bottles. “I’ll choose a regular Abuelo over any other type of rum any day.”
Jessica is a cautionary tale, despite the fact that many IL correspondents and editors rave about local booze.
She says that Panama’s original spirit Seco Herrerano is strong. It is made from 100% sugarcane using a four-column process, and charcoal filtered for smoothness. It’s produced in the sugarcane area of Pese by Varela Hermanos a family-run distillery dating back to 1936.
It can be mixed with grapefruit juice or orange juice (I like a mix of both), or used to make cosmos. Because it is neutral in flavor, it works well for almost any recipe you would normally make with vodka. It’s less than $7 for a 750ml bottle, so it’s very affordable. If you don’t have the constitution of a college student, you might want to know a very important phrase before you go to any festival or large family party in Panama.
5. Mexico: Mezcal
Jason Holland, IL Roving Latin America Editor, says that in Mexico the traditional way to drink mezcal by the shot is with sal de gusano, worm salt, and orange slices.
Mezcal, which is a kind of smoky tequila, is also made from agave plants. Sal de gusano, which is made from larvae of moths that live in agave plants, is also called sal de gusano. It is ground and mixed with salt and chilies.
6. Portugal: Medronho
Portugal is well-known for its wine production, but what about cocktails.
“Medronho is a Portuguese specialty. It is a spirit made of Medronho berries. They grow wild in the Algarve and interior, the Alentejo,” Tricia Pimental (IL Portugal Correspondent) says.
“Store-bought alcohol is around 40%, but homemade alcohol can be much higher. Melosa is a cocktail made with it. It’s made from Medronho honey cinnamon and lemon. It’s great if you have a cold but it’s also fun.
7. Vietnam: Ruou
Wendy Justice, IL Southeast Asia Correspondent, says, “I don’t know much about alcoholic beverages but I have seen almost everyone in Vietnam drink at least a few shot glasses of ruou (or traditional rice wine) after dinner and into the early hours.”
“Depending on where you are in the country, wine can be as strong as the strongest whiskey, or mildly sweet and fruity. The majority of varieties have around 40% alcohol.
Ruou is often stored in large ceramic jugs where it can be drunk together through long reeds. It can be made in as little time as one week. Many families also make their own liquor.
Ruou is a popular Vietnamese drink, just as it has been for centuries. As the potent brew is consumed, you’ll hear the locals booing “Mot Hai, Ba, Dzo!” in the south, and “chuc suckhoe” in the north.
8. Belize: Coconut Rum Cocktails
Here’s a traditional recipe to make Rum Punch in Belize.
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 3/4 cup pineapple juice
- 1 ounce of white rum
- 1/2 ounce orange liqueur
- 1/2 ounce Grenadine
- 1 ounce dark rum
- 1/2 oz sweet ‘n sour mix
Mix all ingredients, except dark rum, in a glass. Add ice to the glass and add the dark rum last.
Laura Diffendal (IL Belize Correspondent) says, “Another method to get this drink is to take a coconut from a tree and use a machete for a flat bottom. Then, you can cut off the top to create a hole large enough to pour in additional liquor.”
“Add just one shot of coconut liquor, a straw, or hibiscus flowers. If you don’t have all the ingredients, this is the easiest and most natural way to make the drinks.
9. Malaysia: Jungle Bird
Keith Hockton (IL Malaysia Correspondent) says that “The Jungle Bird” is undoubtedly the most well-known cocktail in Malaysia.
It is a rum-based drink. You will need 45ml Jamaican Rum, 20ml Campari and 15ml fresh lime juice.
10. Spain: Sangria
Marsha Scarbrough (IL’s Spain correspondent) says that Sangria is a great way to cool off during the hot summer in Spain. “Luscious chunks add tangy flavor and sweetness to sweetened, spiced red wine served over ice.
“I prefer my Sangria dry, so I skip adding blackberry liqueur or grenadine to it and instead substitute sparkling water for 7 Up. You can add sugar to make it sweeter.
11. Costa Rica: Guaro
Guaro is a Costa Rican spirit made from sugarcane.
Kathleen Evans, IL’s Costa Rica correspondent says that it is a mix of white rum (although it is not as sweet) with vodka. The chiliguaro is the most well-known shot in the country and can be found at almost any bar. Ingredients include lime, tomato juice and hot sauce. Chiliguaros are a great alternative to Bloody Marys.