Consider yourself a liqueur enthusiast? Maybe you have your very own home bar fully stocked with all kinds of fun and delicious drinks, or perhaps you make it a priority to try new, local beverages every time you travel. Or maybe you just really enjoy grabbing a tall one with your pals and turning it into a special occasion every time. You probably think you’ve tried everything by now, right? Well, we’re here to surprise you. We bring you no fewer than 13 different alcoholic beverages from different parts of the world – from the Central Asian steppes to Costa Rica, from local liqueurs to esoteric cocktails. Try them, if you dare.
A Trip In A Sip: Local Liquors
Cynar (Artichoke Liqueur), Italy
Cynar is an Italian apéritif made with artichokes, along with other herbs and plants. It’s dark brown, tastes bittersweet and has an alcohol content of 16.5%. It became popular in the Bel Paese during the 1960s due to its appearance on the TV show Carosello. If you wanna know what it feels like to lounge under the Italian sun with a big plate of pasta, just close your eyes and sip on this.
Becherovka, Czech Republic
In the mood for a digestive? The classic Czech liquor Becherovka is a bitter tipple with notes of ginger and cinnamon, made from a secret recipe based on more than 20 types of herbs and spices, as well as mineral-rich water from the town of Karlovy Vary, where the liquor originates. And get this: There are only two people in the world who know the secret ingredients.
Fernet is a beloved Italian bitter, a special style of amaro featuring 27 different herbs, originally promoted as a cure for stomach aches and cholera. Fernet-Branca is the most popular brand. Its formula is a secret known only to the company’s president, Niccolò Branca, who takes on the job of personally measuring each ingredient during the production process. It has a 39% ABV and is aged in a barrel for a full year before it’s ready for drinking. Serve in a cordial glass.
Kumis, Central Asia
Not for the faint of heart, Kumis is made from mare’s milk or donkey milk that’s been fermented over several hours or days, resulting in a drink that’s similar to kefir, but contains a low alcohol content of around 1-2.5%. Kumis, or airag as it’s known in Mongolia, remains an important drink in the culture of many different peoples in the Central Asian steppes. The taste: slightly sour, certainly unique.
Looking to live on the edge? If so, Viche is just the drink for you. Technically illegal, it’s a home-brewed moonshine made from sugar cane that’s extremely popular on the Pacific Coast of Colombia, especially during regional festivities and carnivals. Similar to rum in taste and strength, locals tend to mix it with sugary drinks or fruit juice. Oh, and it’s also believed to be an aphrodisiac.
Take Your Shot: Unusual Drinks
Once you’re done exploring the weird and wonderful – sorry, ahem, ‘distinctive’ – local specialities above, then why not move on to explore some of the genuine novelties of the spirits world?
Bacon Vodka, USA
Is there anything more American than bacon – and America’s collective obsession with it? The bacon-everything food trend of the past couple of years saw the birth of bacon cupcakes, bacon butter and bacon ice cream, so bacon vodka was bound to appear at some point. True to its name, this vodka is infused with bacon or bacon flavour, and is typically used when making savoury-style cocktails like Martinis or Bloody Marys. Or you can just sip it on its own, up to you. Either way, don’t be surprised if after a few of these you find yourself acting out your wildest cowboy dreams.
Scorpion Vodka, UK
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Scorpion vodka is pure-grain English vodka, distilled five times and featuring a real, farm-raised scorpion in the bottle. Mostly a novelty gift item, the scorpion doesn’t alter the flavour of the vodka. And yes, you can eat it; it’s safe because the little devil has been heat-treated to remove any venom. The question is: Do you want to?
Naga Chilli Vodka, UK
Add some spice to your life! Naga Chilli Vodka gives “strong liquor” a whole new meaning: Made with Naga Jolokia chillies (or ghost chillies) – considered to be the hottest chilli peppers in the world – this vodka clocks in at 250,000 Scoville units. For comparison, jalapeño peppers have around 4,000 Scoville units. Try at your own risk.
Shake Things Up: Uncommon Cocktails
Sometimes it’s not the liquor itself that makes a drink distinct, it’s what you add to it – and these eccentric cocktails certainly break the mould. As a bonus, some of them are easy to recreate at home.
Prairie Chicken, Anywhere
This peculiar cocktail is a fun mixture of gin, salt, pepper and a raw egg yolk. Like we said, peculiar, to say the least. But, hey, at least it has some protein in it, so it’s gotta count as healthy, right? Serve in a red wine glass.
Gunpowder Plot, Australia
Is it a cocktail? Is it a weapon? Is it a chemistry experiment? The Gunpowder Plot, a signature drink of Sydney’s Zeta Bar, consists of gin infused with gunpowder. And to keep things interesting, it comes with a touch of spiced gunpowder syrup and herbal bitters. A drink for the truly daring. [Photo: Zeta Bar]
Chiliguaro, Costa Rica
Chiliguaro is a refreshing mix of guaro, a traditional alcoholic beverage from Costa Rica, and hot sauce. You can also add tomato juice, salt and pepper, lemon or other spices to jazz it up however you wish. One shot of this, and you’ll instantly feel as if you were salsa dancing on the beach. It’s Costa Rica in a spicy shot glass, if you will.
El Ritual, Venezuela
El Ritual is a traditional Venezuelan shooter that consists of rum, lime, instant coffee and brown sugar. There’s a whole process in which to drink this South American concoction, and it’s similar to that of drinking tequila shots, but we’ll let you figure this one out.
Sourtoe Cocktail, Canada
The Canadian town of Dawson City has an eerie tradition: They stick an actual dehydrated and preserved human toe in drinks. The first toe ever used is believed to have belonged to a miner in the 1920s, who had it amputated because of bad frostbite. The severed member was apparently found preserved in a jar of alcohol in 1973 by Captain Dick Stevenson, who brought it down to the Sourdough Saloon and started the stomach-churning tradition of adding it to cocktails for kicks. The original toe was accidentally swallowed, as were many of its successors; the bar is now on its tenth severed digit. The toe can be paired with any tipple of your choice, and there’s only one rule: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow – but the lips have gotta touch the toe.” We’ll be skipping this one, but feel free to try it out.