As fun, enriching and interesting that our tours can be, who doesn’t find themselves in need of a thirst-quencher every now and then? Here’s a list of some beverages you will find along the Freeway, from the refreshing to the bone-warming!
Ukraine – Uzvar
If you are invited to a Ukrainian household, a tall pitcher of fruit swimming in honey-brown liquid will probably be laid out on the table to accompany the impending feast. A drink made of dried fruits, uzvar (say: Ooze-var) is traditionally consumed at the 12-course Christmas Eve, or Sviat Vechir dinner. Because of the home-drying techniques, uzvar doesn’t just have a fruity taste, but often has smoky tones as well. Whether you’re drinking it hot, cold, in the warmest months or the dead of winter, count on uzvar for the summer taste of fruits and campfires!
And! If you miss your chance to drink uzvar in Ukraine, some other Slavic countries will have it on their menus as well.
Ireland – Irish Breakfast Tea
Don’t let the name fool you, while many will drink a cup first thing in the morning, the Irish do not relegate this tea to just breakfast! In fact, it is only outside of the country that it is called “Irish Breakfast.” Inside Ireland, it is simply called, ‘tea.’ It first arrived in Ireland in the 1830s, and its people have not stopped drinking it since. Since Breakfast Tea is regularly available in North America, lots of people are already familiar with its malty taste. So if you want to sample before you fly out to Dublin, grab a package of Twining’s or Barrys (the most popular brand in Ireland) and follow these instructions:
Steep your tea for no more than 5 minutes, mix in milk and sugar to taste, pair it with scones, and drink during traditional tea (11 am), mid-afternoon tea (3-5 pm) or high tea (6 pm)!
But trust us, there’s nothing like sipping your cuppa while watching the rain of the British Isles fall down the window of a cozy pub or cafe.
Austria – Viennese Hot chocolate
CHOCOLATE! Need we say more? Vienna has some of the oldest coffee houses in Europe, the first one dating back to 1683. Even if a cup of espresso isn’t your thing, you will not be missing out when you try this Austrian indulgence! Some cafes will make your drink even more decadent by stirring in a bit of egg, or adding some coffee liqueur.
Viennese Hot Chocolate makes the perfect partner for some strudel, or stand-alone treat!
Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia – Rakija
Rakija, or Rakia (say: Rah-key-a), is essentially Mediterranean Moonshine. Although there are some commercially made brands, it is a predominantly homemade fruit brandy that is found throughout the Balkans, Greece, and can be found in Poland and Hungary under the name of ‘palenka’. Like the cultures it spans, rakija has a plethora of recipes, varieties and alcohol percentages. In Albania, for example, you may find rakija made of mulberries and walnuts, and in Bulgaria, some varieties are made of apricots. A typical rakija will be about 40% alcohol and made of plums or grapes, and will have been fermented and distilled in someone’s kitchen.
So if you find a glass of Rakija in your hand when touring the Balkans, know that it is the unique and authentic flavor of the country, region, village and home you are in.
As the Serbians say, Živeli! (Cheers!)
Costa Rica – Horchata
You can find horchata (say: Or-Cha-Ta), or rice and nut milk beverages all over Latin America and Spain. Each variety of the drink nicely compliments the blending of the its Spanish origins, and the indigenous ingredients that each country’s climate offers. Every recipe plays on the base of roasted nuts and rice, milk, spices, and sometimes the addition of alcohol. Many Costa Rican recipes call for condensed milk, cinnamon, rice flour and nuts.
Whatever variety you get, there’s no better way to cool off from a long day of adventuring in the Central American sun than an icy glass of Horchata!
Argentina – Yerba Mate
If you’re in North America, you may have only seen these words in loose-leaf tea shops or organic food stores. Yerba Mate (say: Yer-bah Mah-tay) is possibly more Argentine than Tango. The plant is grown in the northern rainforests that border Brazil. The leaves are ground to create a loose-leaf, highly caffeinated tea. What’s unique about Argentinian mate is the way it’s consumed. The loose leafs are poured into a hollowed gourd, and the rest is filled with hot water. The resulting tea is sipped through a straw. Locals will drink mate as a social ritual as much as a pick-me-up. When mate is present in a gathering of a group of friends, colleagues, or a university class, people will take turns sipping and passing around the gourd, with one person in charge of refilling the gourd with their hot water thermos.
Partaking in the mate circle is a great way to have conversations with local people. If you are worried about sipping from a communal straw, don’t worry! You can still try a mate cocido (co-see-dough), which is mate in a tea bag.
So… who’s ready to fill their glasses?