The history behind those holiday drinks

Where do your favourite holiday drinks come from?
Sampling the native cuisine is an essential part of any holiday – inevitably followed by the local liquor. Every destination has its own tradition of brewing or distilling alcoholic drinks. Here we raise a glass to a selection of British travellers’ favourites.

 1. Ouzo

Ouzo - a native Greek liquor
Ice cold Ouzo in the sun is super refreshing.

The Greeks have been enjoying Ouzo since the 14th-century, often in ouzeries – eating and drinking establishments that can be found in nearly every city, town, and village. The clear, aniseed-flavoured aperitif is usually served over ice and mixed with water when it instantly turns cloudy white.

Traditionally sipped slowly alongside a small plate of mezes, such as olives, sardines and feta cheese to help absorb the alcohol, Ouzo is often drunk for many hours, but getting tipsy is not the sole aim.

In 2006, Ouzo was awarded Protected Designation of Origin status, meaning real Ouzo can only ever be made in Greece or Cyprus. One of the finest examples is Tirnavou, which has been distilled at Greece’s oldest distillery in Tyrnavos since 1856. Turkey produces a very similar drink called Raki.

 2. Cachaça

Caipirinha is Brazil#s national drink
Caipirinha is Brazil’s national drink.

Cachaça is a spirit made from sugarcane juice and is the most popular distilled alcoholic drink in Brazil. Its production dates from 1532, when Portuguese colonisers first brought sugar cane over from Madeira. Cachaça was banned in Brazil for many years, which might help explain why it has more than 2,000 nicknames, from ‘heart opener’ to ‘tiger’s breath’.

There’s a huge range of Cachaças available – from cheap-and-cheerful clear versions to aged, golden varieties produced by artisans.

Drunk neat, there really isn’t much to recommend about Cachaça; however, it really comes into its own in Brazil’s national cocktail, the Caipirinha. A simple combination of whole lime, Cachaça, ice and sugar, a Caipirinha is more than the sum of its parts. Delightfully refreshing, sharp and very sweet to match the Brazilian sweet tooth!

3. Sangria

One of Spain's favourite drinks is the Sangria
Beat the heat with a jug of Sangria

A fantastic way to cool down in the heat, Sangria is a traditional summer drink from Spain and Portugal that usually consists of red wine, chopped fruit and a small amount of brandy, sweetened with sugar or honey and chilled over ice.

Aficionados make their Sangria a full day before it’s to be drunk, to allow the fruit flavours to blend with the rest of the ingredients. The fruit used can include orange, peach, lemon, melon, apple, berries and grapes, while some also add a slug of fizzy lemonade to the mix.

Since 2014, only Sangria produced in Spain or Portugal can use the name, though the drink is also popular in South American countries including Peru, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Chile and Argentina. It’s easy to make at home too – why not give it a try?

4. Limoncello

Limoncello is a lemon flavoured drink from Southern Italy
Limoncello is often drunk after dinner as a digestivo.

Limoncello is a lemon-flavoured liqueur that has been produced mainly in Southern Italy for generations. It’s made from lemon zest, which is steeped in spirit until the oil of the fruit is released, then mixed with a sweet syrup giving it a strong flavour of lemon but without the sourness or bitterness. It’s traditionally served in small, chilled ceramic glasses as an after-dinner digestivo.

Other variations of Limoncello include the pistachio nut-flavoured Pistachiocello, the melon-flavoured Meloncello and strawberry-flavoured Fragoncello.

There are dozens of Limoncello distilleries across Italy, though many families, restaurants and bars make their own, and you can too. According to connoisseurs, the key is to use the native Femminello St. Teresa lemons, which have a tart yet rich flavour.

5. Tequila

One of Mexico's favourite drinks is Tequila
Tequila can be taken with a slice of lime and a pinch of salt.

Tequila is made from the blue agave, a kind of desert plant that must be grown for 12 years before it is harvested – when its core can weigh 100kg. It is then heated to remove the sap, which is fermented and distilled. Tequila can either be bottled immediately after distillation, or aged in oak barrels to give a richer, more complex flavour.

In Mexico, the most traditional way to drink tequila is neat, without lime and salt. Some drinkers believe that the taste of salt before drinking tequila can lessen the “burn”, while following it up with a slice of lime enhances the tequila’s flavour. It’s also often used in a Margarita cocktail – tequila mixed with the orange liqueur triple sec and lime or lemon juice – which was invented in 1938 by a Mexican bartender.

True tequila is a protected product and can only be made in the state of Jalisco and parts of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.

Published 9th August 2016

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