A Guide to Europe's National Drinks

Consider yourself a savvy international imbiber? Have you toasted your way through Europe? Can you say "cheers" in five different languages? (Santé, slainte, salute, skål, proost.) Alright, well then let's see if you know the answer to this question: What is considered to be the national drink of France?

Consider yourself a savvy international imbiber? Have you toasted your way through Europe? Can you say "cheers" in five different languages? (Santé, slainte, salute, skål, proost.) Alright, well then let's see if you know the answer to this question: What is considered to be the national drink of France?

Those of you who were quick to buzz in with "Champagne" or "wine" might want to reconsider that all-or-nothing wager because the answer we were looking for was pastis. The anise-flavored liqueur, most notably produced by Ricard, has long been a national favorite and is particularly emblematic of Marseille where it originated.

Yes, it's true that Champagne can only officially be called such if it is produced in the French region of the same name, but as it turns out, Monaco appears to lay claim to the bubbly as its preferred national beverage. And yes, it's also true that France is one of the most highly regarded wine-producing nations in the world and that the beverage is a major part of the country's dining culture. But that said, let us not forget that the U.S. recently surpassed the French as the world's top wine drinking nation.

Admittedly, the topic of national drinks is somewhat of a subjective one - ripe for debate and likely to ruffle a few feathers. In regards to France, others still might argue that cognac deserves the title. Of course, with some countries the answer is decidedly more obvious. Russia and vodka, Scotland and Scotch, Ireland and Guinness (after all, there is little that can come between and Irishman and his Guinness, except perhaps an Irish woman).

Read on for a tour of the drinks some European countries have rallied behind and adopted as iconic to their identities.

Or, for a taste of the states, check out America's 20 Best Dive Bars and the 150 Best Bars in America.

Text by Tiffany C. Hoang/ The Daily Meal

Europe's National Drinks
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A Guide to Europe's National Drinks (PHOTOS)

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.

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.

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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.

So many drinks come to mind when thinking of France. Pastis in particular is emblematic of the southeastern region of the country, specifically Marseille 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. 
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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) carries 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.

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What's Scotland's national drink? If you're thinking the answer in glaringly obvious, 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."

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 liquors in the world, Vodka 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 enjoyed neat.

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 flavor 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.

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 its 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.

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 by water, or straight.

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.

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.

Decked out in lush purples, reds, and mahogany, Malmaison caters more to hip, well-bred brandy drinkers than a bunch of rowdy hooligans thrown in the pen for dirty deeds. But its legacy as a former Victorian prison lives on through its thick metal doors and ironwork stairs, reminding guests that it isn’t all frills. While the hotel’s stonewalled façade may relay fears of solitary confinement, you’ll find anything but at this Oxford hangout. Dine on classic British fare in a private cell dining room before you're made to answer the bartender when he asks “any last requests?” at last call. 


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