Mark Yocca

What to Drink Based on the Country You’re Rooting for in the Winter Games

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The Winter Games kick off this week, and athletes from around the world will meet in Pyeongchang, South Korea, to compete and hopefully share in each other’s cultures. If you have curling fever like we do, you’ll be glued to your television over the next couple weeks and you’ll need a drink to go along with all that winter sports viewing. So we’ve put together a list of what you should drink based on which country you’re rooting for. Here are national drinks for every country in the Winter Games. Please don’t drink them all in one evening.

Greece – Ouzo

The original host, Greece has a long history with ouzo, the anise-flavored liquor that has become the country’s national spirit.

Ghana – Akpeteshie

Before British colonialism, this distilled palm wine was drunk all over the country.

Nigeria – Kunun-Zaki

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Muslim majority nation (and home of Africa’s largest Muslim population) features a non-alcoholic drink. This somewhat pasty beverage is usually made from millet, sorghum or sweet potatoes.

South Africa – Amarula

You’ve probably seen the distinctive bottles of this cream liqueur in the liquor store and the YouTube video of elephants “getting drunk” on the marula fruit it is made from. Just be careful; Amarula is delicious, but a little too much could have you passed out on the couch like a happy elephant before the opening ceremony.

Netherlands – Genever

The granddaddy of gin, the national liquor of the Netherlands is big, bold and juniper heavy.

Norway – Aquavit

The strong, herbaceous spirit has been keeping people warm in Norway (as well as the rest of Scandinavia) for more than five centuries.

New Zealand – Sauvignon Blanc

Kiwis have developed a robust wine industry over the years, but the varietal they do better with than almost all others is Sauvignon Blanc. Their unique style is known for its grassy, green pepper notes.

Denmark – Gammel Dansk

Bitter like a Dane who finished out of the medals, this herbal liquor has some similarities to Jagermeister and other Northern European bitter spirits. But since its creation in the ‘60s, Danes have taken to it, even drinking it for breakfast sometimes.

Dominica – Sea Moss

The tiny Caribbean island with the population of Arlington Heights, Illinois, is short on winter athletes (they had two in 2014 and they were probably just doing it as a tax scam anyway), but at least they have sea moss. Usually a shake made with dried sea moss, evaporated milk and angostura bitters, it supposedly keeps the men of the island virile.

Germany – Lager Beer

Germans are particular about, well, everything, but maybe nothing more so than their beer. The Reinheitsgebot, or beer purity law, lays down the only three ingredients allowed in beer: water, barley and hops. As a result of the relative simplicity of German beer recipes, the Germans have mastered lager like nowhere else on earth.

Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste – Tamai Pty Buffalo Premium Bitter

Besides coffee, there are not that many drinks produced on East Timor, but the best known of the handful has to be this ESB beer.

Latvia – Balsam

Another herbal liqueur, Balsam comes in at a surprisingly high proof for what it is—often around 90 proof.

Lebanon – Arak

The anise-flavored spirit is not only popular in Lebanon, but throughout the Middle East, from Israel to Iran.

Romania – Tuica

The only requirement of a bottle of Tuica is that it needs to be made from plums. Other than that, the drink’s definition is pretty wide open. It can be an easy-drinking, low-proof liqueur, or an over-proof palate-buster that will burn your face off.

Luxembourg – Crémant de Luxembourg

The tiny European kingdom hasn’t sent more than two athletes to the Winter Games since the 1936 Nazi games. Their list of native drinks is also short, but back in 1991 their Cremant (sparkling wine) received its own designation.

Lithuania – Midus

Midus, or Lithuanian mead, is a Baltic version of the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage—the honey brew goes back 6,000 years.

Liechtenstein – Blauburgunder

The German name for Pinot Noir, this is one of a handful of grape varietals that has been made into wine for centuries in the mountainous principality.

Madagascar – Toaka Gasy

The term just means Malagasy (the people of Madagascar) rum, but often it refers to a specific local rum made from a mixture of tamarind and sugar cane (and sometimes of questionable legality).

Malaysia – Palm Wine

Popular in many countries near the equator, Malaysia included, palm wine is exactly what it sounds like: a drink made by fermenting the sap of whatever palm tree is in your equatorial area.

Mexico – Mezcal

No joke: Mexico’s lone entrant in the 2014 Sochi Games was Prince Hubertus of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. He DNF’d after failing to complete his first run in the slalom. But the size of the Mexican ski team has quadrupled in the years following those games. What better way to celebrate than with a strong shot of Mexico’s national spirit.

Monaco – Champagne

The only reason Monaco did not make last year’s list of the richest countries in the world is because they didn’t bother to provide any economic data to the International Monetary Fund. But their GDP per capita is over $160,000, making them the wealthiest country in the world and that means one thing: Champagne.

Morocco – Berber Whiskey

Sorry, everybody. This is not a rare whiskey you’ve never heard of before. It’s what people in Morocco, which is a Muslim country, call mint tea. It is, however, almost certainly unlike any tea you’ve had before. The almost painfully sweet, brightly minty concoction is consumed at all times of day.

Montenegro – Loza

A grape brandy made on Montenegrin vineyards as well as in other countries in the region.

Moldova – Divin

The name Divin is a catchall for Moldovan brandy. Perhaps the two members of the Moldovan team will enjoy some when they’re done competing.

Malta – Bajtra

A prickly pear liqueur from the Mediterranean island, it can be a good addition to a glass of sparkling wine for an easy but interesting cocktail.

Kazakhstan - Koumiss

This fermented mare’s milk is popular throughout the Asian steppe. Although it’s very low in ABV, the salty milk is not the easiest thing to drink.

Mongolia – Arkhi

A distilled, and therefore more alcoholic, version of Koumiss (fermented mare’s milk). If the undistilled version of the salty sipper isn’t strong enough for you, you can kick it up with a glass of Arkhi.

United States – Bourbon

The USA can lay claim to a number of beverages, but it’s hard to argue with a good pour of bourbon.

Bermuda – Rum Swizzle

Though it didn’t originate in Bermuda (it first came from England), the Rum Swizzle is considered by some to be the national cocktail of the Caribbean island. In fact, “real” swizzle sticks are stems broken off from trees native to the Caribbean. If you’re curious, Bermuda’s winter team consists of Tucker Murphy, a cross-country skier who spent his high school and college years living in New Hampshire.

Belgium – Lambic Beer

No trip to Belgium is complete without Belgian beer. And no beer is more Belgian than lambic. The wild fermented, fruity, sour beer is made with naturally occurring yeast from the Senne River Valley.

Belarus – Krambambula

Fun to say, even more fun to drink, Krambambula is usually made of wine and various liquors—gin, vodka, mostly whatever you have around. Think of it as the Belarusian answer to the Long Island Iced Tea.

Bolivia – Singani

Bolivia’s national spirit is distilled from Muscat grapes grown in the Bolivian highlands. There is even a legal definition of exactly how high those lands must be: Bolivian law mandates that grapes for Singani must be grown at 5,250 feet or higher.

Bulgaria – Boza

The creamy drink made of fermented wheat or millet is very low in alcohol, around 1 percent ABV, and the original recipe may date back to the earliest days of human agriculture.

Brazil – Cachaca

Everyone got to know Cachaca pretty well during the 2016 Rio Games, and the Brazilian sugar-based liquor (and its signature cocktail, the Caipirinha) quickly exploded in popularity.

San Marino – Biancale

San Marino, the tiny city-state in northeastern Italy, is overshadowed by the country that surrounds it on all sides, but it does have its own one-person team and its own wine region, which is known for Biancale, a white varietal that produces dry, aromatic wines.

Serbia – Silvovitz

This plum brandy is not unique to Serbia—it exists under similar names all over Eastern Europe—but it’s particularly well-loved in the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

Sweden – Punsch

Not punch, but punsch, a liqueur made from arrack (a rum-like spirit made from coconut flower sap) and brandy. It was originally served as a warm drink in Sweden, but Swedes have more recently started enjoying it cold and in cocktails.

Switzerland – Goldschlager

You probably had a bottle in your dorm room to make people think you were rich (how could you afford alcohol that had actual gold in it?). But this cinnamon liqueur is actually an excellent little nip to add to a cup of Swiss hot cocoa.

Spain – Sherry

The Spaniards produce great wine and the world’s best vermouth bars, but they own the word sherry. In fact, legally, sherry must come from Spain. Enjoy the fortified wine as an after dinner sipper or in one of these sherry cocktails.  

Slovakia – Borovicka

If you consider yourself a gin person, give this Slovak juniper brandy a try, whether you hope Slovakia wins a medal or not.

Slovenia – Zganje

A catchall term in Slovenia for schnapps. The country produces all different kinds, from a popular pear version to hazelnut varieties.

Singapore – Singapore Sling

The Singapore Sling is the most famous cocktail to ever come out of the Chinese city-state. The red-hued drink was first invented to hide its boozy contents so women could drink in public—a taboo in the early 20th century.

Armenia – Oghi

Sometimes translated to “vodka” and sometimes to “brandy,” the mulberry variety of oghi, which often tops 100 proof, is the one to try.

Argentina – Malbec

Argentina makes more Malbec than any other country in the world. The full-bodied red single-handedly put Argentines on the wine map.

Iceland – Brennivin

Sometimes called “Black Death,” Iceland’s national spirit is a caraway liquor best taken as a shot—if it’s taken at all. It’s also one of the only things that can wash away the taste of hakarl—Icelandic fermented shark.

Ireland – Irish Whiskey

Jameson is currently the king of the Irish whiskey world, but there are plenty more out there to try.

Azerbaijan – Xirdalan Beer

The tiny country in the caucuses doesn’t have that many drinks to call its own—most are imported from neighboring Russia, Turkey and Georgia. But they do brew some of their own beer under the Xirdalan label.

Andorra – Anis

You guessed it, this is an anise flavored liquor from the Pyrenean principality.

Albania – Rakia

It’s called many things in Eastern Europe and Western Asia—Raki, Rakija—but in Albania it’s Rakia and it’s yet another fruity brandy popular in that part of the world. You can find lots of people making moonshine versions out of their homes.

Eritrea – Suwa

Eritrea is a Muslim country, so alcohol can be a little tricky to come by, but there are few alcoholic specialties in the East African nation. One of them is Suwa, a sort of beer made from water and bread.

Estonia – Vana Tallinn

Unlike Estonia at the last Winter Games, this rum-based liqueur produced only in the Baltic country has garnered some accolades, winning medals from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Ecuador – Canelazo

If you’re a fan of Hot Toddies, you might want to branch out and try a Canelazo. Made with aguardiente (although you could substitute rum if you like) and water boiled with cinnamon, the hot drink is beloved in Ecuador and all over the Andes.

Great Britain – Gin

GB is less of a powerhouse in the winter than it is in the summer, but if you’re rooting for the Brits you should suck down a Gin and Tonic or perhaps a well made Martini. Gin has always been popular in England, but it has exploded in recent years as the number of distilleries has more than doubled since 2016.

Australia – Tasmanian Whisky

Yes, Foster’s is Australian for beer, but if you want to find the best booze the country has to offer, hop over the Bass Strait to Tasmania, where some of the world’s best whisky is made but remains relatively sequestered.

Austria – Nux Alpina

Walnut liqueur may be one of the best cocktail ingredients you’ve never heard of (if you have heard of it, you should be telling more people—we can’t do it all by ourselves). You might encounter it as nocino in Italian or noix in French, but this particular bottle from Austria should be the après ski beverage of choice for the whole alpine team.  Smooth, sweet and nutty, it makes an easy addition to almost any hot beverage.

Uzbekistan – Shampanski

If you think this sounds like the way Boris Badenov would say Champagne, you’re mostly right. In Stalin’s Soviet Union, it was the term used for sparkling wine. And while Russia stopped using it in 2011, Uzbekistan has not abandoned it entirely and it’s used, at least informally, to describe sparklers from their wine country.

Ukraine – Chile Pepper Vodka

Who needs regular vodka when you can have spicy vodka? One of the most popular around for Ukrainians and Ukrainian expats is Nemiroff’s honey pepper vodka.

Iran – Aragh Sagi

Good versions are like a Persian grappa. Bad versions are like a Persian moonshine. It’s illegal for most people in the Islamic Republic, but people make it anyway, often from raisins.

Italy – Negroni

There are so many drinks to choose from—limoncello, grappa, a long list of wines made from Italian varietals—but the Negroni, reportedly invented by an Italian count (Count Negroni), could make an italophile out of anyone.   

Israel – Tubi 60

Not long ago, this citrus liquor started popping up in hip bars in Israel’s larger cities. It continues to remain rather mysterious—as Vice pointed out in 2016, no one really knows what’s in it—but if you want to feel like an Israeli cool kid, try sipping some straight.

India – Indian Whisky

Indian whisky flies under the radar in some major Western markets and that is very unfortunate, because the Earth’s second most populous country is making world-class stuff, like Paul John.

Japan – Sake

Sake has been brewed in Japan for millennia, and even though most Americans choose to take it in sake bomb form, it is one of the most diverse and multifaceted drinks out there. Just make sure you never drink it hot.

Jamaica – Rum

Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, the Jamaican bobsled team is back. Although this year, for the first time, it’s the women’s bobsled team that qualified. So toss back a couple shots of rum for them. There are too many good Jamaican rums to just pick one. We recommend trying something from Smith & Cross, Dr. Bird, or Wray and Nephew.

Georgia – Chacha

This strong Georgian brandy is made from pomace, the stuff that’s leftover after fruit is pressed to make wine.

China – Baijiu

Many in the West are surprised to find out that this sorghum spirit is the most popular in the world. It also almost certainly tastes like nothing you’ve ever tried before—funky, savory and strong.

Czech Republic – Becherovka

The bitter Czech liqueur is one of the country’s most famous products (it even has its own museum). Like lots of bitter digestifs, it isn’t for everyone, but those who like it, like it a lot.

Peru – Pisco

The grape brandy, which is best known as the main ingredient in a Pisco Sour, is Peru’s national alcohol.

Chile - Also Pisco

Chile also claims pisco as its national spirit. The pisco wars between Peru and Chile have been going on for years, so it’s best to sample some from each country to see who makes it better.

Canada – Caesar

Canada’s unofficial, official cocktail is a Bloody Mary made with Clamato in place of tomato juice. And because of the time difference between Canada and Korea you might be watching the games during brunch anyway, so a Caesar is fitting.

Kenya – Mnazi

This year will mark the first time a woman has competed in the Winter Games for Kenya, and if you’re watching her during the slalom or super G, do it with some mnazi (if you can find it). A wine made from the sap of the mnazi tree, it’s just one of many spins on palm wine in Africa.

Kosovo – Rasoj

It’s not alcoholic, but it is beloved in Kosovo. Rasoj is the juice left from fermented cabbage—kraut juice. If you want to booze it up a little, you can try it as a Pickleback.

Colombia – Aguardiente

Literally translated to “fire water,” the sugar cane liquor is one of the strongest things you can drink on the South American continent.

Croatia – Grasevina

One of the more underrated wine countries in Europe, Croatia has a lot to offer to the wine world. And the most popular grape is Grasevina, a varietal that makes Riesling-like whites.

Kyrgyzstan – Maksym

Mare’s milk Koumis (Kymyz in Kyrgyzstan) is a popular alcoholic drink in the mountainous country, but one of the most widely available is the non-boozy Maksym, a bubbly beverage made from fermented grain.  

Cyprus – Brandy Sour

Who knows if the drink was actually invented in Cyprus (as Cypriots claim), but the country does claim the cocktail as its own.

Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) – Kaoliang wine

A specific type of unflavored Baijiu that’s big in Taiwan.

Thailand – Mekhong

For more than 80 years, this rum-like whiskey has been the self-proclaimed “spirit of Thailand.”  It’s also one of the few types of alcohol made in Thailand that’s widely available around the world.

Turkey – Raki

If you haven’t spent much time drinking this Turkish version of the anise-flavored spirit that’s popular all over the Middle East, cut it with a little cold water. The licorice flavor is strong with this one.

Togo – Tchakpallo 

Pronounced chak-PAH-lo, the fermented millet drink is one of a small number of alcoholic drinks that is commercially produced in the country.

Tonga – Kava

Still used as a ceremonial drink in the South Pacific, kava is not alcoholic, but it is psychoactive. The strong-tasting tea has even landed in the U.S. recently when a kava bar opened in New York’s East Village.

Pakistan — Murree Single Malt

Pakistan is not a country you would normally associate with single malt whisky that comes with a 20-year-old age statement. But the Murree Brewery, which makes everything from soda, to beer, to vinegar, has a bottle of 21-year-old whisky it calls Rarest. An apt name considering that Murree is not allowed to export it and alcohol can only be legally sold in Pakistan in a few select places.

Portugal – Port

Portugal’s fortified wine is usually considered an after dinner drink, but it’s more versatile than it gets credit for. It works particularly well as the base of a Flip—a cocktail that makes for excellent mid-winter drinking.

Poland – Vodka

With Russia (though not all its athletes) sidelined from the Games after a massive doping scandal, Poland is left to carry the vodka mantle into the stadium. Some Poles actually claim they were the first to distill vodka during the Early Middle Ages.

Puerto Rico – Coquito

This will be the first time Puerto Rico actually sends an athlete to the Winter Games, as 17-year-old Charles Flaherty is scheduled to compete in alpine skiing. He’s not even old enough to have a Coquito—the Puerto Rican take on Eggnog made with coconut milk and cream of coconut—after he’s done racing.

France – Absinthe

For years Absinthe got a bad rap as illegal, and it was indeed banned in many countries, including its native France. But the green fairy has returned to its rightful place in the spirit world. So sip it slow and savor that licorice flavor. 

Macedonia - Mastika

Made with the resin of the mastic tree, this liqueur is usually drunk straight, over ice.

Finland – Salmiakki Koskenkorva

A mix of vodka and a salty black licorice popular in Scandanvia, this black drink comes pre-bottled now, but several decades ago it was thought of as a cocktail in Finland.

Philippines – Lambanog

Commercially, the most popular booze from the Philippines is probably Red Horse, a malt liquor masquerading as a beer. But more interesting is traditional Lambanog, a coconut “wine” that comes in at about 90 proof. Although, some Lambanog makers distill their product twice, ending up with alcohol that’s over 160 proof.   

Hungary – Zwack

Perhaps more fun to say than it is to drink, Zwack is actually a spirits company best known for its herbal liqueur Unicum, which was invented almost 250 years ago by Dr. Jozsef Zwack, physician to the emperor. It’s usually drunk as a digestif because of its bitter taste and stomach settling properties.

Hong Kong – Pantyhose Tea

If you insist on something boozy, Hong Kong does have a large baijiu brand all its own, but if you want something unique to the last British colony, it’s got to be pantyhose tea. No, it’s not made using actual pantyhose, but the milk tea is strained through what looks like a large, fine mesh sock.

Korea – Soju

And finally we come to the host country. While it flies under the radar for many in the West, soju, typically distilled from fermented rice, is one of the best selling spirits in the world. In Korea, drinking soju is wrapped in tradition. It is never supposed to be drunk alone, for example, making it a good choice for any viewing party.

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