Travelling isn’t just about seeing new places, meeting new people and tasting new food. What about trying the local drinks?
Kate Turkington has downed a few…
Humans come from a long line of adventurous travellers. Think about it. Our prehistoric ancestors walked out of Africa where they evolved, all over the world, with their adventurous descendants finally making it all the way to the moon.
As any traveller knows, a drop of something to accompany any journey is a necessity. Those early humans quickly discovered how to brew berries, roots or whatever was available into alcohol and the tradition persists to this very day.
I’ve tried all sorts of drinks all over the world.
Once in the middle of the Ethiopian desert I downed half a pan of warm, foaming camel’s milk. It was actually quite pleasant. The fact that my two red-robed Afar tribesmen guides/guards stood over me carrying spears and brandishing Kalashnikovs made it an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Cuba, which possibly has the worst food in the world (unless you’re lucky enough to be invited to a private house), makes up for its government-controlled restaurant offerings of tasteless, tough chicken, fish and pork by having some of the best drinks in the world. Once you’ve downed a piña colada, a mojito, daiquiri or any other of their sensational cocktails whipped up from coconuts, strawberries, squeezed limes, springs of fresh mint and light rum, you’ll be so busy dancing the cha-cha-cha, salsa and habanera that you won’t have an appetite anyway.
Ireland has its share of powerful potions. A visit to Bushmills Distillery in Northern Ireland is a must. Eating thick homemade vegetable soup and a crusty pie in their restaurant accompanied by a tot of whiskey is an unforgettable experience. Down south in County Cork, Jameson’s Distillery is another drawcard for thirsty travellers.
And poteen, the local moonshine often made from potatoes, is so potent that after a dram or three you’d even sit through another production of Riverdance.
I’ve also downed moonshine in Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains where I got on so well with the local mountain men that they gave me a bottle to take away. Back in Washington DC, I emptied it into my hotel room potted plant. It died instantly.
In Russia I’ve downed “thumbs” of vodka, in Greece shot glasses of ouzo that taste exactly like cough medicine, and in a bathhouse in Kyoto, sipped warm saki before belting my heart out to a karaoke machine for the rest of the evening.
But I’ve also drunk what is indisputably the very worst drink in the world. And it’s not alcoholic. I was the guest of some Buddhist monks in Tibet’s oldest monastery. I was offered some tea. A delicate porcelain bowl was graciously presented to me. In it was a greasy, viscous yellow liquid with blobs of fat floating on the surface and smelling of a big, hairy animal – yak butter tea. Spiritual enlightenment did not follow but what did was a hasty dash to the worst loo in the world. (But that’s another story.) I did subsequently make it to Everest Base Camp on the Tibet side, so maybe it did contain something magical...
So be adventurous and when you next travel be sure to sample the local brews, but maybe tread softly with poteen and yak butter tea.