Longitudes, Latitudes and Libations
By: Kathy Brahan
Quiz the average American about basic world geography and you would be amazed at how much he or she doesn’t know. Ask that same American about alcoholic beverages served in foreign countries and he or she can expound at length. For instance, if I say Russia, you say vodka.
You get the picture, but what about more remote travel destinations? What could you order for yourself in Latvia? Most people couldn’t find its actual location on a map much less order a preferred libation intelligently.
What follows is a quick cheat-sheet of sorts designed to help the average American traveler navigate the foreign “waters” of remote locations.
Let’s start “down south” in Peru. Impress the locals by ordering Pisco. Introduced to the region in the 16th Century by Spanish settlers who brought the black-grape vines from the Canary Islands, this colorless, strong Brandy is still enjoyed today.
If you find yourself in Malaysia, do not fret. Saunter up to the local bar and order Palm Wine. This fine beverage is created from the collected cut-flower sap of different indigenous palm trees. It is a light and aromatic concoction that can be distilled into a stronger brew. It is stored in calabashes—bottles made of gourds—and used in cooking as well as an alcoholic refreshment.
Just around the corner in India a similar drink, know as Neera, is enjoyed by the locals. This is a nonalcoholic version of the palm wine above. For a “harder” option, opt for the Tharra, but be warned this popular “home-brewed” drink can be illegal and is similar to our version of moonshine.
And finally, what about Latvia? The in-the-know visitor will walk up to a street vendor and confidently order Kvass—a fermented beverage brewed from black or regular rye bread. This beverage—popular in Central and Eastern Europe—is considered to be nonalcoholic as it contains only 1.2 percent alcohol. It is similar to beer and the color variations are dependent on the type of rye bread used in the brewing process.
I encourage everyone to pull out a map and find an out-of-the-way destination to explore and enjoy. Wherever you roam, a cocktail awaits.
Kathy Brahan is a marketing communications professional with more than 20 years of experience in corporate communications, public relations and journalism. She currently works at Philips Respironics and is the president of Kilobyte Communications.