“This is Europe’s spirit. A Union that stands strong together.”
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, 2022.
Listen up, my fellow spirit enthusiasts! Let us take you on a boozy tour of Europe’s liquid soul. From the fiery Pálinka of Hungary to the smooth Vodka of Poland, our continent has a spirit to suit every taste and occasion. Feeling fancy? Sip on a glass of Italy’s Limoncello or France’s Cognac. Want to get in touch with your inner Viking? Knock back a shot of Denmark’s Akvavit. And who can forget the Greek Ouzo, the Balkan Rakija, or the Turkish Raki, each with their own unique twist on the anise-flavored liquor. But it’s not just the big players stealing the show, have you tried Slovenia’s Borovička, or Cyprus’ Zivana? These underrated gems are worth seeking out. So let’s raise a glass to Europe’s diverse and delicious spirits, because after all, they are the spirits that keeps our spirits up!
Ah, Port wine! The sweet and sultry siren of Portugal’s wine world, this fortified wine from the Douro Valley will transport you to a world of complex flavors. From nutty and caramel flavors in Tawny Port to fruity and full-bodied Ruby Port, there’s a style of Port wine to suit every taste. And let’s not forget about White Port, the refreshing and lighter sibling of the Port family. So go ahead, take a sip, and let yourself be swept away by the charm and complexity of Portugal’s most beloved wine.
Aguardente – A strong and clear brandy made from fermented grapes, often used as a digestif.
Ginja – A sweet and fruity liqueur made from sour cherries, typically served in a shot glass with a whole cherry at the bottom.
Licor Beirão – A sweet and herbal liqueur made from a secret blend of herbs, spices, and citrus fruits, often enjoyed as an aperitif or digestif.
Medronho – A potent schnapps made from the fruit of the arbutus tree, known for its smooth and fruity flavor.
Orujo, the fiery spirit from Spain’s northwestern region of Galicia, is the perfect way to warm yourself up on a chilly evening. Made from the skins and seeds of grapes left over from winemaking, Orujo is distilled to create a potent liquor with a distinct flavor profile. With hints of fruit, herbs, and spices, this spirit is a versatile ingredient in cocktails or can be enjoyed neat as a digestif. So why not take a trip to Galicia and discover the magic of Orujo for yourself? Just be warned – this spirit is not for the faint of heart! Salud!
Horchata – A sweet and creamy drink made from ground tiger nuts, sugar, and water, popular in the Valencian region and enjoyed as a refreshing summer treat.
Sherry – A fortified wine from the Jerez region in southern Spain, known for its nutty and dry flavor profile, and often enjoyed as an aperitif or digestif.
This iconic French spirit has been enjoyed by connoisseurs and partygoers alike for centuries, and for good reason. Produced in the region surrounding the town of Cognac in southwestern France, this smooth and aromatic brandy is made from a blend of grape varieties and aged in oak barrels to achieve its distinctive flavor. But Cognac is more than just a delicious drink – it’s also a cultural icon. In France, Cognac is associated with luxury, sophistication, and refinement, and it’s often served as an after-dinner digestif. So why not raise a glass to this French classic and discover what all the fuss is about? Santé!
Armagnac – Similar to Cognac, but produced in the Gascony region of southwest France, and known for its more rustic and robust flavor profile.
Chartreuse – A herbal liqueur made by Carthusian monks in the French Alps, with a complex blend of 130 different herbs and spices, and often used in cocktails or enjoyed as a digestif.
Calvados – An apple brandy from the Normandy region, made from fermented apple cider and aged in oak barrels, and known for its fruity and aromatic flavor profile.
Absinthe – A highly alcoholic and anise-flavored spirit, popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and often associated with the bohemian culture of Paris, and now making a comeback among cocktail enthusiasts.
Brennivín, the elixir of the gods and the pride of Iceland! This potent spirit, affectionately known as “Black Death,” is as Icelandic as volcanoes and Björk. Made from fermented potatoes and infused with caraway seeds, it’s the drink of choice for Vikings, fishermen, and anyone who wants to feel like a true Icelander. Just be warned – this fiery liquid packs a punch that can knock you out faster than a rogue wave. But if you can handle the burn, you’ll be rewarded with a warm glow in your belly and a newfound appreciation for Iceland’s rugged beauty. So grab a bottle, put on your woolen sweater, and join the locals in a toast to life, love, and the occasional puffin.
Floki – A young malt whiskey named after the legendary first settler of Iceland, Floki is a bold and unique spirit that captures the rugged spirit of the Icelandic landscape.
Vor – This gin is distilled using botanicals from the Icelandic summer, such as juniper, rhubarb, and angelica root, resulting in a bright and herbaceous spirit that’s perfect for a refreshing cocktail.
Irish whiskey – the liquid gold that flows through the veins of the Emerald Isle! Made from malted barley, water, and a bit of magic, this smooth and flavorful spirit is the lifeblood of Ireland and the fuel that powers its famous craic. Whether you prefer your whiskey neat, on the rocks, or mixed with ginger ale (don’t worry, we won’t tell), there’s no denying the Irish know how to make a good dram. It’s like drinking a piece of Irish history – a fiery liquid that’s been passed down through generations of poets, rebels, and saints. So pour yourself a glass, sit back, and let the warmth of the whiskey wash over you like a cozy pub on a rainy day. Sláinte!
Bailey’s Irish Cream – A decadent liqueur made with Irish whiskey, cream, and chocolate, Bailey’s is a sweet and indulgent after-dinner drink that’s enjoyed around the world.
Poitín – A potent spirit that was illegal in Ireland for centuries, poitín is traditionally made from potatoes and malted barley and has a fiery, almost moonshine-like flavor.
Gin is the quintessentially British spirit and is as refreshing as a summer’s day at Wimbledon. Made from a blend of botanicals, including juniper berries, coriander, and angelica root, gin has been a favorite of the English since the 17th century. It’s the drink of choice for dandies, debutantes, and spies (shaken, not stirred, of course). And let’s not forget about the gin and tonic – the classic cocktail that’s saved many a British expat from the sweltering heat of the tropics. Whether you prefer your gin in a martini or with a splash of elderflower cordial, the British spirit is as classic as a bowler hat and as timeless as Big Ben.
Scotch Whisky – Scotland’s most famous export, Scotch whisky is known for its smoky, peaty flavor, which comes from being aged in oak casks that were previously used to age sherry or bourbon.
Pimm’s – A fruity liqueur that’s often associated with summer in Britain, Pimm’s is made with gin, herbs, and spices, and is typically mixed with lemonade, fruit, and cucumber to make a refreshing cocktail.
If there’s one thing that Norwegians take seriously, it’s aquavit – the potent spirit that’s been a staple of Nordic drinking culture for centuries. Made from potatoes or grain and flavored with caraway, dill, and other spices, aquavit is as much a part of Norwegian tradition as fjords, vikings, and long winter nights. And if you’re lucky enough to enjoy aquavit with a group of Norwegians, you’ll quickly learn the importance of “skål” – the traditional Scandinavian toast that’s accompanied by a shot of aquavit.
Linie Aquavit – A special type of aquavit that is matured by sea voyage in oak casks, traveling across the equator twice before being bottled, giving it a distinct flavor and character.
Gammel Opland – Another type of aquavit that is distilled from a blend of potatoes, caraway, and other botanicals, and aged in oak barrels for at least three years, resulting in a smooth and complex flavor.
This is the ultimate Swedish export (apart from IKEA meatballs, of course). Distilled from winter wheat grown in the rich, fertile fields of southern Sweden and infused with the crisp, clean waters of Ahus, Absolut is a vodka fit for a Viking. With flavors ranging from the classic to the downright weird (Mango and Black Pepper, anyone?), Absolut has something for every taste, even if that taste happens to be a bit questionable. Whether you’re sipping it on the rocks or mixing it with lingonberry juice, one thing is for sure – you’ll be feeling more Swedish than ABBA in no time.
O.P. Anderson Aquavit – A traditional Swedish spirit flavored with caraway and anise that is often served chilled as a traditional accompaniment to Swedish cuisine.
Mackmyra Whisky – Sweden’s first whisky distillery that produces a range of single malt whiskies with unique flavors, aged in oak barrels that are stored in the country’s cold, crisp climate to produce a distinctive taste.
Finland is known for its beautiful scenery, reindeer, and saunas, but there’s one more thing that has been keeping the Finns warm for over a century – Jaloviina. This sweet brandy-based liqueur is a beloved Finnish classic, often served as an after-dinner drink or mixed with hot coffee on a cold winter day. The name Jaloviina roughly translates to “noble brandy,” but don’t let that fool you – this is the drink of the people. So when in Finland, skip the fancy cocktails and grab a Jaloviina, because nothing says “Suomi” like a good old-fashioned Jaloviina shot.
Koskenkorva – This clear spirit is made from locally sourced barley and pure spring water, and has a distinctively smooth taste.
Lapin Kulta – This golden liqueur is made from the sap of the Arctic birch tree, and has a sweet, nutty flavor with a hint of caramel.
Salmiakki Koskenkorva – This unique spirit is flavored with salmiakki, a salty Finnish licorice candy, and is often mixed with cola or enjoyed as a shot.
If you thought all the Danes drank was Carlsberg, think again! When it comes to spirits, the Danes have a sweet spot for Cherry Heering – a deep red liqueur made with Danish cherries and spices. This deliciously fruity spirit has been around since 1818, and has been sipped by everyone from Danish royalty to James Bond (yes, really!). It’s often mixed with soda or tonic for a refreshing summer cocktail, or enjoyed straight up as a post-dinner treat. So if you want to experience a taste of Denmark, try a sip of Cherry Heering and you might just feel like royalty.
Gammel Dansk – A bittersweet liqueur made with 29 herbs and spices, often consumed as a digestif.
Akvavit – A clear, caraway-flavored spirit often enjoyed chilled and traditionally paired with pickled herring or other Scandinavian cuisine.
Mørk Guld – A Danish rum that is aged in sherry casks and has a rich, caramel flavor with hints of vanilla and oak.
Ah, Jenever – the drink that’s like gin’s quirky Dutch cousin. The Dutch love their Jenever so much, they even have a National Jenever Day (yes, that’s a thing). This spirit dates back to the 16th century, when it was used for medicinal purposes, but quickly became a favorite of the working class. Nowadays, Jenever comes in two forms: jonge (young) and oude (old), the latter being more similar to whiskey. Whether you enjoy it neat or in a cocktail, you can savor the taste of Dutch tradition and innovation in every sip.
Advocaat – A creamy liqueur made with eggs, sugar, and brandy that is often enjoyed as a dessert drink.
Ketel One Vodka – A premium vodka brand that is distilled in the Netherlands and known for its smooth taste and quality.
Oranjebitter – A traditional Dutch bitter liqueur made from bitter oranges, spices, and herbs, often consumed during national holidays and celebrations.
Schrobbelèr – A sweet and spicy herbal liqueur from the southern Dutch province of Brabant, typically served warm as a traditional winter drink.
If you’re looking for a way to cure what ails you, look no further than Elixir d’Anvers, Belgium’s favorite herbal liqueur. Made from a secret recipe of 32 different botanicals, this elixir has been known to cure everything from a sore throat to a broken heart (or at least, make you forget about it for a little while). With a history dating back to 1863, Elixir d’Anvers is as Belgian as waffles, chocolate, and the Atomium. And just like those other Belgian delights, it’s best enjoyed in good company, preferably while pondering the mysteries of the universe (or just the best way to dip a frite in mayonnaise).
Filliers Genever – A juniper-flavored spirit similar to gin, but with a maltier and more complex flavor profile.
Smeets Advocaat – A creamy and rich egg liqueur made with brandy, sugar, and egg yolks.
Copperhead Gin – A premium gin made with five botanicals, including angelica root and cardamom, and distilled in copper pot stills.
Cassero de Beaufort
Luxembourg, the tiny country known for its chocolate, its picturesque castles, and its… wait, what was that? Cassero de Beaufort? That’s right, folks, hidden away in the hills and valleys of this small but mighty nation lies a spirit that could knock the lederhosen right off a Bavarian. Cassero de Beaufort is like the lovechild of schnapps and brandy, distilled from the fermented mash of apples and pears, and aged in oak casks until it reaches its full, fruity potential. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a hearty meal of sausages and potatoes, or for sipping on a crisp autumn evening while admiring the changing leaves.
It’s like liquid fire that warms your insides and makes you forget about the cold winters in the Fatherland. Whether it’s Obstler made from various fruits, or the infamous Korn, a grain-based schnapps, Germans know how to distill the perfect liquor. And don’t even get me started on the different flavors – you can find everything from the traditional apple and pear to the more unconventional cherry and even bacon. Yes, you read that right, bacon schnapps. It’s the perfect drink for those who want to have their breakfast and drink too. Next time you’re in Germany, skip the beer be sure to have some pretzels on hand to soak up the alcohol. Prost!
Jägermeister – A herbal liqueur made from 56 different herbs and spices, including ginger, cinnamon, and anise.
Kirschwasser – A cherry brandy that is commonly used in baking and cooking.
Riesling – A popular German white wine known for its sweet and fruity flavor.
Berliner Luft – A peppermint schnapps that is often enjoyed as an after-dinner digestif.
If you’re looking for a spirit that packs a punch, look no further than Austria’s own Stroh. Known for its high alcohol content and distinct taste, this fiery beverage is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it’s more like a kick in the lederhosen. With notes of vanilla, caramel, and a hint of spice, Stroh is the perfect drink to warm you up on a cold winter’s night. Just be sure to have some schnitzel handy to soak up the alcohol. Or, if you’re feeling brave, pair it with a slice of sachertorte and see where the night takes you.
Almdudler-Kräuterlikör – A herbal liqueur made from Almdudler, an Austrian soda, with a blend of herbs such as sage, lemon balm, and elderflower, and hints of caramel and cinnamon.
Obstler – A clear fruit brandy made from a blend of apples, pears, and other tree fruits, with a fruity aroma and a smooth finish.
Grüner Veltliner – A white wine grape variety that produces dry and crisp wines with a distinctive pepper and spice aroma, often used in Austrian wine-based cocktails.
Mozart Chocolate Cream – A chocolate and cream liqueur made with Belgian chocolate, fresh cream, and vanilla, with a rich and smooth taste perfect for after-dinner sipping.
If you thought that gold was only good for jewelry and investment, think again! The Swiss have found a way to make it drinkable. Goldschläger, a cinnamon schnapps with actual gold flakes floating in it, is the perfect drink for anyone who wants to add a little bling to their booze. Not only will it give you that warm fuzzy feeling, but you’ll also feel like you just struck it rich. So, if you’re looking for a spirit that’s guaranteed to add some sparkle to your night, try Goldschläger – just don’t blame us for any glittery aftermath!
Kirsch – A clear cherry brandy made from double-distilled fermented cherry juice, often used in Swiss desserts.
Appenzeller Alpenbitter – A bitter herbal liqueur made from 42 different herbs and spices, often consumed as an aperitif or digestif.
This lemon liqueur is perfect for sipping on a hot summer day, preferably while lounging in a piazza with a view of the Mediterranean. Made from the zest of locally grown lemons and blended with sugar and alcohol, Limoncello is a true Italian delicacy. It’s said that the secret to a good Limoncello is in the quality of the lemons used, which is why the Amalfi Coast is a prime producer of this delicious drink. And let’s not forget the after-dinner tradition of sipping a small glass of Limoncello as a digestive – because nothing says “grazie” like a shot of lemony goodness to end a meal.
Campari – A bitter liqueur made from a blend of herbs and spices, often used in classic cocktails like the Negroni and Americano.
Amaretto – A sweet almond-flavored liqueur made from apricot pits, often used as a dessert liqueur or in cocktails like the Amaretto Sour.
Grappa – A strong grape-based spirit made from pomace, a byproduct of winemaking, often served as a digestif or in cocktails.
Aperol – A bright orange aperitif made from bitter orange, gentian, and rhubarb, often used in cocktails like the Aperol Spritz.
Becherovka is the Czech spirit that’ll have you feeling like a king – or maybe just a Duke, since that’s what the bottle’s label shows. It’s said to have a secret recipe of herbs and spices, which is fitting since the Czechs are notoriously good at keeping secrets – just ask anyone who’s tried to figure out the astronomical clock in Prague. But don’t worry, you don’t need to be a member of the royal court to enjoy a Becherovka. In fact, it’s a popular choice for locals and tourists alike, whether you’re sipping it neat or mixing it with tonic for a refreshing beverage.
Slivovice – A strong plum brandy popular in Czechia and neighboring countries. It can range from smooth and fruity to harsh and fiery depending on the distillation process.
Fernet Stock – A type of bitter, aromatic herbal liqueur that is often consumed as a digestif. It has a complex flavor profile and is made from a secret blend of over 20 herbs and spices.
Borovička – A clear, colorless spirit made from juniper berries, similar to gin. It has a strong, piney flavor and is often served chilled as a digestif.
The Slovakian elixir is as smooth as a Slovakian skier on the slopes of the High Tatras. Made from juniper berries, this spirit is the Slovak version of gin, but with a little more pizzazz. In fact, it’s so popular in Slovakia that it’s said to be the only thing that can warm you up on a cold winter night in Bratislava. And forget about coffee, locals swear by Borovička as the perfect morning pick-me-up. After all, as they say in Slovakia, “bez Borovičky nie je života” – without Borovička, there is no life.
Tatra Tea – A herbal liqueur made from a blend of herbs and spices that is often served as a digestif.
Demänovka – A herbal bitter made from a secret blend of herbs and spices that is often used as a digestive aid.
When it comes to Polish spirits, vodka may be king, but Żubrówka is the wild card in the deck. This unique spirit is made from bison grass, which gives it a distinctive herbal flavor and a subtle hint of sweetness. Legend has it that the bison in Poland’s Białowieża Forest get a bit tipsy after munching on the grass, but we’ll leave that up to your imagination. What we do know is that Żubrówka makes for a great cocktail ingredient or simply served over ice, with a little bit of apple juice to really bring out those grassy notes!
Wisniówka – A cherry liqueur that is made by steeping sour cherries in vodka and sugar, giving it a sweet and fruity taste.
Krupnik – A honey liqueur that is made by infusing grain alcohol with honey and a variety of spices, including cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
Sliwowica – A plum brandy that is made from fermented plums and can have an alcohol content of up to 70 percent.
Goldwasser – A herbal liqueur that contains tiny flakes of real gold and is traditionally served as a digestif after a meal.
Have you heard of the Lithuanian elixir that can warm your soul and cure your ailments? No, it’s not some mystical potion brewed by a wizard, it’s the delicious Krupnikas! This honey-spiced liqueur is like a warm hug from your grandma, if your grandma was a Lithuanian master distiller. Made with honey, cinnamon, ginger, and a secret blend of herbs, Krupnikas has been a traditional remedy for everything from colds to broken hearts. And if you’re feeling extra adventurous, try it in a cocktail with some pear juice and a dash of bitters. You won’t regret it, but your grandma might be a bit jealous.
Starka – A type of vodka aged in oak barrels, sometimes flavored with fruit or herbs.
Midus – A traditional Lithuanian mead made from honey and often flavored with berries or spices.
Šaltibarščiai – A cold beet soup, sometimes spiked with vodka, that is a popular summer drink in Lithuania.
Degtinė – Lithuanian vodka, often flavored with honey, herbs, or fruits.
If you’re looking for a spirit that can cure just about anything, look no further than Riga Black Balsam (Rīgas Melnais balzams). With a recipe that dates back over 250 years, legend has it that this herbal liqueur was originally brewed by a pharmacist to cure Catherine the Great of a mysterious ailment. With its blend of over 20 herbs, roots, and spices, Black Balsam is said to cure everything from the common cold to a broken heart. And if it doesn’t work, at least it’ll get you feeling fuzzy inside and warm in the land of the Midnight Sun.
Pērkons – A strong herbal liqueur made from a blend of natural ingredients, including ginger, cloves, and juniper berries.
Allažu ķimelis – A caraway seed flavored schnapps, popular in Latvia for its strong taste and warming effect.
Rižskij Samogon – A homemade moonshine made from fermented grain, often served with pickled vegetables as a traditional Latvian drink.
This beloved Estonian spirit warms the heart and makes the soul sing. Legend has it that the recipe for this golden elixir was discovered by a group of sailors who stumbled upon a cache of exotic spices on one of their voyages. And what a discovery it was! A sip of Vana Tallinn is like a journey across the Baltic Sea, with notes of vanilla, cinnamon, and rum taking you on a delicious adventure. Some say it’s the perfect way to end a hearty meal, while others swear by its power to liven up any party. Whatever the occasion, Vana Tallinn is the Estonian spirit that brings people together, one shot at a time.
Saaremaa Vodka – A premium vodka made from locally grown wheat and barley, known for its purity and smoothness.
Kannu Kukk – A traditional Estonian schnapps made from fermented rye and flavored with caraway seeds, often served as a digestif.
Põhjala Gin – A small-batch gin made with locally sourced ingredients such as juniper berries, sea buckthorn, and angelica root.
Vikerkaar Limoncello – A lemon-flavored liqueur made with locally grown organic lemons and pure grain spirit, perfect for a refreshing summer sipper.
Krambambula – the drink so nice, they named it twice. This Belarusian spirit is a bit of an enigma, with a taste that’s hard to pin down but impossible to forget. Some say it’s like a sweet, spiced liqueur, while others swear it’s closer to a potent brandy. Others say that Krambambula was a favorite of the ancient Slavic gods, who would tip back a few before getting up to their usual godly shenanigans. Whether you believe that or not, one thing’s for sure: this drink will make you feel like a god (or goddess) yourself, especially if you indulge in a little too much.
Naliboki – A traditional Belarusian moonshine made from various grains, such as rye, barley, or wheat.
Balsam – A herbal liqueur made with a blend of different herbs, spices, and berries, usually served as a digestif.
Samogon – A homemade, often illegal, distilled spirit made from grains, potatoes, or sugar beets.
When it comes to Ukrainian Horilka, you better have a strong constitution and an even stronger liver. This potent spirit is like a Ukrainian version of vodka, only with more attitude and less subtlety. It’s a staple at every wedding, funeral, and everything in between. In fact, the only thing more ubiquitous than Horilka in Ukraine is the nation’s love for borscht. Some say that Horilka is the secret to Ukrainians’ resilience and ability to withstand harsh winters. Others just like the buzz. Either way, if you’re ever offered a shot of Horilka, brace yourself for a wild ride.
Nalyvka – A fruit or berry liqueur made by steeping fruits or berries in alcohol and sugar.
Medova – A honey-based liqueur that has been enjoyed in Ukraine for centuries.
Hrenovuha – A horseradish-flavored vodka that is often consumed as a digestive aid or as a remedy for colds.
This spirit is made from plums, and according to legend, it was the favorite drink of Dracula himself. Its origins can be traced back to the Dacians, an ancient civilization that inhabited the region. The drink was later adopted by the Romans, who introduced new techniques and equipment for distillation. Some say that if you drink enough Țuică, you’ll be able to see into the future, but we don’t recommend trying it. After a few shots, you might start seeing double, and the only future you’ll be seeing is a hangover. But hey, isn’t that what life is all about?
Pălincă – A strong fruit brandy made from various fruits such as plums, apples, or pears.
Socată – A traditional elderflower cordial made by fermenting elderflowers with sugar and lemon juice.
Vișinată – A sweet cherry liqueur made by soaking sour cherries in brandy or vodka, often served as a dessert drink.
Divin, Moldova’s “secret Cognac,” is the little brother who was once the favorite but lost his nickname after a nasty family feud. You see, up until recently, Moldovan brandy was proudly known as Cognac. But, Moldova had to find a new name for its beloved brandy. Professor Anatoly Balanutsa suggested “distvin,” an abbreviation of “DISTilat de VIN,” meaning wine distillate. Then, the Moldovan scientist Emile Rusu gave it the final touch, shortening it to “divin,” which translates to “divine, marvelous, wonderful” in Romanian.
Lumânare de argint – This traditional Moldovan plum brandy is known for its fruity flavor and distinct aroma.
Tarhon – A unique and flavorful Moldovan spirit made from tarragon, it is often used as a digestive after a meal.
Unicum, the quintessential Hungarian spirit, owes its name to none other than the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II. Legend has it that when he first tasted the drink in 1790, he declared in German, “Das ist ein Unikum!” which roughly translates to “This is unique!” And unique it certainly is! With a recipe containing 40 different herbs and spices, including wormwood, gentian root, and juniper berries, Unicum is not for the faint of heart. It’s an acquired taste, to say the least, but once you’ve acquired it, there’s no going back.
Pálinka – A fruit brandy made from plums, apricots, or apples that is so beloved in Hungary it even has its own holiday on May 30th.
Are you ready to explore the world of Slovenian spirits? Let me introduce you to Borovička, a drink that will make you feel like you’re wandering through the lush forests of Slovenia. Made from juniper berries, this clear and strong spirit has been enjoyed in Slovenia for centuries. It’s often sipped as an aperitif or used as a base for cocktails. It’s also believed to have medicinal properties, so if you’re feeling under the weather, just take a shot of Borovička. And if anyone tells you that it tastes like cough syrup, just tell them that they clearly have no taste in fine spirits.
Pelinkovac – Made from the bitter herb wormwood, Pelinkovac is a popular digestif in Slovenia and other Balkan countries.
Rakija – A type of fruit brandy, Rakija is a beloved spirit throughout the Balkans, including Slovenia.
Viljamovka – A type of brandy made from Williams pears, Viljamovka is a popular fruit brandy in Slovenia.
Croatia – Serbia – Bosnia and Herzegovina – Montenegro – Albania – Kosovo – North Macedonia
Made from distilled fruit, this Balkan beauty can range from smooth and fruity to fiery and throat-burning, depending on the fruit and the distillation process. It’s a drink that’s so beloved across the Balkans, it’s practically a cultural institution, like soccer or arguing about politics. And let’s be honest, if you’re not a little bit afraid of the person who offers you a shot of homemade Rakija, then you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. But don’t worry, just take a deep breath, knock it back, and feel the warmth spread through your body. It’s like a hug from your grandma, if your grandma was a Balkan war veteran.
Pelinkovac – A bitter herbal liqueur that is popular in Croatia and Serbia, made from wormwood and other botanicals.
You want to hear about Mastika, the Bulgarian spirit that’s like a party in your mouth, and everyone’s invited! It’s made from the resin of the mastic tree, and it’s a clear, strong drink with a distinct flavor that’s hard to describe. The traditional way to drink it is to add water, which turns it cloudy and milky, just like when someone spoils the plot of a great movie. Mastika is so popular in Bulgaria, they even have a Mastika festival in the town of Svishtov, where they celebrate this tasty spirit with music, dancing, and enough Mastika to make you forget your own name. So come on down and let’s Mastika-rave like it’s 1999!
Rakia – A strong fruit brandy popular throughout the Balkans and Bulgaria’s national drink.
Troyanska Slivova – A plum brandy from the Troyan region known for its rich flavor.
You know what’s stronger than Hercules? Greek Ouzo! This anise-flavored liqueur has been known to make even the bravest souls stumble, which is why it’s usually served with a little water to dilute the alcohol content. The Greeks like to pair it with a variety of mezes (small dishes) such as grilled octopus or feta cheese, making it a staple at any taverna. But beware, if you’re not careful with the amount you drink, you might find yourself dancing to Zorba the Greek on a table, smashing plates like a Greek god. Opa!
Metaxa – A Greek brandy made from a blend of grape brandy and Muscat wine, aged in oak barrels to give it a smooth and complex flavor.
Tsipouro – A pomace brandy similar to Italian grappa, typically made from the residue of grapes after the winemaking process, and often flavored with anise.
Mastiha – A liqueur made from the resin of the mastic tree, native to the Greek island of Chios, with a unique and refreshing flavor.
If you thought Cyprus was only known for its gorgeous beaches and delicious halloumi cheese, think again! Meet Zivana, the island’s signature spirit that packs a punch even stronger than the Mediterranean sun. Made from a blend of grape pomace and local herbs, Zivana is the perfect drink to warm you up on a chilly evening or to help you forget all your problems. And if you’re feeling adventurous, try the traditional way of drinking it with meze, a feast of small dishes that’s sure to leave you feeling like a Greek god or goddess.
Ouzo – A traditional anise-flavored aperitif popular in Cyprus as well as in Greece.
Brandy sour – A cocktail made with Cypriot brandy, lemon juice, and a dash of angostura bitters, served over ice.
Well, let me tell you, Raki is a drink that can make you dance like a Whirling Dervish in no time! Made from anise and distilled grapes, Raki is a popular spirit in Turkey, often enjoyed with a meze spread and lively conversation. The traditional way to drink it is by diluting it with water, which turns the clear liquid into a milky white color, much like the Bosphorus during a full moon. But beware, this drink can sneak up on you faster than a street vendor selling Turkish delight! So, sip slowly and savor the flavors!
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