The holiday memories are fresh in your mind, the sun tan not yet faded and the photos still fun to flick through. Now on a cool evening back in the UK you sit back, relax and remember the blissful holiday you have just had – dreaming of the next. You want to whisk yourself back to the warm memory of your recent sojourn, so you pour yourself a long, cool glass of the local tipple that tasted so charming, so refreshing, and so easy to drink…
…When you realise that the tantalising bottle of the local plonk you so relished on holiday resembles at best a glass of sickly-sweet, fiery sugar water, or at worst a vicious glass of pickled onion juice.
Why is it that drinks don’t travel well in this time of globalisation and mass import and export? Why, when you think you have found a liquid jewel in the crown, does a quick plane journey, an hour in the car and six months at the back of the cupboard leave it resembling rat poison?
From my years in travel – and some extensive time enjoying local hospitality – to my pleasure and sometimes morning-after discomfort, I thought I would share a few of the very finest and worthy drinks that are both incredible to taste whilst on holiday, but are safer bets to try and recreate that holiday mood at home.
These are some local delights and equally some horrors of the tasty tipples across Europe. But of course, I have to tell you that most things are enjoyable in moderation!
Mint Tea, Morocco
If you’ve travelled to North Africa you will have tried mint tea. The process of making and drinking this tea has a long history with some complicated rituals! It is served at all times of the day and is traditionally offered by hosts to their guests. It’s rude to ignore and easy to get a taste for this refreshing and enjoyable burst of flavour. Just don’t try and repeat the process at home – after many attempts, it never tastes the same.
From the Northern regions of Spain, Rioja is a well-known and well trusted wine. Dating back hundreds of years, there is a lot of choice. Rioja is all about age –
Young wines: Wines in their first or second year.
Crianza wines: Wines which are at least in their third year.
Reserva wines: Selected wines of the best vintages, with an excellent potential that have been aged for a minimum of three years.
Gran Reserva wines: Selected wines from exceptional vintages, which have spent at least two years in oak casks and three years in the bottle.
Nearly always good, available to buy in the UK, and also amazingly priced when you’re there – find one you like and bring it home.
Port wine – or locally known as Vinho de Porto – produced in the Douro Valley in the north of Portugal, is a great after dinner tipple. Predominantly served as a desert wine – typically sweeter with a thicker consistency and with a higher alcohol content – it is a lovely finish to a great dinner. Vinho de Porto does travel well, and drunk in the same manner in the UK gives you a real holiday memory.
Sangria is named after the Spanish word for “bloodletting” because of its typical dark-red colour. But don’t let this put you off; we have all probably tasted both good and bad variations of sangria and it does vary. If you’re in Spain, try it where the locals drink it, or try a glass in a tapas restaurant rather than a bar – you will be surprised. But don’t take it home – make it at home – take a good bottle of wine back with you and try different variations to make it perfect.
Traditionally served as an ice-cold, after dinner digestive, Limóncello was predominantly a southern Italian-created drink, produced from the zest of lemons. This is a personal favourite of mine – I think good bottles travel well, definitely take a bottle home.
Grappa was invented to avoid wasting the leftovers from winemaking after pressing the grapes. It can only be produced officially in Italy and is a warming after dinner drink, coming in all sorts of different flavours. Try and find a brand that has a historic twist – as with wine, the longer the fermentation or resting, the better the taste and the better it will travel.
Pastis 51, France
This is France’s 3rd most popular spirit. This aniseed flavour drink is drunk in a similar fashion to Raki and Ouzo. Pastis randomly came about when the ban on anise based aperitifs was lifted in 1951, latterly becoming Pernod.
A wine that has been called an acquired taste… That said, locally, in the sunshine, over an amazing fish lunch, it’s not hard to imagine why you can “acquire” the taste quite quickly if you work hard enough. There are a lot of differences in regions and grape, so it’s always worth trying a glass or two – usually amazingly priced, but I have never been convinced that it survives the journey home from Greece.
This is the unofficial national drink of Turkey and is another aniseed based drink. Colloquially known as Lion’s Milk and usually drunk with a splash to a full glass of water – depending on your taste buds and your ability to walk a straight line afterwards – Raki can be tasty, in my opinion, in small doses. Remarkably, it does travel and it tastes similar in Falmouth as it does in Fethiye, but be warned, a few of these and not only the lion will be roaring!
Ouzo, Turkey/ Greece
Similarly to Raki, Ouzo is an aniseed based drink – drunk as an aperitif alongside a meze. Again it’s extremely strong and slightly deceptive, the cause of this being its sugar content. Sugar delays ethanol absorption in the stomach and may thus mislead the drinker into thinking that they can drink more, as they do not feel tipsy early on. Then the cumulative effect of ethanol appears and the drinker becomes inebriated rather quickly. As with Raki, it does travel, but I think that’s because it’s strong enough to kill off any contamination in the process.