By James Madeiros
Most of us are familiar with the likes of beer, wine, whiskey, rum, tequila and a few other types of alcohol, but did you ever suspect there may be more varieties lurking out there in the world?
If you’ve ever set foot in a foreign country … or the hinterland of Kentucky … there’s no doubt you ran across some food and beverage choices you didn’t recognize. And, when you go far enough, asking after names and ingredients becomes an exercise in futility.
The next time you go traveling, whether it be near or far, perhaps after reading this you’ll know what kind of mystical booze you’re drinking before it knocks you flat on your backside.
1. Pisco (Peru, Chile)
Pisco is best described as a grape brandy and is usually consumed in a traditional drink called a “pisco sour.” Pisco sour’s are made by mixing the liquor with an egg white, lemon juice, sugar and bitters, and then served over ice or blended.
Although Peru boasts a port town named Pisco, that hasn’t stopped the Chileans with fighting with them for 400 years over the origins of the spirit.
2. Coca Liqueur (Bolivia)
Many native Bolivians remain rightly incensed that the coca leaf, a plant which they revere, has been perverted by chemists to produce cocaine – but that hasn’t stopped them from whipping the plant into a powerful brew known as coca liqueur.
Coca liqueur is made by macerating the leaves and then letting them ferment, after which it is mixed with herbs and then diluted with water, sugar and juices. The end product won’t make you high, but it will most certainly get you drunker than a Bolivian skunk … if there is such a thing.
3. Arrack (Sri Lanka)
It’s probably a good thing you don’t know about this one, because if you enjoy a nip or two this flavorful liquor could easily become your go-to boozy treat (as well as a slam-dunk Scrabble word).
Arrack is made from sap harvested from coconut flowers before they bloom and become the stuff of pina coladas. The sap quickly ferments into what is called palm wine, but to get arrack it’s then distilled. Sri Lankans like to drink it with ginger beer – and you probably will, too.
4. Fig Raki (Turkey)
Raki is the national drink of Turkey, although the most common kinds are made from grapes or raisins; kinda boring and too much like wine and its cousins to be on this list.
Fig raki, on the other hand, is made from figs (surprise!), which gives it more exotic flair. It’s also harder to find than the other types, which further ups the ante on its mystique. Even more elusive, however, is the so-called “bottom raki.” This, most coveted raki, is what’s left at the bottom of the barrel when producing grape raki and is rarely sold – it’s usually passed from the maker to favored clients.
5. Chicha (Andean, generally)
Chicha is most often a corn-based alcohol (some roots and tubers are sometimes used), which in itself is not that exotic. The fact that many people in towns all across the Andean frontier still produce it in the traditional manner, however, is notably unique … especially considering people then drink it.
The traditional method of making chicha requires the maker to chew the corn (different types of corn produces different flavors), whereupon the maker’s saliva acts as one of the catalysts for fermentation. It is only one step in the process, but it’s definitely unique, and it’s hard to find other alcohols fermented this way in the present day.
Legal Stuff: We should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).