Europe needs no introduction. A perfect getaway all year round, the Old Continent is a veritable wonderland for all travel types. It has paradisiac beaches on the Mediterranean Coast, distinct mountain ranges, culture-filled world capitals, and much more.
Home to 44 countries, Europe brings together a profusion of different cultures, which also makes it an amazing destination for foodies. And as you probably already heard about the soulful Spanish cuisine, the heavenly Italian pasta, and the delicate French pastries, you may not know much about European drinks. They are, after all, a gateway to some of the continent’s most unique cultures. Are you intrigued? In this post, we’re going to introduce you to a less-explored part of the food culture in Europe: the drinks.
From a Macedonia fruit brandy to a Hot Beer commonly drank in Poland, here are 5 drinks you must try on your next trip to Europe.
Horchata de Chufa – Spain
Spain is surely famous for its soulful food, which is heavy in fresh seafood, meat, rice, olive oil, and vegetables. This Mediterranean destination is also well-known for alcoholic beverages such as the beloved Sangria, and Cava, which is a sparkling wine made in the same way as champagne. But Spanish cuisine also includes a few unusual drinks, such as Horchata de Chufa, or just Horchata.
Highly consumed during the summer, this creamy non-alcoholic white drink does a pretty good job of cooling you off. Originated in Valencia in the 13th-century, this drink is made of dried and sweetened Chufa, which is also called the tiger nut. In Spain, this drink is so popular, that there are special “horchatarias” shops dedicated to it.
Curious fact: this drink is consumed also outside of Spain. In Nigeria and Mali, they drink a variation of the Horchata, which is also made of tiger nut milk and it’s called Kunnu Aya. In Mexico and Guatemala, the Horchata is made of rice, vanilla, and cinnamon.
Poppy Seed Milk – Lithuania
You are probably acquainted with vegan options for milk, like almond, rice, soy, and oat. But did you know that in Lithuania there’s popular vegan milk made with poppy seeds? Yes. Known as aguonų pienas, this non-alcoholic drink is consists of soaked poppy seeds, which are then ground, mixed with water, and then drained until they turn into a poppy milk concentrate.
The aguonų pienas is one of the dishes Lithuanians eat on Christmas Eve, which is also called Kūčios. Rich in traditions and ceremonies, the Christmas dinner in Lithuania is traditionally meatless, eggless, and dairy-free, and consists of 12 dishes prepared to represent the 12 apostles. The aguonų pienas is usually served together with sweet pastries.
Rakija – Macedonia
Rakija – or rakia – or raki –, is one of the most famous alcoholic drinks in North Macedonia and all over the Balkans. This liquor is a clear spirit brandy made from fermented fruit and it has an alcohol content of between 40% and 50% ABV. Rakija is actually a very important piece of the Macedonian culture and many of the local families have their own production of this drink. In fact, each family carries its own secret recipe, which makes the drinks super distinctive. In Macedonia, this drink is made from yellow and white grapes, which are mixed with a blend of honey, anise, and other fruits.
The drink is usually produced by the families from November to March when they take the grape pulp leftovers inputting them inside a sealed copper vat, where the mixture is boiled. As the liquid comes to a boil, it releases steam, and the steam becomes the famous Rakija.
The most common types of the liquor are the Medova rakija (enjoyed as an aperitif), the Shlivka rakija (strong and plum based), Trevarka rakija (made with mint, lavender, sage, and rosemary), Mastika (Made from herb anise), and the Imela rakija (made from the stems and leaves of the mistletoe). Fun fact: this drink was used as a painkiller before the 20th-century.
Kvass – Central and Eastern Europe
Although Russia is commonly associated with vodka, one of the most popular drinks in the country is the Kvass. Made from leavened rye bread, the drink is also famous across Central and Eastern European countries, and it could be described as a barely alcoholic beer. In Russia, Kvass is made by soaking the brown bread in water and then adding yeast to it. The mixture ferments for a few days, leaving the Kvass with a small percentage of alcohol and a tangy, distinctive flavor. This mixture can also be fermented with additional sugar for faster processing.
Sometimes regarded as one of the weirdest drinks in the world, the Kvass is especially popular during summer, when it’s served from a big barrel on wheels. Curious fact: in Russia, there’s a well-known summer dish called cold okroshka soup, which is made using kvass as its base.
Baked Milk – Russia
So, by now you already know that Russians love Kvass. But there’s another unique drink in the country you should learn about: the baked milk or ryazhenka. Also popular in Ukraine and Belarus, this non-alcoholic drink is a type of boiled milk and can resemble a yogurt or even condensed milk. For this reason, it’s usually a perfect addition to breakfast, as it has a “desserty” quality to it.
Ryazhenka is one of the varieties of Russian cultured milk, and it’s made from fermented milk, which was previously baked at low oven temperature. This slow heat gives the milk a creamy texture, and even though this drink has a curious name, it sure sounds delicious.
Norwegian Mead – Norway
Associated with the Vikings, mead is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey, water, yeast, and sometimes fruits and spices, depending on local tradition. The preparation process of this drink is similar to wine, with the main difference lying mainly in the ingredients. Ancient Norwegians actually thought that both meed and beer had divine qualities, as they’re both results as the fermentation process, which was considered mystical and even initiated with a reverence. But interestingly enough, many people say that the mead is closer to wine than beer, and this drink is also known as “honey wine”.
Grzane Piwo – Poland
Grzaniec, also known as Grzane Piwo, is a hot lager beer with froth. Spiced with artificial syrups, either ginger or raspberry, as well as spices, such as cinnamon and clove. Served in bars all over Poland, this alcoholic has a special zesty flavor and it’s particularly popular during winter, as it’s consumed warm.
But before ordering your glass of Grzane Piwo in Poland, here are a few tips. The first one is to be patient, as it takes from 5 to 10 minutes for the beer to be heated. The second is to have in mind that the drink is spiced with syrup, and there are two particular ones which you’ll be asked to choose, the ‘imbirowy‘ (ginger) or ‘malinowy‘ (raspberry). Another quick reminder: Polish still hold onto gender standards when it comes to beer. In Poland, the choice between imbirowy (ginger) or malinowy (raspberry) is largely defined by the color, but this doesn’t mean you have to follow the “rule.”
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