Popping the cork on some bizarre booze trivia can be a great way to keep the conversation flowing. Whether you’re out imbibing at a local lounge or playing home mixologist with friends and family, test your bartender, and your drinking buddies, with some of this rare liquor knowledge. Drink responsibly and drive safely, and try to keep your bragging rights in check after you school the crowd on these high proof sips of tippling trivia!
Most seasoned drinkers know that different types of alcohol hail from different countries. We tend to associate a glass of red wine with the lush grapes of Italy or Napa Valley. We think about the American South when we do a shot of bourbon, and we maybe consider donning a Scottish kilt when we swirl a snifter of Scotch Whisky in our hand. But the origins of some of these beverages may surprise you, and your bartender!
- Wine. This delicious, drinkable dinner pairing is enjoyed all over the world and is famously produced in Italy, Spain, Chile, California, and elsewhere. Wine is a welcomed social custom in a wide range of cultures, and can be paired creatively with all types of cuisines. While often thought of to be a product straight from the fertile Mediterranean region, it turns out that the origins of wine actually trace back all the way to China! Grapes were cultivated in China specifically to produce wine close to 5,000 years ago, though glasses of the stuff have always been in competition with fermented beverages made from rice and other sprouted grains. Today, China’s production and consumption has grown, and the creates its own wines, as well as housing several French producers in its fields.
- Whiskey. Whiskey (or whisky as it is spelled in Scotland), is often thought to have been born in the beautiful green lands of Ireland and Scotland. After all, Bushmills in Northern Ireland is the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world, dating first production back to the very early 1600s. As it turns out, however, the process of distillation first happened in the Middle East. There is some debate around when distillation of grains moved from aromatic potions and perfumes to the smoky treat we know today, but historians say it’s possible that the first distillations were done by the Babylonians in B.C. Mesopotamia!
Grains and grapes aren’t the only things that man can make into liquor. Stump your bartender with these exotic ingredients, and get some inspiration for your next creative cocktail party!
- Juniper Berries. A finishing ingredient in gin, juniper berries are also the foundational ingredient in the Slovakian drink, Borovicka.
- Sorghum. A type of sweet grass plant that can be turned into syrup or used as a cereal grain, sorghum can also be boiled, fermented, and distilled into the powerful Taiwanese liquor, Kaoliang.
- Plums. If you’d like something mellow or potent, plums have you covered! Plums can be crushed and fermented like cider to create a sippable pint of Plum Jerkum, a popular English drink with about the same alcohol level as a beer. If you head over to Hungary, however, be prepared for a shot of Palinka, a 110 proof plum liquor distilled from crushed and fermented plums.
Tips for Teetotalers
Got a lightweight in the group who doesn’t like the beer offerings at the bar? See if they’ve ever heard of these lightly alcoholic beverages that are enjoyed all over the world:
- Cauim. A bottled brew from Brazil made from chewed (!) cassava root that clocks in at about 4% alcohol; the same as a lighter beer.
- Kefir. Created from fermented cow’s milk, this traditional Russian drink has a wee 1% of alcohol and can be found in the health section of many grocery stores for its probiotic properties.
- Tepache. If you’re looking for a barely boozy alternative to tequila night, try Tepache, a sweet bottled drink from Mexico made from pineapple rinds and brown sugar with only 1% alcohol.
Forget the Everclear. Test your knowledge about some of the most potent products around. Drink with caution, friends, but show off your smarts without fear!
- Absinthe. A sip of the infamous Green Fairy can set your head spinning for hours. This occasionally illegal liquor hails from Switzerland and serves up a serious combination of fermented grains and herbs, weighing in at 60% alcohol.
- Mezcal. A smoky alternative that’s become popular in mixology bars around the country, Mezcal mixes easy but packs a powerful, 110 proof punch.
- Poitin. Ireland may be known for Guiness and Jameson, but your liver hasn’t lived until it’s given Poitin a try. A fermented, distilled drink made from malted barley, legal Poitin is 65% alcohol (though rumors about this Irish moonshine have some home brews measuring up at a dangerous 95% percent!).
Enjoying pouring out these bits of trivia, but be ready to buy a round to ease those bruised egos!