Drinking Traditions From Around the World

Cocktail 101

All the basics of the bar.


Cluck. [Photograph: Shutterstock]

What's the strangest thing you've seen someone do while drinking? I mean, on purpose, not just because they're drunk and disorderly. Booze-makers and drinkers all around the world have certain practices that might seem odd to an outsider. This week, we'll look at a few.

A Chicken in Every Pot Still

Among mezcal distillers, there's a long-standing tradition to make some booze for personal consumption, called pechuga, that has a few unusual ingredients. Pechuga is made by redistilling a portion of finished mezcal with some flavor-enhancing additives, including wild fruit, grains, and ... a chicken breast. The bird reportedly softens the smokiness of the mezcal and the richness of the wild fruit. Apparently not every mezcalero uses chicken when making pechuga; some use turkey or rabbit or even deer meat. If you want to try it, both Del Maguey and Fidencio offer bottlings. Just don't spring them on vegetarians.

Around the World, Around the World

Aquavit is never made with extra protein in the still, but one Norwegian brand, Linie, goes a few extra miles to produce its caraway-infused spirit. Linie is the Norwegian word for equator, and the spirit is shipped in oak casks across the equator twice, from Norway to Australia and then back again. Linie claims the ocean voyage improves the taste, by gently rocking the spirit in its barrels and introducing sea air into the casks.

In 2012, Jefferson's Bourbon introduced a limited edition that sailed aboard a ship for three and a half years. Gimmick or no, expect other producers to experiment with this in the future.

Burn It With Fire

One old ritual that probably won't be revived any time soon is one that was practiced by Peruvians in a frontier town called Cerro Baúl. They brewed up a batch of corn beer, drank it, and then as they abandoned the town, they purposely burned the brewery down. Not a good business model for today's microbrewers.

Greaves' Rules

It's Saturday night and time to meet your friends for a few rounds of drinks. You get there early, and as a good friend, you offer to pick up the first round. Sean takes the second round, and then Kira gets the third. But you know there's always a guy who seems to duck out when it's his turn. Maybe no one says anything, or maybe you rib him for being a cheapskate, but nevertheless everyone seems to realized that he's cheating. After all, it's an unspoken rule that everyone has to pitch in.

Or is it unspoken? In the 1990s, a British journalist named William Greaves codified this etiquette in a column in a UK newspaper. Now called Greaves' Rules, the list of suggestions spells out what's expected of you when tippling with friends.

Swedish Singing Toasts

Apparently saying "cheers!" or "bottom's up!" isn't enough anymore. Swedes sing when they toast. The Spiritmuseum in Stockholm is a museum focused on the "Swedish people's bittersweet relationship to alcohol". The museum has archived more than 9,000 snapsvisor, or drinking songs. Here's one example from the museum's web site:

Herring and Sill (Text: Christer Engström)

You can give us herring And you can give us sill But you will still be erring Unless you also will Give us a glass of Akvavit That sure smells sweet To Swedes in heat It gives the fish its feet It makes the dish complete...

Swedes in heat. I'll leave you with that image.