Australia -- pretensions to sophistication, but pronounce Sauvignon "Sav"
South Korea -- where late-night drinking sessions grease the wheels of industry
Ecuador -- local tipple is called "hangover in a bottle"
St Patrick’s Day is upon us again. Time for the drinking world to pull on an unamusing leprechaun hat and order pints of the black stuff in a fake Irish accent.
But why do we only celebrate the Emerald Isle’s contribution to conviviality when there are other nations out there who love to wallow in drink just as much?
In the interest of equality, we herewith embark on a global pub crawl to see who else we should invite to the party.
Promise to drink responsibly and you can join us.
Australians are no longer the great drinkers they once were.
Unlikely as it seems for a country where culture usually refers to something that grows in the folds of discarded sportswear, many Aussies have become refined in their tastes.
Cheap lager is no longer cheap and, regardless, beer has been usurped by fancy wines.
Still, they have a fine legacy. This is a country whose former prime minister, the legendary Bob Hawke, was once in the Guinness Book of Records for sculling 2.5 pints of beer in 2.5 seconds.
Old habits die hard though, so if you do go drinking with Australians, you must still abide by the rules of “the shout.” This means once you’ve accepted a drink as part of a round, you’re obliged to “shout” everyone else a beverage in return – a costly business now that they’re all on the wine.
Classic drink: “Cardonay” or a “Sav” – typically Austral-mangled wine varietals consumed either pre- or post-stubbie (of beer).
Hangover cure: Cold, leftover pizza, pies, fry-ups, 3 a.m. souvlakis and even Vegemite and cheese sandwiches are all favorites. But sculling 2.5 pints of beer in 2.5 seconds will do the trick every time.*
*CNN does not recommend this. Nor will it clean up afterward.
Think of Germany and the chances are you’re thinking of a flaxen-haired fraulein hauling vast steins of beer through crowds of moustachioed men in leather shorts to the sound of an oompah band.
Or perhaps you think about Angela Merkel. Each to their own.
Germans may not be Europe’s biggest beer drinkers – that honor goes to the Czechs – but somehow they’ve cornered the market in celebrating its consumption. This is largely thanks to Oktoberfest, Bavaria’s month-long answer to St. Patrick’s Day.
In reality, although Germans do have a taste for hops, barley, malt and water, most drink steadily in rather more mundane circumstances.
This is because beer can be bought and consumed not just in bars, but in shops, gas stations, newspaper stands and on public transport. Often without the aid of lederhosen or the sound of parping brass.
Classic drink: White wine spritzer. Nah, just kidding. It’s beer.
Hangover cure: Herring and raw onion. But you’ll need more beer to fix your herring breath.
Uganda leads its African neighbors for alcohol intake, largely thanks to a rampant trade in illegally made rotgut and a winning formula of booze made from bananas.
High on the menu is a potent liquor called waragi, also known as war gin because it was once used to fortify troops. Though drinking too much inevitably leads to surrender.
Classic drink: Ajono – a semi-fermented beer drunk from communal pots using long straws.
Hangover cure: Luwombo – another winning formula: meat cooked in banana leaves.
7. South Korea
In South Korea, booze acts like a pressure valve, allowing people to vent frustrations. Booze also acts as a lubricant, oiling the wheels of business.
And, of course, booze acts like booze, getting people drunk.
South Korea’s strict social protocols seem to dissolve in alcohol, with the most hierarchical of relationships turning to brotherhoods by the end of the night, or early morning. A good session involves rapidly soaking up as many “bombs” (mixtures using “golden ratios” of whiskey and beer) as possible and then speaking (or slurring) what’s left of your mind, preferably to your boss.
To aid this process, glasses are emptied and quickly filled. Later, inevitably, stomachs are filled and quickly emptied.
Classic drink: Soju – to fans, a spirit capable of saving souls. To critics, cheap, sweet vodka.
Hangover cure: Haejangguk – a spicy ox blood broth. Sounds like a hangover, tastes like a cure.
How to survive a drinking session in South Korea
This tiny former Soviet state has earned a reputation for boozing thanks to some World Health Organization stats that placed it top of the table (surely under the table?) for alcohol consumption.
There’s been a lot of grumbling about where these numbers came from, particularly as they indicate most people would be too sozzled to respond accurately to any survey.
If they are drinking to excess, the Moldovans have a decent selection of homegrown wines to choose from.
They also have their own versions of popular East European fruit brandies. These have the same effect as knocking yourself on the head with a hammer, but without the unnecessary expense of buying a hammer.
Classic drink: Boza – a sweet, malty fermentation only marginally less disgusting than pickle juice.
Hangover cure: Pickle juice.
You know you’re off to a bad start when the local liquor is known as “hangover in a bottle.” The best-selling Zhamir is a cheap but brain-penetratingly potent juice made from sugar cane that will get even the hairs on your head drunk after a couple of sips.
There is a drinking etiquette in Ecuador. You must wait until a toast is made until you take the first sip of your drink. After that, you’re on your own, but it hardly matters since no one – least of all you – will remember anything about it.
Classic drink: Cristal. Another headbanging local hooch, not the posh champagne.
Hangover cure: In a country known for its coffee, obviously the best cure is oregano tea.
The French may sneer at the uncivilized drinking habits of their European neighbors, but they’re usually sneering with a glass of French vin close at hand.
In France, wine is consumed alongside every meal except breakfast. It’s often more freely available, and cheaper, than water.
Only French wines will do though. Despite regularly losing taste tests to New World rivals, the French remain steadfastly loyal to their own vineyards, almost to the point of denial.
Supermarkets rarely sell alcohol that isn’t French. They’re happy to eat snails, but they won’t touch Belgian beer.
Classic drink: Chateauneuf-du-Pape – bold, peppery and over-confident. In other words: French.
Hangover cure: Onion soup. Sorry, French onion soup.
For better or worse, drinking is a way of life in Russia. Not something that’s necessarily done for enjoyment, but something that’s stoically endured. Like a Siberian winter, gloomy literature or a shirtless political leader.
Classic drink: Vodka.
Hangover cure: Vodka.
China’s rapid economic expansion has seen it become a major consumer of oil, steel and other raw materials. With all that thirsty work, it must surely also have its eyes on the rest of the world’s refreshments.
In the meantime, apart from Shanghai billionaires splurging on US$10,000 bottles of Chateau Margaux, the Chinese mostly stick to fiery grain-based liquors.
The Chinese love celebratory drinking. Weddings, birthdays and business deals are all good excuses. Drinking takes the form of a series of increasingly incomprehensible toasts. To the outsider, this might seem tortuous. Just wait until the karaoke starts.
Classic drink: Baijiu – a white spirit that can also be used to clean vomit from inside a taxi.
Hangover cure: Congee – a porridge-like soup that unfortunately resembles stuff that could have been cleaned out of a taxi.
1. Great Britain
While the Irish have one date to celebrate their country’s abiding love of alcohol, the British have three: yesterday, today and tomorrow.
The near-constant drinking in the UK revolves around the pub. After a few pints, sometimes the pub begins to revolve, too.
Alcohol is used by many Brits to overcome their traditional reserve. And so pubs are the places where relationships begin and end, deals are struck, scores are settled and the whole theater of life plays out to its dramatic conclusion.
A range of light snacks may also be available.
Classic drink: Pint of bitter – traditional ale that, contrary to popular belief, is rarely served warm.
Hangover cure: Full English breakfast – a greasy plate of fried meat that, contrary to health and safety regulations, is rarely served warm.