Every four years, the FIFA World Cup gives fans a chance to watch vibrant cultures from around the world express themselves on the soccer field. For the 2018 tournament, Russia will host players and fans from 31 other countries around the world, each with its own soccer traditions — and each with its own distinctive drinking culture. We’ve selected a signature beverage from every World Cup nation, from the Brazilian caipirinha to South Korean soju to Saudi Arabian coffee.
For people in most countries on this list, the drink that best represents their nation — perhaps the drink they’ll nervously sip before kickoff or swallow in one celebratory gulp after a goal — is some kind of intoxicant, though some countries' proudest traditions involve coffee, tea, or fruit juice.
You will see distinctive national or regional spirits like pisco, rakija, akvavit, and ginja, as well as lively cocktails, shandies, and proud signature beers and wines — not necessarily the most popular beverage in each country but its most culturally distinctive. The contestants are ordered according to their FIFA ranking, so look for the true underdogs near the end — and read on to discover the signature drink of every nation in the 2018 World Cup.
Powerhouse Germany is almost as dependable a presence in the World Cup semifinals as beer is at a sports bar or kneipe. Germany is at the center of Europe’s “beer belt,” and the famous Bavarian Reinheitsgebot of 1516 standardized the formula for basic, regular brew. Germany won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and has a good chance to repeat this year in Russia; beer, on the other hand, is guaranteed to win. Just crack open a can, because most of America’s most popular beers follow the German template.
Brazil’s undisputed national cocktail is made from the national spirit, cachaça, which differs from most rum in that it’s made from sugarcane juice instead of molasses. There’s always a good chance you’ll see a lot of Brazil in the World Cup, so look up a few different caipirinha recipes and find out a few other things you might not have known about Brazilian cuisine.
Begium’s current national squad, staffed with elite players from the world’s best leagues, has been a connoisseur's favorite over the last decade. In much the same way, beer snobs rave over Belgium’s proud and diverse beer culture to the extent that we struggled to select tripel over dubbel, lambic, and others as the nation’s signature, but the strong yet balanced brew seemed the best analog for the fancied Red Devils. Belgian brews are all over our list of the world’s 50 best beers.
You’ve probably heard of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, a fixture in debates over the world’s best player. You may not have heard of ginja, a Portuguese liqueur infused with sour cherry. It’s typically served as a shot with a piece of fruit in the bottom of the glass. If you can’t find ginja, try a cocktail made with another signature Portuguese spirit.
The recipe for Argentina's signature highball is straightforward — just mix Fernet Branca and cola — but it delivers impressive depth. The Italian amaro and the soft drink combine to create a rich blend of bold, subtle, sweet, and herbal flavors. Like Argentina’s storied national team, the cocktail combines some of the best elements from both the Old World and the New.
It seems inappropriate to pin down a single drink for Switzerland, a nation of many proud local cultures. Fruit brandies are popular, though, and the most widely traditional is kirsch, which is made from cherries. Switzerland also produces fresh, fruity wines, and absinthe was invented in Neuchâtel. If you really want to go all out for Suisse, throw a ‘70s fondue party (or better yet, serve your guests raclette) to go with your brandy cocktails.
Celebratory Champagne seems inappropriate, since France hasn’t won a World Cup title since 1998. Fortunately, the nation is known for its many great wines, so much so that picking just one is nearly impossible. We took the easy way out and choose the classic red Bordeaux, which has long been one of France’s most famous exports. So while you’re yelling Allez les Bleus!, try not to spill one of these reasonably priced Bordeaux reds.
Poland probably invented vodka, as many Poles will proudly remind tournament host Russia. But Poland has definitely perfected the art of infusing vodka with other flavors in the regional spirit called nalewka. There are traditional nalewka varieties based on fruit, spices, herbs, honey, and even walnuts (but thankfully none based on kale).
While it’s tempting to go with bubbly cava because Spain’s powerful squad celebrated an unbroken string of World Cup and European championships from 2008 to 2012, sangria is the perfect relaxing summertime drink to enjoy while watching La Furia Roja calmly suffocate opponents with passing and ball possession. Try this fresh and fruity sangria that’s roughly the color of the team’s shirts.
Peru and Chile both claim the grape brandy called pisco as a national spirit, but most agree that the pisco sour was invented in Lima, and Peru celebrates an official National Pisco Sour Day. This recipe explains how to make the classic cocktail — and details the drink’s surprising American roots.
Akvavit is a Scandinavian spirit that can be compared to a gin flavored with caraway, and Danish versions often include dill. Cardamom, cumin, anise, fennel, and citrus are also frequently used. Akvavit (or aquavit) is increasingly trendy at bars, and distilleries are starting to produce it in the United States.
Most English supporters of the Three Lions might prefer a straightforward pint, and the English are famously fond of both tea and gin. But for Anglophile Americans who want to support the country that codified the rules for football, the refreshing Pimm’s cup is a very proper summer tipple to enjoy while affecting an accent and referring to the playing field as a “pitch.” Even after England inevitably goes out on penalties, a Pimm’s cup will still be one of the best drinks for a backyard barbecue.
Like its larger neighbor Argentina, Uruguay, winner of the first two World Cups, boasts a proud soccer heritage — and a taste for the invigorating herbal drink called mate. As on the soccer field, Uruguay punches above its weight in mate consumption, leading the world by drinking 19 liters per person each year.
While Mexico brews some delicious cervezas, tequila (along with its close cousin mezcal) has to be considered the nation’s signature drink. The agave-based spirit is only made in the world’s most populous Spanish-speaking country, and much like El Tri, tequila serves as a noteworthy ambassador for Mexican culture worldwide. Shake things up with one of these unexpected ways to drink tequila.
Colombia’s signature drink is a mixture of beer and Colombiana brand cola, sometimes with a shot of the national spirit aguardiente tossed in. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it — Colombia is one of only two World Cup countries that touches the equator, and Colombians know that a shandy (a mixture of beer and a nonalcoholic drink) is a refreshing way to beat the summer heat.
Look, we don’t want to start anything, but along with mutually intelligible languages and quite a bit of shared heritage and cultural tradition, Croatia and Serbia share an affection for rakija, a Balkan spirit distilled from fruit. Croatia has a vibrant national cuisine and is also a noted wine-producing region — another popular drink is gemišt, a spritzer made from the nation’s fruity white wines.
Iceland is the smallest nation (by population) ever to qualify for the World Cup, and their plucky squad won hearts worldwide with a courageous run in the 2016 European Championship. Vodka brand Reyka has made an active pitch to position the country as the underdog favorite for fans of countries that didn’t make the tournament (like the United States), but the Viking nation’s signature spirit is brennivín, a caraway-tinged distillate that was among the first to be made available when the formerly dry country permitted liquor sales in 1935.
Sweden is home to plenty of vodka and beer, sure, but one Swedish tipple you probably won’t find anywhere else is punsch, a sugary liqueur based on South Asian arrack. It may be served warm, chilled, in cocktails, or even mixed with wine. One charmingly precise tradition is to serve it specifically on Thursdays alongside pea soup.
Another predominantly Muslim country, Senegal doesn’t have a signature booze. But the country’s natural bounty means a variety of fruit juices are popular there. The most interesting is a drink called buy, made from the fruit of the baobab tree.
Look, we don’t want to start anything, but along with mutually intelligible languages and quite a bit of shared heritage and cultural tradition, Serbia and Croatia do share an affection for rakija, a Balkan spirit distilled from fruit. Serbians also enjoy beer, which was introduced from neighboring Hungary in the 15th century.
The Sydney Morning Herald pondered the question of Australia’s national drink in 2014, and the only clear conclusion they reached was that Foster’s is not necessarily “Australian for beer.” While Australians do love their beer, we’ll yield to local wisdom and concur with The Herald’s selection of Penfold’s, a popular brand of wines that stems from one of the first wineries established in what is now a leading wine-producing nation.
Ninety percent of Egyptians abstain from alcohol, according to data from the World Health Organization, but beer has been brewed in the Nile Delta since before the construction of the Pyramids. One regional variety called bouza is homebrewed from bread and barley and is often flavored with mint or other spices.
Palm wine goes by a number of names in multilingual Nigeria, and it’s popular in much of Africa and South and Southeast Asia. It’s made from the sap of palm trees, which ferments due to natural yeasts within hours of being tapped, meaning it’s often sipped fresh, though bottled versions can be found at some import markets in the U.S.
Koreans have been making soju since at least the 14th century, when Mongol invaders introduced distillation techniques from the Middle East. Traditionally made from rice, soju can come across as a more restrained vodka with a sweeter flavor. It can be drunk straight or used in a wide variety of cocktails.
Sake is so fundamental to Japanese drinking culture that what we know as “sake” in the West is called nihonshu (Japanese alcohol) in Japan. The unique drink, often called a “wine” but brewed from rice using processes similar to those that turn grains into beer, can be crafted to express a wide variety of flavors and can be served chilled, at room temperature, or heated.
Alcohol is illegal in Saudi Arabia, but like many Middle Eastern nations, it boasts one of the world’s most interesting coffee cultures. It might be just as well if you’re planning to drink along — Saudi Arabia’s opening game, against Russia, will be broadcast at 11 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast.
As noted above, Russians drink a lot. Spirits make up 51 percent of the total alcohol consumed in the country, and Russians might feel like they could use another drink if their aging, lightly regarded squad flops as the home team on the world stage. The most neutral of common spirits is typically drunk straight in Russia, in shot form — but if you’re not trying to lead the world in alcohol consumption, we recommend mixing it into one of these 10 quick and easy vodka cocktails.
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