Beyond Vodka, Gin, and Whisky: What Other Countries Drink

Every culture seems to have its own alcoholic beverages, and some of the lesser-known ones are well worth discovering

It is not unusual to find a bottle of cachaça behind the bar in U.S. establishments these days. 

People all over the world drink vodka, gin, scotch or bourbon, and other popular varieties of liquor — but in many countries, there are also native "wines" and spirits that are comparable in popularity. One of the best things about globalization is that we now have access to most of these drinks in the United States, but nothing compares to drinking them with the locals. Here are 10 "wines" and spirits that other countries enjoy at their versions of the corner bar. 

Beyond Vodka, Gin, and Whisky: What Other Countries Drink (Slideshow)

Liquor has purposes besides recreation. Historically, it was often used as a medicine or disinfectant. Nowadays, we like to infuse booze into desserts or wash cheese with it. However, it can be dangerous when not consumed responsibly. We encourage readers to learn about the different ways the world enjoys alcohol, but we do not encourage excessive drinking. When traveling, please be respectful of the etiquette surrounding alcohol consumption wherever you are. It doesn’t hurt to be aware of a few drinking customs around the world before you hop on a plane.

Most countries have their own national beers of preference, such as Sapporo in Japan or Kingfisher in India, and the same is true for spirits. Some of the examples on this list, such as cachaça and pisco, are making their way onto cocktail menus around the world, while others, like Sri Lanka’s arrack, not so much. As various cuisines become more popular, so do particular spirits; think of how eating Korean barbecue and drinking soju go hand in hand.

Wine is simply fermented fruit juice, whether from grapes or some other variety, or some other food containing sugar or convertible starch (like rice). It is important, though, to note the difference between spirits and liqueur. Spirits are made by distilling wine or other fermented liquid; liqueur is a spirit that has been flavored and sweetened, as in the case of honey- or cinnamon-flavored liqueurs you might want to enjoy on romantic or familial holidays or the range of herbal specialties like Chartreuse or Jägermeister. Liquor is just another word for spirits. If you didn’t know this already, you can cross it off your list of questions about booze you are afraid to ask.

Take a tour of the world through some of its most beloved spirits.

Arak (Lebanon)

Arak is unsweetened and colorless, but when water is added, arak adopts a cloudy white hue.


Arak is unsweetened and colorless, but when water is added, arak adopts a cloudy white hue.

Arak is a traditional aniseed-flavored alcoholic beverage you’ll find in many Middle Eastern countries. Distilled from grapes, it is unsweetened and colorless, but when water is added, arak adopts a cloudy white hue as a result of emulsification (essential oils of anise are soluble in alcohol, but not water). There are over 20 commercial producers of arak in Lebanon alone. It is similar to the Greek ouzo, the Turkish rakı, and the French pastis, which are also flavored with anise.

Arrack (Sri Lanka, etc.)


While arrack sounds exactly like the Middle Eastern arak, and is even spelled “arak” in Indonesia, it is a very different spirit, with no anise flavoring; it is sometimes compared to rum. Arrack is enjoyed in India  Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Indonesia. In Sri Lanka, it is made from the fermented sap of coconut flowers, while other countries use fermented grain, sugarcane, or fruit. Colors can vary, but it is usually brown.