by Katryna Balboni
Pick your poison, pirates! No vacation is complete without a glass or two (or twelve?) of the strong stuff. But what you drink often depends on where you travel.
So instead of wandering the streets of Beijing looking for a decent margarita, why not plan your next vacation according to your favorite liquor and enjoy your beloved beverage at its best! Find your alcohol of choice in the list below and get inspired!
Editor's Note: If you are, in fact, currently wandering the streets of Beijing looking for a decent margarita, we hear the ones at The Taco Bar are nice.
Many people, when they think of absinthe, think of Prague. The Czech capital has enthusiastically embraced this association, meaning you can now find the bright green alcohol served up with flaming sugar cubes and elaborate ritual at bars and nightclubs throughout the city.
However, if you’re looking to experience absinthe at its herbal, bohemian, Toulouse Lautrec-y finest, you should head to Paris. At the height of its popularity in the 19th century, absinthe could be found in bars, cafés and cabarets all over the French capital.
Today, you can relive the Green Fairy’s glory days with a visit to Montmartre, where you can sip on refined French absinthe in a cozy cafe or admire some fancy footwork at the Moulin Rouge.
Kentucky, United States
Nothing says Kentucky like bourbon. The corn-based whiskey evolved in the 19th century after distillation was introduced to the American South by European settlers. While it may not have been the United States’ first spirit (that honor actually goes to rum), bourbon developed into what many think of as the quintessential American liquor.
Although the amber liquor can technically be produced anywhere in the country, the vast majority comes from Kentucky, making the southern state the place to go for bourbon aficionados — whether you prefer Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey or Jim Beam.
Still trying to figure out where your brand loyalties lie? Head out on the Kentucky Bourbon trail and try them all!
It’s no secret that the English love their gin, but did you know that the juniper-flavored beverage was actually invented in the Netherlands?
Derived from the Dutch spirit jenever, gin became hugely popular in England during the 17th and 18th centuries (a little too popular, actually — by the mid-1700s, the average Englishman was drinking over two gallons of gin a year!). Things may have calmed down a bit, but gin is still the national liquor of England and you can find world-class gin-and-tonics served up in both swanky lounges and quiet pubs across the length and breadth of the country.
If you want to learn more about your favorite tipple, consider escaping the hustle and bustle of London with a trip to Bombay Sapphire's sleek glass distillery in rural Hampshire county.
Fun fact: India is the world's largest consumer of rum. But chances are, if you're looking for a rum-soaked getaway, you're dreaming of swaying palm trees, Caribbean breezes and thatched bars serving up colorful cocktails with little umbrellas.
There are many takes on the sugarcane-based beverage — from the crisp, dry spirit of Cuba, to the smoky, vanilla-y notes of Guyana's liquor — but if you're looking for the OG of rums, you're best best is Barbados, birthplace of Rihanna and (probably) rum.
Home to Mount Gay, the world's oldest rum brand, Barbados also is famous for its rich history, welcoming people and gorgeous beaches. Whether your dream vacation involves wearing pieces from the Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville Lifestyle collection or sipping on afternoon tea and catching a game of cricket, Barbados has you covered. Either way, come evening (or noon? It's always 5 o'clock somewhere) you can't go wrong with a glass of the dark stuff.
Fruit brandy — or rakija — is popular throughout Southeastern Europe. While you can find the fruity firewater all over the region, nowhere does rakija quite like Serbia. Served in fine restaurants and made in small batches at home, rakija is the national drink of Serbia and is consumed with vigor at both nightclubs and funerals.
Serbia may just be most the welcoming, hard-partying, culturally rich travel destination you’ve never considered. From the nightlife in Belgrade (which rivals that of Berlin) to the art nouveau beauty of Subotica to the traditional villages dotting the mountainous countryside, Serbia is one of the most rewarding off-the-radar destinations in Europe.
Best of all, this Baltic gem is incredibly cheap compared to its neighbors, meaning your dollar will go far (more money for rakija!).
Tequila was first produced when, faced with the horrifying prospect of going without their beloved brandy, Spanish conquistadors got crafty and began distilling liquor from the juice of the agave plant. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention.
Today, tequila is often maligned as the harbinger of epic hangovers and hazy recollections of the night before. But the quintessential Mexican spirit comes in a variety of forms, some of which are surprisingly complex and sophisticated.
The agave-based liquor is primarily produced in the Mexican state of Jalisco, which should be stop numero uno for tequila lovers, whether you're looking to delve deeper into the world of this misunderstood spirit or you’re simply in the market for a first-class margarita.
One of the easiest ways to experience “tequila country” is aboard one of the tequila-themed trains that run from Guadalajara. The Tequila Express will take you to the town of Amatitán — home of the Herradura distillery — while the Jose Cuervo Express takes you to the town of Tequila and the Cuervo distillery.
New York, United States
The history of vodka, unlike the alcohol itself, is unclear. Russians and Poles both claim the liquor as their own, but the fact is that both peoples have been drinking some form of vodka since the Middle Ages. And by all accounts, neither group has ever looked back — today the average Russian downs a staggering 17.3 shots of the clear spirit per month, with the average Pole trailing behind at a still-impressive 13.7 shots per month.
You could settle the debate over which nation makes the better spirit with a multi-country trip to Eastern Europe — or you could simply head to New York and spend a few days drinking your way through the Big Apple’s thriving Russian and Polish enclaves.
Polish communities in Greenpoint (otherwise known as Little Poland) and Ridgewood, Queens are sure to have strong opinions on the superiority of Polish vodkas.
Likewise, the residents of Brighton Beach — home to the largest Russian-speaking community in the United States — will have much to say in favor of Russian varieties.
Ireland & Scotland, United Kingdom
We're not even going to touch the debate on this one. Scotch and Irish whiskies are alcohols with strong characters and rich histories. Chances are, if you have firm opinions on the merits of Scotch versus Irish whiskey, you're set in your whisky/whiskey ways.
But it never hurts to keep an open mind, which is why fans of either beverage should consider a two-for-one trip to both countries for a good ol' Gaelic drink-off.
Head out on the Irish Whiskey Trail to sample the best of Ireland's "brown stuff," while exploring the rolling hills and green pastures of the Irish countryside. Then jet to Scotland to drink your fill of smoky amber liquors and experience the country's misty moors, brooding castles and rugged landscapes.
Baijiu is the best-selling liquor in the world, but we’ll forgive you if you’ve never even heard of it, let alone tried the stuff. This Chinese spirit is typically distilled from sorghum and packs a punch similar to vodka (in other words, drink it slowly).
For novice drinkers, the earthy taste of baijiu can take some getting used to — but chances are you weren’t totally in love with IPAs or Scotch whisky the first time you tried those either.
No matter where in China you go, you’re sure to find plenty of baijiu on offer. But to experience this ancient liquor at its finest, thirsty travelers should head to its birthplace in the southwestern province of Sichuan — home to dramatic mountain landscapes, famously spicy cuisine and everybody’s favorite black-and-white bears.
If you’re looking to sample this beverage closer to home, the soon-to-reopen Lumos bar in New York serves up creative baijiu cocktails with flair. A bit of a mixologist yourself? BaijiuAmerica provides some fantastic recipes, as well as a locator map to help you find local stores that stock the hard-to-find spirit.
Feeling inspired? You can use our fight search tool to find flights to any of the destinations above. Simply enter your home airport and destination city and voilà! You’re on your way to your next great adventure (and cocktail)!