By Nikki Bayley
If you're planning a trip to the capital this week, try to catch London Cocktail Week, which celebrates that most civilised of pastimes, getting pleasantly blootered with a divinely decadent drink in your hand. More than 200 bars will be serving bespoke drinks, so hop on board the special vintage buses and take a tour of London's finest drinking establishments. To get in the mood, we've decided to make a virtual tour of our top ten favourite tipples from around the world.
There are few things we love more than a good party, especially a party that has its own special drink-in-a-stick. The annual Winter Carnaval in Quebec City is probably the most fun you can have in the snow and it's the only place to drink a Caribou. Caribou is served up in a hollow striped walking stick; a sugary blend of maple syrup, port, mineral water and brandy, designed to make you forget the -10°C weather and instead concentrate on grooving like the Carnaval's mascot 'Bonhomme' instead.
London to Heathrow Airport Taxi
Portugal - Ginjinha
If you love sour cherries and you like a drink, you will adore the sweet-sour taste of Ginjinha. I'd read about it before I went to Lisbon for the first time and couldn't wait to give it a whirl. It arrived served in a long shot glass, chilling in its very own bowl of crushed ice. Nice. Rather wonderfully, the town of Óbidos, on the west coast serves it up in its own little edible chocolate cup. Yet another reason to head to Portugal.
That long siesta snooze, the late-night dining and all those sunny beaches... no wonder Spain is one of the most popular places for us Brits to visit. But when you ponder the tradition of the café carajillo, you can see the real attraction starts at breakfast time. Try the PG version - a shot of espresso along with a shot of brandy that your waiter sets alight to burn the alcohol off. Or go for the over-18s version, with a teeth-rattlingly strong espresso and a side of brandy, rum or a creamy liqueur like the very more-ish Crema Catalana.
Croatia - Maraska Kruskovac
The many charms of Croatia are becoming increasingly obvious to the British travel market, and one of those charms, for me at least, is Maraska Kruskovac, a gorgeous pear liqueur. Ignore its scary yellow colour, trust me, try it over ice and get ready to become just another hopeless convert to its vanilla-y, honey-ish delight. It's made from the pears that grow along the Dalmation coast, which has to count as one of your five a day, right?!
The first time I had a sip of Rivela I was hooked. Gorgeous! Hmm, but what was that mystery taste in the much-loved Swiss soft drink? Berries? Honey? Er, what's that? Milk whey? Um... wow. Yes, as well as being famous for their love of cuckoo clocks and chocolate, the Swiss, it seems, are also mad for a fizzy milk-based drink. But it's lovely. Really! They even do a fizzy soy version for the lactose-intolerant.
- London Gatwick Transfer
Malta - Kinnie
One for the non-drinkers, this tipple is a real love it or hate it drink. Kinnie is Malta's favourite soft drink. It's made from herbs and bitter oranges, and unlike most fizzy drinks, it's not at all sweet. That first swig of an ice-cool Kinnie is definitely a bit of a shock. It's sour and aromatic, very grown-up, not a kids' drink at all. But oh, it's so refreshing! I've never found it anywhere but Malta, perhaps they like to keep the good stuff all to themselves...
Mmm, beer. Mmm, cocktails. But a beer cocktail? How about a beery-Bloody Mary? Sounds bad, but in Mexico it sort of feels (and tastes) just right. Start with an icy-cold beer and then add either tomato juice, or clamato juice (yup, tomatoes with clams) along with salt, lime, tabasco sauce and powdered chile. Make sure the rim of the glass is dipped in salt and chile too for that extra kick. Boom!
Brazil - Cachaça
If you're thinking about Brazil, then you're probably imagining Rio or maybe Sao Paulo, but I think you should be pondering the magic of Belo Horizonte, in Minas Gerais, instead. It's the bar capital of Brazil, in the state which makes the best cachaça in the world, which is made from sugar cane and the main ingredient in those sweetly-lethal caipirinhas. Leave the white cachaça for cocktails and hunt down an aged golden sipping cachaça instead...
No round-up piece on drinking would be complete without a mention for Japan and their love of truly crazy drinks. It was a toss-up between the memorably weird 'Water Salad' (yup, all the nutrition of a salad and the hydration of, er, water) and 'Kids Beer' - and with a slogan like 'Even kids cannot stand life unless they have a drink!' I think you know who the real winner is.
London Cars Airport Transfer
Sri Lanka - Toddy
One of the most common sights in Sri Lanka is the King Coconut trees swaying in the breeze, with their characteristic orangey-yellow coconuts. Delicious to drink neat from the coconut, the canny Sri Lankans make a sweet instantly-intoxicating brew from the sap of the flowers too. It's called Toddy and if you ever get offered any, say yes. Just don't make any plans for afterwards...