Cocktails & Culture

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Published on: January 31st, 2018

Last modified: December 28th, 2023

Cocktails and culture are two of the greatest joys in life. From a flawless negroni to a refreshing pisco sour, journey back to the origin of your favourite drinks and explore how, when and where they came to fruition. Once you've tasted your best-loved cocktail in its native home, dive into the rich culture of Latin America and Europe.

The Pisco Sour: Produced In Peru

While the cocktail itself appears to be a simple concoction of alcohol, citrus, egg whites and sugar syrup, its base spirit, pisco, holds a complex history that dates back to the 16th century. The birthplace of the pisco sour has been widely disputed between Peru and Chile. Though both South American countries may be neighbours, both have distinct cultures and traditions that reflect on their individual takes on the pisco sour itself. Despite their historical differences, on the first Saturday of every February, it is World Pisco Sour Day – an event that unites the entire continent.

With World Pisco Sour Day fast-approaching on February 4, as well as Carnival falling in the same month, travellers have a series of cultural celebrations to look forward to. During the Carnival, parades sweep the city with stunning floats while locals dress in brightly coloured costumes doing the “pandilla”, a traditional Peruvian dance. It truly is a majestic spectacle for locals and travellers alike.


The Margarita: Made In Mexico

Referred to as the quintessential drink of Mexico, margaritas are king in this colourful country. Much like Mexico itself, the history behind the margarita is an evocative tale. Some say the cocktail was first invented by a man named Carlos “Danny” Herrera in the 1930s; others claim it was a Dallas socialite named Margarita Sames. But no matter how contested the history of the cocktail is, there is no denying it is one of the most popular drinks to date. Although there are many different interpretations today, a typical margarita mix still consists of the basics: tequila, lime juice and Cointreau with additional flavours including spice, salt and sugar.

Where better to enjoy this classic cocktail than in its native home, Mexico. Sip on a frozen margarita off the Caribbean coastline before exploring archaeological ruins and the natural wonders of the Yucatan. After a long day of adventure, retreat to your hacienda and unwind with a perfectly prepared margarita in your hand.

The Negroni: Found In Florence

The bittersweet negroni can be traced back to 1919 in Florence, Italy. Its elements consist of Campari, sweet vermouth and gin. For almost a century, the cocktail remained a silent favourite and was always readily available in Italian restaurants and bars around the world. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the negroni made its way into the mixology world and established itself as a timeless classic.

Paying tribute to Florence’s native drink, Cristian Guitti, one of Italy’s most prominent bartenders, opened the “Bitter Bar” located in the booming Sant’Ambrogio district. Pair your hunt for the perfect negroni with a stroll off the beaten path, where you’ll find yourself in the centre of a bustling market, filled with fresh seafood, meat, cheese and homemade pasta.

The Hot Toddy: Shaped In Scotland

Also known as hot whisky, a hot toddy is typically a combination of a spirit (whisky, rum or brandy), water, honey and spices. It is a drink best served hot, making it a winter classic and a seasonal favourite. Not only is the hot toddy absolutely delicious, it is also believed to alleviate flu-like symptoms.

When in Scotland, taking a tour around a whisky distillery is a must. Head to Speyside to get a taste of the big names such as The Glenlivet and The Macallan or book a private tour and tasting at Ballindalloch, another historic estate that boasts its own distillery. One of the coolest things to do in Scotland is to take a ride on the Jacobite steam train, famously known as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter movies. Not only is this train a global icon, it provides you with the luxury of viewing the stunning landscapes of the West Coast from the comfort of your first-class seat.

The White Russian: Blended In Belgium

The white Russian is a cocktail made with vodka, coffee liqueur and cream, served over ice. With no correlation to its name, the White Russian was actually conceived in Belgium in 1949. A barman by the name of Gustave Tops created the milkshake-resembling beverage, along with its sister cocktail, the Black Russian – a White Russian without any cream – at the Hotel Metropole in Brussels. Here’s a fun fact: although the cocktail had become somewhat popular, it wasn’t until the release of the cult classic film, The Big Lebowski, that the drink shot to newfound heights of superstardom.

To trace the White Russian all the way back to its roots, visit the Hotel Metropole in Brussels before enjoying an array of activities in the surrounding area. The Librairie Tropismes is just one of the many spectacular sites nearby. Deemed one of the most beautiful bookshops in Belgium, this architectural gem is a must-see, filled with literary classics. And of course, you can always indulge in Belgium’s famous fries, waffles and beer along the way.

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