21 Drinking Rituals From Around The World

It seems that every culture has its own customs, festivals, drinks, and practices associated with its alcohol. Some funny, others sacred, still others a little odd, every country brings to the table a different ritual steeped in its own history. Many of these rituals are practiced to bring people together, and build a sense of community while enjoying their favorite drink. Here are 21 of the most interesting drinking rituals from around the world.
Thailand - The Bucket

Many associate the "Thai Bucket" with backpackers visiting the country to experience something new and different. In reality, the bucket was a drink created to promote communal drinking in the country. Not a traditional drink with dinner, many Thailand-lovers enjoy buckets when they go out to their local disco or bar for the evening. This is one drinking ritual that will bring everyone to the table, and their straws into the bucket.

Sweden - Snapsvisor

The ritual "snapsvisor" is very much alive in Sweden. It involves singing traditional drinking songs while making toasts at an event or gathering. There are over 2,000 traditional Swedish drinking songs known and sung, many of them still passed through word of mouth from generation to generation. These songs are sung to promote good health, and to sing the glory of the "snap" (or small drink) the singer is about to indulge in.

Serbia - Slivovitz

In Serbia, people drink Slivovitz like they do coffee - often, and in large quantities. Slivovitz is a distilled beverage made from Damson plums, sometimes called plum brandy. Most Slivovitz is produced in-home, and consumed there as well. It also has a large following from expatriates, with some companies producing the liquer all over the world to satisfy the demand for this sweet cordial.

Germany - Oktoberfest

This sixteen day festival held in Munich every year in late September and early October is likely the most recognizable modern day drinking festival. It is a ritual that goes back 200 years, original commemorating the marriage of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese. Since it's origin it has grown in status and size, with modern day participants numbering in the millions. Although the original purpose of the ritual is all but drowned, many traditionalist German's still remember and celebrate Oktoberfest for the festival it was meant to be.

Russia - Pickle Juice

The average Russian drinks a bottle of vodka a week. Vodka in Russia is drank by itself, mixed drinks are considered cowardly and insulting to the host (if you happened to be at a party). When taking shots of vodka in Russia there are many rituals, such as sniffing rye bread before taking the shot, and that once a bottle is opened it must be finished. The most interesting of Russian rituals is to intermittently drink pickle juice- in order to prevent hangovers.

Czech Republic - Absinthe

Absinthe is traditionally drank in the Czech Republic by pouring cold water onto a sugar cube, which is resting on a spoon over a shot of the green spirit. Many myths and urban legends are associated with this traditional drink, many of which are perpetuated by university students that are mis-informed. Historically the liquor has been drank by many famous artists and painters, whose work has deepened the sense of mystery associated with this Czech drink.

France - The Leisurely Wine Drinker

Ritually, the French drink their wine with meals. And between meals. And while they smoke. And while they socialize. But unlike their American counterparts, the goal is not to consume as much as possible, it is to enjoy the drink and company at hand. As well, wine in France is a status symbol. The quality, price, and variety of the wine you drink all factor into who you are and where you socially stand.

China - Gan-Bei

Directly translating to "dry glass", Gan-Bei involves toasting everyone you are with, and everyone finishing their drinks as a sign of respect to the group they are with. The toast itself represents the esteem a person has for the group, and not drinking is disrespectful to the host and the group. After the toast everyone must finish their drink and turn the cup upside down to show that nothing remains. Drinking the drink in a single draught symbolizes boldness and strength of character.

Italy - Grappa

"When In Rome, Do As The Romans Do", and drink grappa. Grappa is the Italians choice after dinner drink that acts as a digestif, and is a excellent after dinner liqueur. Made from the pomace (the grape skins, stalks and seeds left over from the wine-making process), this sweet drink is prized by Italians and foreigners alike. Its popularity has grown so much that it recently became a protected name by the EU.

Ireland - Pub Culture

The pub culture in Ireland isn't something Irish do on occasion, its a way of life. Many pubs in Ireland are actually living rooms that just happened to have a couple taps and a good selection of liquor in them. Many Irish have their favorite local watering-hole, complete with free live music and free flowing beer. Whenever a sporting event is happening that involves Ireland, pubs are filled to the doors with locals cheering on their team.

Australia - The Six O'Clock Swill

The six o'clock swill received its name from the 6pm closing times hotel bars had throughout much of the 20th century. This early closing time was established in an effort to improve public morale and get men home to their wives earlier in the evening. As it turns out, it led to a one hour period where men would drink as much as they could, as fast as they could in an effort to get drunk in the one hour time frame they had available. It wasn't until the late 1960's that these hours were extended in much of Australia.

USA - Spring Break

The infamous "spring break" is the migration of many high school and university aged students using their week furlong from school in March to binge drink in Mexico and Florida. Specifically, Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, and Daytona Beach have become landmarks for tens of thousands of young people to lose their inhibitions and their responsibilities while away from home and supervision. Before binge drinking became a staple of spring break, an escape from the cold of the northern states was the reason to migrate south.

Finland - Warmth

In Finland, drinking isn't done solely for the pleasure of it, it's done out of necessity. During the winter months, the weather and lack of entertainment deem that drinking copious amounts of alcohol must occur to combat boredom and the cold. In the words of one citizen, "...there really isn’t much you can do except sit in a cozy bar enjoying one pint after another, while outside the arctic winds freeze your bones and you hardly see any daylight for months..."

Japan - Communal Drinking

In Japan, its traditional for a group of drinkers never to pour their own drink. If you do, consider yourself the black sheep of the party for the evening. The reason behind this ritual is to promote a sense of community and fellowship among the gathering. The goal is to have everyone pour a drink for every other person by the end of the evening. Better hope the party isn't too large!

Greece - Ouzo

Traditionally served as an aperitif (an alcoholic drink that is usually served to stimulate the appetite before a meal), also as digestifs (drank after the meal to aid digestion), as an after work pick-me-up, and at parties and events. It is served for most special occasions, and at Ouzeria's (traditional gathering places in every village around Greece). This drink has become the ritual drink of choice at Greek weddings, anniversaries, baby showers, and even funerals.

England - Session Drinking

Session drinking in England focuses on the community aspect of drinking, rather than the amount (as with binge drinking). With session drinking, the goal is to drink a variety of alcohol that has a low alcohol percentage so that it can be drank all night without feeling the affects of over-intoxication. These "sessions" typically take place at family gatherings, pubs, and other socially minded events.

Norway - Russ

The typical graduation ceremony in Norway doesn't involve family gatherings or school-hosted all night parties, it involves binge drinking while wearing specific overalls for 17 straight days. After the "Russ" ceremony is over, the young person has the right to call themself a "student", and can remove their 17 day-old, unwashed overalls. The ritual began in the 1700's when students had to wear horns on their head between taking university entrance exams and finding the results.

Spain - Patxaran

Patxaran is a sloe berry liqueur from the north of Spain, in Basque country. It's typically drank at the end of the meal, it promotes digestion and good health. The Spanish started making (and drinking) Patxaran as early as the 1820's, and have since brought this sweet cordial to the world. There have been steps taken to ensure the production of Patxaran stays pure to where it originated, in Navarre.

Argentina - Aguardiente

Also known as "Cana" or "burnt cane", this cognac-like liquer is one of the most popular and traditional drinks of Argentina. Until June 21st every year Argentinians mix Aguardiente with a rue, it is supposed to help promote health and prevent sickness. After June 21st it's just drank to be drank.

Brazil - Cachaça

The third most popular liqueur in the world, Cachaça has flown under the radar to most of the world outside Brazil's borders. Less than 1% of this liqueur is exported, but within Brazil it is one of the most fiercely loved types of liqueur available. If you can get your hands on a bottle, prepare for a taste similar to rum, but deeper and more complex. This liquer is traditionally drank at events, parties, and bars.

Canada - Hockey Night

Canadians take their hockey very seriously, as they do their beer. And, whenever possible, they take them both seriously at the same time. Hockey is Canada's most popular sport, and more often than not hockey games are associated with heavy drinking. Whether at a bar, at the game, or at home, Canadians believe that drinking and hockey are two things that should go hand in hand.

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