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How to Drink Like a Local

PHOTO: Ekaterina Iatcenko / Shutterstock

What to order at bars all over the world.

When you travel, nothing is more uncool than looking like a tourist. It’s bad enough when you don’t know the local lingo or wear the wrong clothes. We’re here to guide you on what to order. Here’s what the locals are drinking at watering holes near and far.

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PHOTO: Ekaterina Iatcenko / Shutterstock
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Turks and Caicos

In Turks and Caicos, rosé is all the rage.  At the Grace Bay Club, they’ve put their signature twist on the popular drink with “Rosé on the Rocks,” a rosé spritzer with lime and pomegranate. Light, fruity, and fresh, it’s perfect for lazy days at world-renowned Grace Bay Beach.

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PHOTO: Aruba Tourism Authority
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Aruba

There are many reasons Aruba is called “one happy island.” One of them, no doubt, is the Aruba Ariba cocktail. Created in 1963 at the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino, it’s sweet, strong, and Hopi Bon (very good in Papamiento). With vodka, rum, Coecoei, crème de banana, OJ, and pineapple juice, how can you go wrong? Enjoy one or three after a day at Arikok National Park, exploring the 20 miles of rugged and wild desert-like terrain.

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Ireland

Craft beer is popular around the globe, but when in Ireland, don’t embarrass yourself by asking for one. Instead, ask for a ‘pint of bitter’ (lager) or a ‘pint of Stout’ (most likely Guinness). When ordering a mixed drink, don’t expect more than three cubes of ice in your cocktail and know that your mixers will be in bottles.

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Texas

In Texas, they live by the credo “play hard or go home”. There’s no drink more Texas-centric than the Pecan Old-Fashioned, using Firestone & Robertson’s TX Bourbon. It blends TX Bourbon, molasses-vanilla syrup, and pecan-chicory bitters. Make it clear you’re in the know by asking for it served with a pecan garnish.

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South Carolina

Over the past five years, there’s been a real shift to support the craft breweries and distilleries that are local to South Carolina. When visiting Charleston, show some respect by drinking local. Try Holy City’s Brewing’s Pluff Mud Porter, named in honor of the brackish dense mud found along the banks of the inlets and rivers in the area.

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PHOTO: David Berkowitz (CC BY 2.0) / Flickr
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Costa Rica

After ziplining across canyons, tubing down a river, or catching “the big one” while sport fishing, a celebration is called for. When friends go out in Costa Rica, it’s customary to order a round of chiliguaro—a fiery little nip made with Guaro, tomato juice, and Tabasco—as a celebratory start to the evening.

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PHOTO: Clemence Behier / Shutterstock
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Argentina

While most tourists know to sip Malbec in Argentina, many do not know about other Argentine grapes which are just as popular. If you want to pass as a local, ask for a wine varietal like Bonarda or Torrontés. Also, in Argentina, they say “salud” instead of cheers, which means “drink to good health.” Any bartender will tell you that it’s important to make eye contact with each person at the table while clinking glasses.

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Saskatchewan

Visitors looking to become an honorary local in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan can take part in a local rite of passage—getting Saskatoon’ed. The fun tradition combines a lot of local touchpoints like liquor made from the Saskatoon berry, for which the city was named. If you want to fit in, start by pounding your chest three times, before dropping a show of Saskatoon berry liqueur into locally-produced Great Western beer. Then down the drink and yell “Saskatoon!” If you do, you’re likely to take away a card showing your status as an honorary local.

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Thailand

Celebrations and social gatherings in Thailand are often accompanied by Thai beer—always served with ice—and inexpensive local rums alongside proper etiquette and the traditional Thai ‘giving face’.  In Thai drinking culture, it’s common for the youngest person to make and refill the drinks for the whole group. It’s polite to touch or hold the glass while your friend is refilling your drink and ladies say, “kob khun ka” and gentlemen say “kob khun krab,” which means “thank you.”

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Kentucky

When you sip bourbon, try the ‘Kentucky Chew.’ Roll the bourbon around your mouth for three to four seconds, really coating your tongue before you swallow. A local way of ordering is to ask for ‘a splash of branch’—getting a touch of limestone water to bring out the bourbon’s complex character. It’s also okay to order a bourbon cocktail, but if you want to order like a local, don’t order a mint julep.

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PHOTO: Alexandre Rotenberg / Shutterstock
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Brazil

Brazil is about beautiful beaches, dancing the samba, and spectacular waterfalls. When it comes to drinking, locals blend lime, sugar, ice, and cachaça to make a “caipirinha.” While drinking with friends, it’s customary to order a few 600 ML bottles of near-freezing beer and drink the golden liquid out of a “copo Americano,” which equates to about a third-of-a-pint.

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Mexico

If you venture to Mexico, do not ask for mezcal on the rocks. It should be served at room temperature in a small glass in order to best relish the flavor intensity. The sommelier at El Palacio de Hierro in Mexico City will tell you they “kiss” the mezcal. Sip, don’t gulp. It’s best with orange slices and a pinch of worm salt or chapulin salt.

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China

In China, locals knock their glasses on the edge of their table in place of clinking glasses with each other. Westerners who fail to partake may be seen as disrespectful.  When your host offers you a drink, it is disrespectful to refuse. If you don’t drink or are on medication preventing you from drinking, accept the drink anyway. It is better to take one sip (or even a fake sip) and leave your glass unfinished than to refuse it outright.  It is extremely disrespectful to allow someone to pour their own glass. If your host pours a round of drinks for everyone at the table and puts the bottle down without filling their own, they are waiting for someone else to fill their glass. Doing so will honor your host.

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Italy

In Italy, pre-dinner drinks should be accompanied by nibbles or small plates of food. That normally happens in the shape of an aperitivo or aperi-cena (buffet style aperitivo) between 6-9 p.m. When saying cheers, or making a “brindisi”, it’s customary to look the person you’re toasting with in the eye. Failure to do so results in years of bad sex. After a big dinner, Italians often have a digestive, a short alcoholic drink like grappa or limoncello, that supposedly helps digestion. At a local trattoria, order wine by the jug. It’s generally local wine and a lot cheaper.

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Mississippi

How best to make like a local in a bar? Never complain about how strong your drink is. In Natchez, you can stroll downtown with your libation thanks to the new “To-Go-Cup” law, which went into effect in late 2017. Bars open early and stay open late, so pace yourself.

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North Carolina

Raleigh has transformed itself into a food and drink haven. If you want to mix with the locals you can’t just hang out anywhere. Try the Raleigh Beer Garden and Brewery Bhavana. Better still, there are some coffee shops that serve cocktails, like Bittersweet and Hummingbird. The storied Isaac Hunter’s Tavern is where you order the Cherry Bounce, the official drink of Raleigh, which dates back to the 1700s. Today, you’ll find it dolled up with cherry vodka, soda, fresh lime juice, club soda, lots of ice, and of course, cherries.

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PHOTO: Jordan Winery
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California

When you go traipsing through wine country in Sonoma, there are two rules: Don’t wear shorts, and don’t get drunk. Locals know to drink one glass of water for every glass of wine. Don’t visit too many wineries in one day. Make stops where you can either pair wine with food or walk through vineyards—you’ll spend less time simply drinking. If you’re downing local beers, look beyond Pliny the Elder and ask for HenHouse and Seismic. If you want to be really local, go to John & Zeke’s in Healdsburg. There’s no hipster beer there.