Eating like a local is one of the best things about going on holiday – and you’ll find a whole menu of new drinks to try with your pasta and schnitzel. Whether you choose a glass of wine, a cool beer or a smooth spirit, you’re bound to find a favourite.
There are few things more refreshing on a warm day than a Hugo Spritz – made with a mix of Prosecco, elderflower syrup and soda, topped with mint and lime. It was created by a barman in the South Tyrol region of Italy in 2005, as an alternative to the traditional white wine and soda spritz – and is now one of the most popular summer cocktails in Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Germany.
Austrians have been producing schnapps for centuries, so you know they’ve got it down to a fine art. Fruit (obstler) schnapps is most common, flavoured with plum, apricot, pear, blackberry or cherry. The Tyrol region, which has the highest proportion of schnapps distilleries in Austria, favours vogelbeerschnaps. It’s made with rowan berries and is a common tipple to wash down a rich dinner. In mountain huts, you might be greeted with a shot of gentian schnapps, an acquired taste thanks to the intense bitterness that comes from the gentian plant.
Bardolino on Lake Garda is so proud of its Chiaretto that it throws a festival to celebrate the wine every June. The dry, sparkling rosé was first created in 1896 with red wine grapes and white winemaking techniques. It’s named for its light pink colour – chiaro means ‘clear’ or ‘pale’. A popular aperitif, it’s got a delicate taste with notes of citrus, apricots, berries and vanilla, and pairs perfectly with Mediterranean fish dishes.
Invented in Germany, this mixed beer drink is popular in summer thanks to its thirst-quenching reputation. Radler means ‘cyclists’ in German, and the story goes that it was created by an innkeeper on a popular mountain cycle route. Swamped with thirsty customers and short on stock, he mixed lager with lemonade to make his supplies last longer. This 50:50 blend is now drunk all over Europe – and even as far as Australia and New Zealand. In Austria, a Radler is a mix of beer and Almdudler, a fizzy drink made with herbal extracts.
Grappa can only be called grappa if it’s made in Italy, and it’s got a long history with the locals of Trentino and Lake Garda. Created by fermenting the pomace that’s left over from winemaking (that’s the grape skins, pulp, seeds and stems), it’s then flavoured with herbs, berries and roots. The result is a popular after-dinner drink that’s supposed to aid digestion. It’s often used in cooking too, or added to espresso to create caffè corretto – ‘corrected coffee’. Near Lake Garda, the Marzadro distillery is known for its Olia del Garda, an ancient lake recipe that infuses grappa with olives, cinnamon, cloves and lemon.
Stiegl is the official beer of Salzburg – the highest honour in the capital of a beer-loving nation. It’s been brewed in the city since 1492, in what’s now the largest private brewery in Austria, also housing a museum, tasting room and restaurant. Quality is key, and the family-run business has an estate in Upper Austria where they grow their own spelt, oats and wheat. Speciality house beers come in flavours like juniper, coriander, rye and, at Christmas, honey and cinnamon.
One of the most famous digestivi in Italy, Limoncello, or Limoncino, is still made in some parts of Lake Garda. The simple concoction infuses grain alcohol with lemon zest and sugar syrup. That’s it. The cooler climate at the north of the lake results in fragrant, sour lemons and a limoncello that’s subtly sweet, tart and refreshing. Try a chilled glass at the end of a meal. But don’t down it like a shot – limoncello should be sipped and savoured.
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Author: Courtney Sparham
Published: October 19, 2018
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