From those who like to sip local wine to the member who says he adopts a “vacation beer diet,” IgoUgo travelers often pair local tipples with cuisine and culture on trips. Here are their picks for the best places to sample some of the world’s iconic drinks.
Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen, Sante Fe, New Mexico: Margarita
IgoUgo member Idler drew our attention to this Santa Fe institution not too long ago on the Message Boards, saying, “I'm not that big on mixed drinks, but I do like a really good margarita on the rocks, especially one made with reposado tequila. There's this terrific little place called Maria's New Mexican Kitchen in Santa Fe that makes the best I've ever had.” IgoUgo member Nombiri takes the praise a step further with her proclamation that “the best time [she] had in Santa Fe was probably at this restaurant.” Not surprising, considering her evaluation of the house margarita: “It packed a punch but managed not to taste as though it did.”
U Fleku, Prague, Czech Republic: Beer and Becherovka
“Prague is one of the world's great pub cities,” says IgoUgo member Stavvy, “and merits wandering off the beaten track for tastes of what is counted by many as the world's finest beer, including hallmark brands Pilsner Urquell, Velkopopovický, and Staropramen.” He directs us to U Fleku, where several other IgoUgoers have sipped beer between shots of herbal Becherovka, including IgoUgo member MoDean, who says, “the beer, brewed on-premises, was a dangerously delicious dark, and we enjoyed several pints with a rotating group of neighbors that included a young Austrian couple, a large group of older German couples, and a healthy dose of Czechs.” Local brews and local crews make the beer hall an authentic pick.
Academia da Cachaça, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Caipirinha
Rio fan IgoUgo member oldchurchfarm is also a proponent of trying Brazil’s national drink, and when he’s in need of a sugary caipirinha, he heads to the Leblon outpost of Academia. “This place serves the best caipirinhas I've ever tasted,” he says, “even better—and way less expensive—than the ones at the famed Copacabana Palace.” And he promises that there is something sweet for everyone: “More than 500 varieties of cachaça from all over Brazil are available here, as well as caipirinhas made with passion fruit, lemon, and an assortment of tropical fruits in addition to the traditional lime.”
Piper-Heidsieck, Reims, France: Champagne
France’s Champagne region isn’t always bubbly and bright, it seems; IgoUgo member Horseye found himself there “on a damp, chilly Sunday afternoon at the end of December. The city probably wasn't at it's most attractive or welcoming and many of the champagne houses were closed.” So he was delighted to find the cave of his favorite champagne producer, Piper-Heidsieck, open. “And if it wasn't before, it was after the visit,” he exclaims, as the tour ended in an “opulent bar” where he was “treated to a glass of the good stuff” (visitors get three glasses with the purchase of a VIP ticket). Similar weather patterns plagued IgoUgo member crolsen’s visit, but she also found a doubly dry retreat in Reims’ “plush” tasting rooms and on Piper-Heidsieck’s “visitor-friendly tour.”
Gonpachi, Tokyo, Japan: Sake
Tokyo’s Gonpachi restaurant never seems to go out of style, and IgoUgo member ihagstedt explains why: “Gonpachi recreates the atmosphere of old Japan. Special seats are available for drinking sake, and the private rooms are arranged to allow a good view of the high-ceilinged restaurant. The top floor of the sushi restaurant has garden seats allowing you to escape and forget the busy city.” You’re sure to forget the bustle outside after a few sake servings—and the bustle inside, too (former Prime Minister Koizumi brought George W. Bush here). The best news about this lauded restaurant? It now also serves sushi and sake at a Los Angeles location.
Solar do Vinho do Porto, Lisbon, Portugal: Port
Sipping port is a favorite pastime in Portugal, and IgoUgo member horseoverboard says that “for anyone with even a passing interest in port, the Solar do Vinho do Porto, the official bar of the Port Wine Institute, is an absolute must-do.” He calls the selection—over 400 varieties of the wine are available—“staggering” and says “the air is one of quiet, clubby sophistication, complete with cigars and comfy chairs and sofas arranged in groups around low tables.”
Glenlivet Distillery, Speyside, Scotland: Whisky
“I thought I hated whisky before I went to Speyside,” says IgoUgo member Bear in Britain. The Scotch Whisky Trail—well traveled by IgoUgo members—changed that nonsense. Among the distilleries dotting the route, Glenlivet stands out for its “perfect Highland setting” and tasting choices; IgoUgo member Re Carroll’s options included a 12-year-old whisky, 18-year-old whisky (which her guide called the “Sean Connery of whisky—strong and sexy”), and French oak finish.
Brettos, Athens, Greece: Ouzo
“A perfect old place for a nightcap,” Brettos was where IgoUgo member Illion found a home-brand ouzo better than any he had during a week traveling across the Peloponnese. Meanwhile, IgoUgo member isleroyal laments, “I almost hate to call this a bar, it is so much more,” and asks, “be sure to visit Brettos, have a drink, buy a metal canister (or six) or a bottle of the owner’s excellent brandy, and say hi to him for me!” Similarly, Greek-American IgoUgo member Kyrios Iasonas urges Athens visitors to “spend an hour here, try the ouzo, and become involved in the conversations.” Luckily, we follow directions well.