Nothing like the sunshine to break out a good mood alongside something cold & fruity…
Summers in most of Europe, similar to the winters, tend to consist of a lot of drinking for foreign residents. Though I’m no expert, I do enjoy the odd summer drink. I am Canadian and we westerners tend to veer to the bizarre in the summer – so don’t be surprised that I had to find a new drink when I realized I wouldn’t be able to indulge in a beer and clam anymore.
“Beer and clam?” you ask: Why, that’s slang for beer mixed with Clamato juice (a spicy tomato and clam juice drink). Yes, I am being serious. Yes, it tastes like summer in a glass. Yes, summer in a glass tastes good. No, I am not lying. Seriously – we drink clam and tomato juice mixed with beer. Ok, so rather than importing the most disgusting sounding juice one could think of, I instead embraced drinking more standard beverages. This isn’t your guide to Becherovka or Unicum, it’s all about what tastes refreshing when you are melting in Budapest’s heat. So here it is, our by no means exhaustive or extensive Central European Summer Drinking Guide:
Lemonade: When life hands Hungarians Lemons, they complain for a bit, slice them along side oranges, add sugar, cover with mineral water and make Lemonade. The best damn lemonade in the world. Even though it lacks alcohol content, this is one of my top five favourite things about living in this city. Almost every restaurant and bar makes an equally delicious variation of this summertime treat. Seriously, what these people can do with citrus and fizzy water is insane. Whether you’re waking up and curing a hangover, or simply enjoying the afternoon sun on Ráday, it is the most refreshing beverage you can find. Even though a half litre can be outside your drinking budget, it is totally and completely worth it.
Gösser Lemon: When life hands Austrians lemons, they water down their beer and sell it in Budapest. Moving up the alcohol content scale, slowly, we come to a can of Gösser Lemon. Mediocre would be one way of describing this canned drink. It isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever drank, but it is by no means the best – it doesn’t taste like beer and it doesn’t taste like lemonade. It is best enjoyed near the stagnant water feature outside of Gödör, or on the Vltava.
Tuborg Lemon: When life hands the Danish lemons they serve them with fish in Copenhagen, then add lemon cleaner to their beer and sell it in Central Europe. The billboards are up all over the city bringing excitement to those who’ve enjoyed the taste of a nice light beer like a Corona with fresh lime or lemon in the past. Tuborg Lemon has all the promises of a light beer with a hint of lemon flavour to help you imagine you are on a beach instead of melting in the streets. Instead, after hauling it up the hills to enjoy a picnic overlooking the city, once cracked this beer turns out to be watered down with floor cleaner. Huge disappointment, not worth the investment – you’re on your own when it comes to Tuborg Orange.
Fröccs: When life hands Hungarians grapes they make wine, add mineral water in varying amounts and make a delicious drink impossible to say. Moving back now to something Hungary does well – really, really well. Summer in Budapest for me is going out for a glass of Fröccs, or six, or twenty-six depending on the number of people you are with. For dirt cheap, under 500HUF, you can enjoy a hosszúlépes, two parts water, one part wine or a nagyfröccs, two wine, one water – equally enjoyable. Even better, no matter the quality of supermarket wine, you’ll find a bottle of mineral water can always save it, and you can make your own. But let me make this clear, that’s made with white wine. There are not enough words of distain to describe how I feel about rosé wine. Even after being mixed with mineral water it is still a sorry, pink excuse for a beverage.
Cider: Life would never hand British people lemons, it is too rainy there, so instead they got apples and let them rot until they were carbonated… then they decided to serve it worldwide. Cider isn’t really the most popular thing here yet, though over the last year more and more bars have it popping up on their menus. It is usually too expensive and a bit too sweet for my taste, but it is a popular drink – especially amongst the gangs of British English teachers that roam the region. Enjoyed with ice or without, it is still something I can’t really afford.
Beer: Life has handed the Czechs hops and they make everyone happy. Thank God for regular, good old pivo (beer), the safe fall-back option for summer drinking. This reliable friend screams summer with a capital S and is best when enjoyed outside, in a can, in a glass, in a bottle, in a plastic bottle, etc… That being said, if there is one thing I’ve learned over the last year and a half – it’s that Hungarian beer comes home with you and stays with you well into the next day giving you the one of the most mind-numbing hangover’s you will ever experience. That’s the nice thing about beer though; no matter where you are, there are always multiple options from around the world to delight your pallet. White beer, pilsner, lager, stout, fruit beer, ale, bitter, blonde, brown, the list goes on… Enjoy your summer!