World’s Weirdest Drinking Customs

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It’s no secret that drinking alcohol can bring out our more, eclectic, sides. Here at GreatDrams we have narrowed down some of the most weird and wonderful drinking customs across the globe. Beware, in at least 2 countries, these can result in 7 years of bad sex.


Back in good old Blighty, our classic tradition of ‘toasting’ was introduced in the 17th century. And it really did involve toast.

We had a fetish of adding spiced bread to wine, in order to cut through its acidity and general terrible taste. Chucking baguettes into Sauvignon-blanc is apparently easier than changing vineyard supplier.


Supplier of aforementioned baguettes and home to Coco Chanel, France is a land of dignified drinking. Glasses are typically only ever half- filled and it is considered vulgar to pour your own drink.

From this, we’ve surmised that ‘downing’ probably wouldn’t go down a storm either.


Whatever you do, don’t toast with a glass of water in Spain. This is especially important if you’re surrounded by attractive individuals, as the Spanish believe this faux-pas leads to 7 years of bad sex. A celebratory bottle of Evian will get you nowhere with Martina, or Martin for that matter.

The Spanish will only ever call the last drink of the night, the ‘penultima’ tipple, the ‘ultima’ drink is the last one of your life, and should be avoided at all costs.


Italia is an all or nothing kind of place, and the only drinks deemed acceptable to accompany a meal are wine, or water. Put those alcopops away.


The Portuguese clocked that it would be a complete waste of time decanting port normally, where the sediment could be disturbed. Instead, they came up with the safe and simple solution of a ceremony involving red-hot tongs, ice, and presumably an ambulance.


Chivalry lives on in Germany. Traditionally, the groomsmen kidnap the bride the night before a wedding and courteously take her to a bar of their choice. Only once the groom has found her, and bought his pals a round of drinks, will the lady be returned. 

How that hasn’t made a rom-com plot yet, only every woman on the planet will know.

Holland – amended thanks to input from Sjoerd.

The Dutch don’t touch whisky, but they drink it like troopers. Though their most interesting drinking ritual centres around ‘Oude Jenever’. The way younger drinkers used to drink this was to lean over a bar, sip from the glass free-hand, before chasing it all with a beer. The Dutch have felt in no way obliged to explain this, though Sjoerd concedes many of the people who took part in this ritual are likely ‘six feet under by now’. 

Czech Republic

Seven years bad sex seems to remain a serious worry on the continent; if you cross arms while toasting in the Czech Republic, losing your A-game is believed to be the chosen curse.

On the bright side, it could be a quick way of filing for divorce if you’ve made poor life choices.


Georgians would make wonderful insurance-brokers, as they feel it necessary to toast 20-30 times over one meal.

“To your health again Eduard! You can never be too careful working in admin.”


If a bride lifts her shoes off the floor in Ukraine, they will be stolen and shared around the room as wine glasses.

Cinderella eat your heart out, didn’t use your stiletto as a flagon now, did he?


On a more serious note, in 1848, 13 revolutionaries were executed for leading the uprising against Austria. Their deaths were celebrated with the clinking of beer glasses, so Hungarians abstain from doing this to this day.


Iceland has got responsible drinking down a tee; by sensibly dedicating two national holidays a year to it. The 1st March is beer day, but Verslunarmannahelgi in August is the drunkest day of the year. A third will inevitably be invented when they sober up.


In Russia, it is customary to give long, anecdotal toasts which end in a punch line which probably doesn’t involve Putin.

Empty glasses and bottles are also placed under the table. This is presumably so that no one, yourself included, knows how drunk you are.


Kumis, made from fermented horse milk, is the national drink of Kazakhstan.

Not to worry if you don’t like it though. The milky leftovers are poured back into the jug, to ferment a little more, ready for the next time you’re offered it, without the luxury of excuses.


Elders hold their glasses higher than juniors during toasts in China, but both are expected to drain the glass and prove so by leaving it upturned on the table.

We like this custom; it encompasses both deference and ambition.


A bride and groom can go through as much pomp and ceremony as they like in Nigeria, but only once they’ve had a drink of traditional palm wine, are they considered officially married. A bit like vodka in Vegas.


Being a poor backpacker in Australia is a very romantic, but utterly flawed, idea. Nowhere else is ‘getting a round in’ such a basic expectation of people. Unless you can afford alcohol in bulk, you will need to make minimal amounts of friends.


The home of the spiced spirit Aquavit, argues that the delicacy can only be consumed when accompanied with rounds of (loud) songs. No wonder they won Eurovision.


One glass and one beer is shared between several people here; it’s custom to pour a shot and drink it before passing the glass on. Parties last a long time in Peru.


At the Sourdough Saloon in Yukon you can be initiated into the Sour Toe Cocktail Club, if you finish a drink with a dehydrated human toe in it. Because getting in to a club no one’s heard of is worth that.


Changing tac slightly from the Canadian approach, alcohol in India is an important part of mythology and is believed to elevate us to a higher consciousness. A point superbly played by India.


Japan is another place where it’s impolite to pour your own drink. You rely on your neighbour for top ups, so make sure you keep them well-oiled and the favour should be returned. It is also courteous to turn away when you sip your drink. That’s right, sip.

SWIG hip flasks probably wouldn’t go down too well here…


Moldovans love their toasts at dinner, often making one before every drink. Someone has been clever enough to make a toast to avoiding toasting…”Hai Devai!”. Thoughtful, if better in theory than in practice. 

So there you have it; we’re all as bizarre as each other in our drinking trends. I still think I would rather put spiced bread in my wine, than a human toe. Sorry Canada

Tags: Czech RepublicDrinking CustomsDrinkWireEnglandFranceGermanyHollandItalyPortugalSpainworldWorld's Weirdest Drinking Customs
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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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