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Wine & Dine

The high life

ALE 'N HEARTY Prague, Czech Republic

Prague is beer Mecca and there are pubs within stumbling distance of each other. The lagers start with breakfast and it's not surprising that the Czechs are the world biggest consumers of beer (the equivalent of a bottle per person per day). For an authentic Prague pub-crawl, the place to go to is Zizkov, a working-class neighbourhood that is crawling with watering holes. But remember, it's difficult to stop the ale from flowing. Waiters bring you a refill as soon you as you finish your glass, marking the tab on a slip of paper. If you're not too drunk to stop, place a coaster on the rim of your glass.

Where to drink:

Choose from historic beer halls or swanky bars

Tipple to try:

An unpasteurised version of the Pilsner Urquell sold only in the Czech Republic. Without pasteurisation, the spicy flavour of the hops comes through.

Average price for a pint:

34 Czech koruna or Rs 84

CALL THE SHOTS Krakow, Poland

Poland produces some of the best vodka in the world and Krakow, its ancient royal capital, is a great place to sample the finest. It has an atmospheric network of cellar bars. Don't think of mixers here. Vodka here is drunk neat, in glasses usually 50 ml but ranging from 25 to 100 ml. Regardless of the size of the glass, though, it is drunk in one gulp, or do dna (" to the bottom" ), as Poles say. If you aren't hung over enough, there is plenty of sightseeing for the architecturally minded. Kraków's walled old city, or Stare Miasto, is a mix of Gothic, Renaissance and baroque influences. Ninety minutes by train or bus from Kraków is Oswiecim, a small industrial town forever to be known to the world by the name given to it by occupying Nazis: Auschwitz.

Where to drink:

The trendy and ubiquitious bars in the Old Town or head to Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter for a more local experience.

Tipple to try:

Wyborowa, made from rye, is the biggest-selling vodka in Poland. It's drunk straight from the freezer, or as a Polish martini.

Average price for a shot:

2 or Rs 160

How to say cheers:

Na zdrowie!

MAKE MINE A PINT Hanoi, Vietnam

The guzzlers of Munich's beer halls now have to contend with rivals hailing from the bars and street stalls of Hanoi. Just last week, two Vietnamese labels, Hanoi Beer and Saigon Beer, were chosen as official beverages at the Berlin International Beer festival. The country's relationship with beer started in earnest during the Vietnam War when US soldiers created an increased demand. Today, the country boasts of a range of local brews.

Where to drink:

Hanoi Beer Junction or Bia Hoi Junction located in the Old Quarter in Hanoi is very popular with both tourists and English-speaking Vietnamese. This intersection of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen Street is where people plonk themselves on stools, guzzle the local brew and watch the world go by.

Tipple to try:

Bia Hoi or "fresh beer" is an unpasteurised, unpreserved brew made before the sun rises, and often imbibed before the sun sets. All through the day, motorcycle deliverymen can be seen ferrying the brew to drinking establishments throughout Hanoi. Much of it comes from three huge breweries, but scores of smaller mom-and-pop operations flourish as well. In general, beer is served over ice, and one always pours for others before tanking up.

How to say cheers:

Tram phan tram - which translates to "100 per cent" although it's likely that your local brew will only contain about 3 per cent alcohol.

Average price for a glass of Bia Hoi:

2, 500 Vietnamese dong (Rs 6)

SAKE TO SHAKE Tokyo (Japan)

Tokyo used to be synonymous with sake but it's now also the capital of cocktails. In the city's back alleys, basements, and skyscrapers, its bartenders have perfected the fine art of mixology. So much so that many western bartenders are left shaken and stirred. Nowhere is the Tokyo bartenders' passion and skill more evident than in the cult of ice. The obsession with perfecting frozen water is Japan's greatest contribution to cocktail culture at large. Top bartenders here run each cube individually under mineral water, to wash off sharp edges, before scanning it like a production-line supervisor to check quality

Where to drink:

Tender Bar in the fashionable Ginza district where legendary bartender Kazuo Uyeda practices his craft. Tender Bar shares a grimy fifthfloor lobby with a beauty parlour and if you do find the place, expect a wait-no one is admitted unless there's a seat available-and a cover charge. But it's well worth it. Kazuo Uyeda is credited with inventing the intense 'hard shake' - a brutally vigorous riff on the casual shake most bartenders use-which not only maximises aeration but also helps blend in stubborn ingredients like egg whites or cream.

Tipple to try:

Uyeda's Pure Love, made with gin, framboise, lime juice, and ginger ale.

Average price of a cocktail:

Around 1, 500 yen (Rs 800)

How to say cheers:


TOP OF THE HOPS Munich, Germany

This year is the 200th anniversary of the Munich Oktoberfest (Sept 18 to Oct 3) so the partying is turning up a notch. Every year, some six million people flock here to consume litres of some of the finest beers in the world. Only beers brewed in Munich are served but there's no dearth of choice since the city is the third largest beer producer in the world, with six major breweries, including Hofbrau and Löwenbräu. If you're not visiting while the party's on, don't worry: You can still dance, munch on huge pretzels, and show off your stein-hoisting skills any time of year at Munich's classic beer halls. It's worth making a trip to the 11th-century Weihenstephan, the world's oldest brewery

Where to Drink:

Hofbrauhaus is a place that really lives up to the name 'beer hall. ' It is enormous in size - can serve up to 5, 000 people at a time - but it is still tough to find an empty table. The big barmaids, dressed in traditional Bavarian clothing, can carry ten 1-litre beer steins in their hands (don't try this at home!). If you're looking for something less touristy, there are plenty of other intoxicating Munich beer halls.

Tipple to try:

Indulge in a classic Munich Helles pale lager from one of the city's six main breweries. Helles lagers are distinctive from Pilsners in that they have a noticeable malt sweetness, with a delicate balance of spicy hops, but much less bitter than a Pilsner.

Average price:

A litre (You don't get less. It's a biergarten, not a kindergarten) costs about 8. 50 (Rs 520).

How to say cheers:


UNCORK THE VINO Beaune, France

On your next trip to Paris, drive three hours south east to the city of Beaune. It is a beautiful, historical city, with centuries-old cathedrals, ancient ramparts, world-class cafes and restaurants. Beune is above all a wine lover's paradise, with numerous wine bars and establishments that cater to the 'vino aficionado. '

Where to drink:

The best place to sample wines in Beaune is the Marche aux Vins. The Marche, located in a 15th century Franciscan church, is a collective run by many of the region's wine merchants. For 10, one can spend a morning or afternoon sampling a very large selection of Burgundies.

Tipple to try:

Burgundy, of course.

How to say cheers:

A votre sante

A WEE DRAM Edinburgh, Scotland

You may not be happy to settle for supermarket-bought blends after you've tasted a dram. The best way to become a whisky connoisseur is the Scotch Whisky Experience. Whether you're intending to stock up on the water of life for celebratory purposes or your research is strictly medicinal, this guide should set you on the right trail The tour is both intoxicating and entertaining - there's even a barrel-ride to add thrill and a free tasting.

Where to drink:

Try a DIY tasting session at one of Edinburgh's many whiskyfriendly pubs and bars. Canny Man's has some rare bottlings while Bow Bar is quaint as well as reasonably priced

Tipple to try:

Depends on your pocket. Cadenhead's Whisky Shop, Scotland's oldest independent bottler, has the rarest whiskies on offer.

How to say cheers:


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