The Brits reckon they have quite the world reputation for downing copious amounts of pints, falling out of their local before last orders and waking up fresh the next day. But, according to a World Health Organisation report, when it comes to topping the charts of drunk binges we stumble in far from the the finishing line. So while you take comfort in your light-weight hangover, we take you through a head-ache of a world tour of the drunkest countries in the world, sampling the national beverage of choice in each of our stops along the route. The study looks at the units of alcohol consumed per capita.
\#17 United Kingdom
Like any good tour, ours starts at home. And as you surely guessed, the favourite drink in Britain is nothing but good old beer. And it is in fact quite old, as beer has been brewed in the Isles since before the arrival of the Romans in 55 BC. Be it stout, ale or lager, draft beer is highly popular in the UK, compared to other countries.
Total consumption: 13.37 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita.
Related: Brew your own beer
Our first stop on the route to complete drunkenness is just a ferry away across the English Channel. French wine is recognised worldwide for its quality, and it is not surprising that the French choose it as their favourite. Wine is particular in its categorisation, since not only the type of grape used for fermentation comes into play to determine the kind of wine, but also the region where it was grown.
Total consumption: 13.66 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita.
Related: An introduction to the world of wine
This tour would never be complete if it didn't take us to Ireland to have a taste of its national beverage: Guinness. Even though it could be described as a dry stout beer, any self-respecting Irishman would contest the claim. Truth is, Guinness has a character and flavour that are all its own.
Total consumption: 14.41 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita.
Our tour takes us to Portugal next. The combination of oceanic winds, Mediterranean climate and mixture of different types of soil turn Portugal into a producer of very rich and diverse types of wine. The internationally renowned Port wine is named after Porto, the city from where it was originally exported. Because of the very specific climate and soil conditions in which Port grapes need to be grown, this type of wine is produced exclusively in Portugal. Don't look so disappointed, Cristiano.
Total consumption: 14.55 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita.
\#13 South Korea
Our next destination takes us on a trip halfway around the globe: South Korea. With rice being historically the biggest agricultural product in that corner of Asia, it is also the most frequently fermented grain in the region. Alcoholic beverages are called "ju" in Korean and the variety derived from rice is called "Yakju," which translates to "medicinal alcohol."
Total consumption: 14.80 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita.
Beer is called "Alus" in Lithuanian, and is inarguably the favourite alcoholic drink in the country. In spite of that, the title of typically Lithuanian beverage could be disputed by Midus, a type of mead that was traditionally produced in the region but has fallen out of favour by contemporary palates, or Trauktiné, a type of vodka steeped with herbs.
Total consumption: 15.03 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita.
Related: Luscious vodka cocktail recipes
The mountain slopes that face the Adriatic Sea lend themselves to the cultivation of several types of fruit, with grapes being a prominent group. And even though Croatians do enjoy the occasional sip of locally produced wine, the beverage that paves the road to total drunkenness is Rakia, a distillation of different types of fermented fruit.
Total consumption: 15.11 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita.
Related: How to make drunken gummi bears
Like in many previously Soviet countries, the favourite drink in Belarus is distilled from grains or potatoes. "Vodka" is a diminutive of the Slavic word for water, and is the name given to this kind of distillates in the west. In Belarus, however, they named their drink of choice "Harelka", which apparently comes from the verb "to burn".
Total consumption: 15.13 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita.
Our trip takes us back south, this time to Slovenia. Neighbouring Croatia, these countries share their taste for drinks as well as an international border. Slovenia is known for spirits distilled from fermented fruit, be it from the grapes that remain in the wine press after the grape juice has been extracted, or different types of berries, mixed with walnuts, herbs and honey.
Total consumption: 15.19 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita.
Related: Orange vodka martini recipe
You might have started noticing several patterns here. One of them is that countries that face the Mediterranean Sea tend to produce their alcoholic drinks from fermented fruit, while countries farther north do so from the fermentation of plants with a high starch content. Neither on the Mediterranean nor much farther north, Romania's traditional spirit is Tuica, which is produced from the distillation of fermented plums.
Total consumption: 15.19 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita.
Back on the Iberian peninsula, the landlocked country of Andorra, between Spain and France, has tastes more similar to their neighbours in the north than those in the south. With a total surface of only 290 (467km) square miles of mostly mountainous terrain above 900 metres (2952ft) in altitude, Andorra has managed to establish a growing infrastructure for the production of wine that concentrates mostly on whites.
Total consumption: 15.48 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita.
A second trend you might have already discovered is that this tour tends to take us constantly back to eastern Europe. This might have a series of reasons, like locally produced vodka being either really tasty or very helpful at fighting the long tundra winters off. Either way, Estonia is yet another country where the distillation of potatoes seems to be the spirit of choice.
Total consumption: 15.57 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita.
Back to the shores of the Black Sea, Ukrainian vodka is known as "Horilka". One of its most beloved varieties is "Pertsivka," where red peppers are infused in the process of fermentation. If you kept in mind that "Horilka" means "burning," adding red hot peppers probably isn't meant to keep the burn down. Eastern Europeans do like their spirits hot.
Total consumption: 15.60 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita.
Related: The world's drug capitals
Now we arrive at the land most of us associate Vodka with: first empire, then socialist republic and now a simple federation, there are more types of alcohol in Russia, the biggest country in the world, than our prejudices might lead us to believe. The traditional Medovukha, a fermentation of honey to which various spices are added, or beer from the region of Novgorod, to the north of Moscow, have been produced in Russia for centuries.
Total consumption: 15.76 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita.
Related: How to speak Russian
A third trend that appears in this tour is related to distillation. Both grain and fruit based fermentations can be distilled, producing either beer or spirits and wine or liquors respectively. In Hungary, the preferred beverages remain not distilled. With several world renowned brands of beer, their regional wines are even more praised for their quality, like Tokaji, a sweet white dessert wine or Bull's Blood, a dark, full-bodied red wine from the region of Villány.
Total consumption: 16.27 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita.
\#2 Czech Republic
Even though it is not at the top of the ranking, the images evoked by the Czech Republic have a lot to do with alcohol. Their production of strong and tasty beers, different types of cyders and bitters, and the regional favourite plum brandy are no small reason for it. Perhaps the most particular Czech product is Absinthe, a spirit about which much has been said since the general ban of its production anywhere else in Europe at the beginning of last century.
Total consumption: 16.45 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita.
Related: How to play the drinking game Queens
And we finally reach the drunkest country in the world. Even though its national identity can be traced back to the middle ages, Moldova only emerged as an independent country after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It would be hard to figure out whether their worldwide record in alcohol consumption is an effect or a cause of the economical instability it has been submerged in since then. But hey, at least it helps them keep warm.
Total consumption: 18.22 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita.
Related: Best British drinking games
- World Health Organization - Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2011
- Journal of the Brewery History Society Online
- Portugal Wines - Port
- Life in Korea - Traditional Korean Alcohol
- Made in Lithuania - The Oldest Drink in the World is Made in Lithuania
- Croatia Expert - Rakjia Croatia Guide
- Welcome to Ukraine - Ukranian Horilka - more than just an alcoholic beverage
- Hungarian Wines - Wine Regions