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10 Local Drinks To Try On Your European River Cruise

25th June 2019

With meals being included on most river cruises, sometimes the main objective when you climb ashore is to search out somewhere nice to have a drink whilst you take in the beautiful sights around you. And, just like food, many towns and cities across Europe have their own tipples that have become synonymous with the area and the people that live there.

Some are alcoholic and will warm your throat on a cold winter’s night, whilst others are the perfect soft refreshment on a hot summer’s day – but all are delicious. So, here are 10 drinks to try in five different cities as you sail the waterways of Europe.



Wine Spritzer

During the warm summer months, Budapest’s famous ruin bars are usually filled with people quenching their thirst with a refreshing fröccs (rhymes with ‘church’). For some, the drink may be slightly less exotic than the name makes it sound, but this does nothing to dampen its popularity with locals and tourists. Essentially, it’s a wine spritzer – a mix of soda water and white or rosé wine. Along with large and small options, there are many different varieties that increase the amount of either wine or soda water in the fröccs.



If wine spritzers are what you’ll find on a Budapest table in the sunshine, pálinka is the Hungarian drink of choice when the sun goes down or the winter temperatures strike. It is a fruit brandy that’s often served at the end of a meal, in a distinctive tulip-shaped glass. Whilst pear, plum and apricot are the most popular flavours, a Hungarian saying suggests that anything that can be used to make jam is also good for making pálinka.




Also known as Dutch gin, jenever is what came before the gin that has seen such an increase in popularity with the younger generation in recent years. Originally used as a medicine in the 1500s, it is now consumed in bars across places like Amsterdam, Schiedam and Groningen, now known as jenever cities. Different distilling techniques mean two types exist – old and young jenever – but both are served in a shot glass filled to the brim. Tradition dictates drinkers take the first few sips (or the whole thing) by bending over without picking up the glass, ensuring not to spill any.



When you learn that the translation for the name of this Dutch drink is anise milk, it becomes obvious what to expect. Often sold at the Amsterdam Christmas markets, you’re likely to get a chance to try it on one of our Belgian and Dutch Waterways cruises. Traditionally, star anise is placed into hot milk and then a teaspoon of sugar is added for a bit of sweetness. However, nowadays, anijsmelk made at home is done using powder from a sachet, much like hot chocolate.




This rather unique digestif is a type of krauterlikor, a German liqueur distilled with herbs to a strength of between 15% and 44% ABV. Made by the Bosch Distillery in Dusseldorf Old Town, it has a secret recipe which is said to include 98 different herbs and fruits, creating a thick, red drink that is often likened to cough syrup. As this historic part of Dusseldorf is known as the World’s Longest Bar, there is no shortage of places in which to try a Killetpitsch during your Rhine River cruise.


Altbier Dusselorf

German towns and cities are famous for brewing their own speciality beers and Dusseldorf is no different. Named for the fact that it is top-fermented (‘alt’ means top), it’s dark in colour and, in many ways, is the antithesis of the Kolsch that friendly rivals from nearby Cologne drink. In regards to taste, the fermentation technique gives it a light flavour similar to lager, putting it in the realms of a pale ale for British drinkers.

St. Petersburg



Russia is mostly known for its vodka, but there are plenty of other local drinks to try when you sail on a Volga River cruise. Popular across much of the Baltic region and even into Eastern Europe, kvass is a beverage made by fermenting rye bread with herbs and water. At the end, fruit is often added to give it a bit of sweetness and this results in various flavours being produced. The drink itself is slightly grey in colour (due to the bread) and is not considered alcoholic because the alcohol content is so low.



Another typically Russian drink to try in St. Petersburg is mors, a non-alcoholic fruit drink that’s made by boiling berries and mixing them with sweetened water. A great way to cool down on a hot day, it’s also sometimes mixed with vodka to create a refreshing cocktail.


Rauchbier (Smoked Beer)

Bamberg Smoked Beer

First created by accident, when a fire in a grain store burnt large quantities of malt, Bamberg’s smoked beer has become one of the biggest symbols of the town. The key characteristics of the drink are the dark colour and smoky flavour, nowadays produced by drying the malt over burning beech wood. The two best places to sample Rauchbier have to be Schlenkerla and Spezial, both of which have been brewing it for centuries.

Bamberger Süssholzlikör


As well as smoked beer, Bamberg is known for its liquorice production. Having been cultivated in large quantities and exported far afield during the 18th century, its use dwindled before cultivation started again in recent years in order to preserve this part of the town’s history. Literally meaning ‘liquorice liqueur’, süssholzlikör can also be mixed with soda water to create a liquorice spritz.

If you would like to try any of these local drinks, the team at Rivers of the World can help you book a river cruise to take you to these destinations. Call us on 0800 028 4272 or sign-up to our mailing list today.

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