The FIFA World Cup runneth over. For the resourceful and curious drinker, this sporting event presents many wonderful opportunities. Think of it as a learning opportunity: Almost every country involved has at least one signature wine or spirit. And you will try them all, game after game. Consider some of my experience, then stock your fridge and liquor cabinet for the games to come.
The first game pitted home country South Africa against Mexico. That was easy. In tribute to the Mexican team, I sipped an exotic, incredibly smooth mezcal produced near Oaxaca, Del Maguey’s Chichicapa. To honor the tournament’s host country in the second half, I had a glass of Amarula on the rocks. A very sweet cream liqueur, Amarula is made in South Africa from a native fruit called marula. It’s like a fruity, tropical version of Baileys Irish Cream.
The next day I watched Korea versus Greece. I bought some soju in a local market, Jinro Chamisul, and drank it chilled with sesame noodles. At only 20 percent alcohol, this clear distillate made from rice wasn’t too strong, had some aromas of citrus, and was generally clean and light. Not the kind of thing I’d drink all the time, but once every four years it can be enjoyable.
Korea’s opponent, Greece, offered some options. I could have gone with ouzo or raki, but all the spirits I’d been imbibing left me thirsting for wine, and these days Greece makes some excellent juice, particularly whites. So, I popped a bottle of Asirtiko from the producer Sigalas on the island of Santorini. Crisp and mineral with notes of lemon zest and chives, it perfectly complemented the salad and grilled sardines I ate while watching the second half.
The pairing opportunities between game and drink only got better from there. England versus the USA allowed me to start with a Beefeater and tonic (Fever-Tree with lots of lime) and then continue with a couple of cold bottles of crisp Prima Pils from Victory Brewing Company of Downingtown, Pennsylvania. The Germany-Australia match-up kept me in the beer groove, as I played another of my favorite pilsners, the excellent Jever, against a bottle of Australia’s Coopers Sparkling Ale, making sure to gently jostle the bottle-conditioned brew to stir up the haze of sediment left in the bottle.
A couple of days later, New Zealand’s game against Slovakia gave me an excuse to sample another of my favorite beers, Moa Blanc, an exceptionally zesty wheat beer, oozing with citrus, spice, and tropical fruit.
Of course, the tournament’s just getting going, and there are many teams I haven’t even seen yet. My full list is below. Yes, in my Pacific time zone the games are happening at 4:30, 7:00, and 11:30 in the morning. But if predawn drinking is not so alluring (and you can stomach possible spoilers), then just stream the games later in the day.
Algeria: Alcohol is forbidden here; maybe just a cup of the more common mint tea.
Argentina: Malbec is king; try the 2007 Fabre Montmayou Malbec Gran Reserva Mendoza.
Australia: Coopers Sparkling Ale.
Brazil: A Caipirinha.
Cameroon: Castel Beer is what you’d drink here. It can be found in the U.S., believe it or not.
Chile: Red wine from the Carmenère grape is what this country calls its own; try the 2008 Casa Lapostolle Carmenère.
Côte d’Ivoire: Bière Flag is the light, undistinguished beer local soccer fans are probably drinking.
England: Beefeater and tonic.
France: Go with Beaujolais—the 2008 Marcel Lapierre Morgon is easy drinking to drown the sorrows of disappointed French fans.
Germany: Jever, a great pilsner.
Ghana: Star Beer is this country’s top lager.
Greece: Sigalas Asirtiko.
Honduras: Flor de Caña, one of the best rums in the world, is brewed here. Drink it straight or make a Mojito.
Italy: The red wine Montelpulciano d’Abruzzo.
Japan: Sake, all the way—Rihaku “Wandering Poet” Junmai Ginjo.
North Korea: Pyongyang Soju.
South Korea: Jinro Chamisul Soju.
Mexico: Chichicapa Mezcal from Del Maguey.
Netherlands: A shot of Bols Genever and a Grolsch back.
New Zealand: Moa Blanc beer.
Nigeria: Williams Dark Ale.
Paraguay: Papagayo Organic Rum.
Portugal: Dow’s 20-Year Tawny Port.
Serbia: Plantaze Vranac, a zesty red wine.
Slovakia: Zlaty Bazant, a decent pilsner.
Slovenia: 2007 Movia Ribolla Gialla.
South Africa: Amarula.
Spain: La Gitana manzanilla sherry.
Switzerland: Kübler absinthe.
Uruguay: A red wine from Tannat, the 2008 Don Pascual Tannat “Pueblo del Sol” Juanico.
USA: Victory Prima Pils.