7 destinations to visit inspired by these iconic British tipples
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Whether you’re imbibing or having a detox, there are plenty of ways to experience the best British drinks. Some drinks are daily rituals, while others are saved up for a special occasion. While you can find these drinks all over the U.K., if you want to combine your favourite tipple with travel, why not head to where they were first mixed to drink them as authentically as possible?
1. Pimm’s — Kent
Summer in the United Kingdom can be so fleeting that any day with lots of sunshine and blue skies immediately calls for a Pimm’s. This famous spice and citrus gin-based liqueur was first produced by James Pimm, a local Kent man in 1823. It’s believed he came up with the concept during one of his frequent business trips between Kent and London. Traditionally, it’s served with lemonade and a fun mix of delicious garnishes floating in it — you can add strawberries, apples, cucumber, oranges or lemons, all of which can make a cheeky snack once you finish your drink. Add plenty of ice and garnish with mint.
Pimm’s is one of two staple drinks at iconic summer British events including Wimbledon and the Chelsea Flower Show — the other staple being Champagne.
You can find Pimm’s all over the U.K., though, for some true nostalgia, you could head to James Pimm’s hometown of Newnham, Kent — around an hour south east of London. Try The George Inn, one of the top-rated pubs in the area.
2. Cider — Somerset
While France makes the most cider by volume of any country, Somerset is home to some of the best and oldest ciders in the world. Traditional cider is made from bittersweet apples, and recipes are passed down from generation to generation. The first cider distilling licence was granted to Burrow Hill Cider in Somerset more than 150 years ago. Somerset is a fairly easy train ride from London, and if you’re not a fan of apple cider, there’s plenty of pear cider to try, too — and more types of cheddar cheese in the town of Cheddar than your stomach can manage.
Somerset is also home to Worthy Farm, which, for most of the year, is a standard cattle farm. However, for a few crazy days each June, more than 200,000 people arrive for Glastonbury, one of the world’s biggest, best and most famous music festivals. This farm has seen performances from the likes of David Bowie, U2, Coldplay, Beyonce, Rolling Stones, The Who, Adele and Kanye West. As you might guess, cider is a popular drink at Glastonbury.
3. Tea — Yorkshire
Brits love a good cup of tea — in fact, some British people believe the first step to solving any problem is to pop the kettle on. More than 150 million cups of tea are drunk each day in the U.K., with the most popular brew being Yorkshire tea, which has been produced by Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate since 1977. However, the history of Yorkshire tea stretches back much further — back in 1886 Charles Edward Taylor opened “tea kiosks” in the Yorkshire towns of Harrogate and Ilkley.
Yorkshire Tea now makes up 28% of the traditional daily black tea market in the United Kingdom.
Not only is there a wider variety of tea available in Yorkshire, but there are also some incredible places to try it. Try Bettys Tearooms, for starters. Bettys was founded in 1919 and has six locations across Yorkshire, but my favourite is the Harrogate cafe. Don’t miss the famous Yorkshire rarebit for lunch and enjoy your cup of Bettys Tea Room Blend tea with a “fat rascal” — a plump and fruity scone. You can also opt for a fancy traditional afternoon tea where tea is always the drink of choice!
4. Carling beer — Burton-on-Trent
Just as tea is synonymous with Britain, so is beer. It’s been drunk in this country since the early 13th century when the brewing of hops, sugars and yeast was discovered. In terms of lagers, mainland Europe brands like Heineken, Carlsberg and Peroni are among the most popular in the United Kingdom. However, the beer sold in more pubs than any other in the U.K. is Carling. Carling was founded by Thomas Carling back in 1840 in London — London, Ontario, in Canada that is. The lager wasn’t sold in the U.K. until 1950.
It is brewed in Burton-on-Trent, which the label calls “the traditional home of British brewing”. This is located just north of Birmingham. You can visit the Molson Coors brewery in Burton, which is both the largest brewery in the U.K. and the main brewery for Carling. There are guided tours ending with, of course, the chance to try the popular beers.
5. Whisky — Scotland
Scotch whisky is a malt, grain or blended whisky produced in Scotland. There are more than 100 Scottish whisky distilleries currently operating there. The Scottish Gaelic for whisky is “uisge beatha”, which means “water of life” in Latin.
All Scotch whisky must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years. Some of the finest bottles of scotch whisky can, however, be aged for up to 50 years, fetching tens of thousands of pounds at auction per bottle.
There are a number of different whisky regions you can visit in Scotland, though if you are struggling to choose, you can’t go wrong with Speyside on the banks of the River Spey, which has the largest number of distilleries of any region in Scotland, including famous titles like Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and Balvenie. If you happen to be visiting in early October, don’t miss the annual Autumn Speyside Whisky Festival. You can enjoy many a “dram” — the local word for a unit of whisky.
6. Toffoc vodka — Anglesea
When you think vodka, you might think of it warming you up during the deep dark depths of a Russian winter. However, a novel take on the spirit is Toffoc — a toffee-flavoured vodka from Wales. It’s based on flavours favoured in the French apres-ski scene and can be used in cocktails including black and white Russians as well as in the pudding tiramisu. Former U.K. prime minister Tony Blair is said to be a fan.
While it’s now available in hundreds of pubs across the country, for the purest Toffoc experience head to Anglesea in Wales, west of Liverpool. It’s the largest island in Wales and for tourists, home to around 120 ancient monuments from medieval fortresses to stately period homes.
7. Gin — Plymouth
Another iconic British drink is a good old fashioned G&T. Plymouth Gin began honing its craft more than two centuries ago — giving it the title of the oldest working distillery in the country. The building the distillery is in is even older — the Black Friars Distillery building in Plymouth, Devon, dates back to the 1400s. It offers various distillery tours ranging from those concentrating on the history of the buildings and the company through to those that spend far more time on the different types of gins.
Plymouth is a direct train ride from London, and once you’re in the West Country, it’s just a hop to Cornwall, which is full of beaches and beautiful seaside fishing towns. If you are fortunate to visit Plymouth in fine weather, it’s known as “Britain’s Ocean City” so you can check out the seaside there, too.
Even in central London, you’re likely to see people everywhere drinking most of these drinks — they’re certainly not difficult to find. The strong pub culture in the U.K. brings people together socially for a drink or two and a good chat. Some of these famous drink destinations are a bit of a journey to reach, but there’s the benefit of seeing some beautiful and interesting parts of the country that the average pub patron in the capital may not have experienced.
And for all that travel, there’s certainly a drink waiting for you at the end of it!
Featured photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images