Drinking in Brazil

After having discussed the eating habits of Brazilians (here and here), I would like to give my remarks on their drinking habits. I am not only going to talk about alcoholism, but I will try to touch on some differences regarding non-alcoholic beverages as well.

When I first travelled to Brazil, I was delighted to see, that they do not consume as much alcohol as Europeans do. While for most Europeans, going out at night mostly means drinking alcohol and getting absolutely wasted, Brazilians who go out in the evening, eat and drink as well. Since young people (especially students) are mostly on tight budget, this means they cannot drink too much and eating also helps tolerate alcohol. Most Brazilian bars offer some kind of finger food, often churrasco (grilled meat). In general, my impression is that the effects of drinking alcohol start showing on Brazilians earlier than on Europeans, however, they do not get knocked out as often as many Northern or Eastern Europeans do, because on average they do not drink as much.

beer
Skol, Brahma and Antarctica are the three most consumed brands in Brazil.

Alcoholic beverages are generally expensive in Brazil and are of poor quality. The most frequently consumed beer types (Skol, Brahma, Antarctica) are nowhere near in quality to most European brews (let alone comparing to German or Czech beers), and imported beer is very expensive. Nowadays, artisanal breweries are becoming more and more popular; however, they are also quite hefty. Wines that I could find in Brazilian supermarkets, tasted horrible and were also severely overpriced. Even Vodka is very expensive.

Most Brazilians drink beer regularly, but considering what I have mentioned above, for tourists, I would rather recommend drinking cocktails (such as the famous Caipirinha), because they are more priceworthy. Caipirinha is made using sugar, lime (which the Brazilians call lemon – they call the real lemon ‘Sicilian lemon’) and cachaça. Cachaça is a distilled liquor produced from sugar cane. People also drink it as shots.

Caipirinha
Caipirinha. Source

Another thing that I can recommend is ordering for juices. Most restaurants in Brazil serve freshly pressed orange juices or lemonades, which are rather rare in Europe and the difference in quality is apparent. Do not forget though, that Brazilians like everything very sweet, so they would naturally put tons of sugar in your juices or cocktails, you have to tell them explicitly if you would not like that.

Brazil is the land of coffee; therefore, you probably think that Brazilians drink good quality coffee all the time. You are partly right. Brazilians really drink coffee all the time. But the coffee they drink is of worse quality than what Brazil exports. I do not know if it has to do with the producers deciding to sell their best quality products for markets that are willing to pay more, or if it is because Brazilians drink so much coffee, that they have to drink a waterier coffee to avoid medical consequences. Nevertheless, you can see that Brazilians consume a lot of coffee. But do not have high expectation towards Brazilian coffee in Brazil. As a matter of fact, on the shelves of Starbucks’ in Brazil, the advertised coffee brands are from Africa or South-East Asia.

chimarrao
Chimarrão. Source

You may know that many South Americans drink mate, a kind of tea prepared from the dried leaves of erva-mate (erva = herb). This is common in Peru, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. While it does not have the same popularity all over Brazil, the Southern states are known to drink a lot of chimarrão (the Brazilian version of mate). Some residents of other states might also consume it of course. And it is important to note that most Brazilians while saying ‘tea’, actually mean mate.

Similarly, to US Americans, Brazilians also serve most beverages either very cold or with a lot of ice cubes. This means that most Brazilians will not at first like European beverages, because they are served “hot”. Yes, 5-10°C beer is referred to as “hot”. My girlfriend’s theory is that Brazilian beer is so bad, that people can only drink it if it is ice-cold, so they do not feel the taste. It makes sense to me, but I also agree that some extra cooling is necessary because of the heat, but I think it is exaggerated. Restaurants and bars usually serve beer bottles on a bucket of ice to keep it cold. Since beer is often served ice-cold, it is not uncommon to receive a bottle of beer that is half-frozen even in bars (only in the cheaper ones though). Not in restaurants or bars, but in their homes many Brazilians resort to the barbarian act of putting ice cubes into a glass of beer or glass of wine (YUCK!). But let’s keep in mind that these beer and wine are not of the same quality as the European ones.

There is a typical Brazilian soft drink that has the taste of Guaraná. Guaraná is a fruit that grows in the Northern parts of Brazil. Brazilians seem to like it so much, that there is even a Fanta juice with this flavor being sold here.

guarana
Guaraná drinks and the weird, eyeball-looking fruit that it is made of.

In Brazil it is quite common for restaurants (not the fancier ones though) to serve 2L bottles of soft drinks like Coke or Guaraná. If a group of friends is dining out and they or at least part of the group can agree on drinking the same beverage, they can save some money buy ordering the larger quantity. In Europe most restaurants make a big profit on selling drinks, therefore it is in their interest to be able to sell smaller quantities with a bigger profit. I guess in Brazil the profit on food and on drinks are more evenly distributed or may be bigger on the food. Interestingly, when Brazilians drink beer, they do not each order for a bottle, they order for one bottle and ask for cups for everyone. If the group is bigger (6-8 people) they will ask for two or three bottles of beer. And they all share the bottle, and when it is empty, they ask for another one. The point of doing this is to avoid the beer getting warm.

To sum it all up, when you go out drinking with your Brazilian friends, do not expect the same kind of pub crawl that would be common in Europe. I recommend trying Brazilian drinks whether cocktails or non-alcoholic beverages like juices or Guaraná. And do not be surprised if you are getting beer served from the freezer!

Source of the featured image is: https://www.camparimilano.com/

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