Switzerland has drinks like now where else. The Swiss are big drinkers, especially in winter, where they seem to combat the cold with alcohol. The mountain villages are full of fine foods but also have a range of warm winter alcoholic drinks specific to their region. Most drinks are made from local herbs and flowers gathered through the summer, and although they may sounds terrible, they are the perfect treat after a day of hiking or skiing.
Of course the country loves their beer and wine and the bars all have a great selection of local and international beverages. But only when I traveled to the mountains did I find the typical Swiss drinks that I now love. They are pretty simple recipes made from local Swiss spirits and liqueurs combined with teas that I wouldn’t know about back in Canada. Naturally, I went on a hunt to try them all and how they are made. Here are five of the most common Swiss drinks in the Alps that you have to try on your next trip to Switzerland!
Swiss Drinks Alcoholic
Alright, you may have heard of this one from European winter markets, but it is still a staple among the Swiss mountain ranges. Gluhwein, or mulled wine is a heavy red wine cooked with herbs, spices, fruit, sugar (and sometimes other liqueurs) and served warm in the early evenings. You will find it throughout Europe during the Christmas season but it sticks around the Swiss Alps for the winter ski season. The trick is not letting the wine boil, but keeping it hot enough to warm you up without burning of the alcohol.
Don’t let the simple look fool you, it is much stronger than you think. At first I thought this was just jagermeister and tea. Not quite, but jagertee is still a simple Swiss drink. Also known as Rhum Punch, it is a mixture of black or red tea, red wine and spices with rum (usually homemade and insanely high alcohol). It comes out in as a hot and tangy transparent red alcoholic drink. Jager actually means hunter, and being in the mountains, the hunters used to drink it while outside, as the skiers do today. You can actually buy premade mixtures in the shop like hot chocolate to get the flavor right. Just add hot water and white rum and your ready to go!
Along the same lines as the Jagertee, the Holdrio is a combination of schnapps and red tea. However schnapps are a totally different thing in Switzerland. This is no McGillicuddy’s sweet peach syrup, it is a clear liquid closer to lighter fuel that can also be easily ignited due to the high alcohol content. You can make Swiss schnapps from any fruit, most often from plum or pear or any mountain fruit. The holdrio is a specific swiss drink as it uses plum schnapps with rosehip tea and sugar. You can add any schnapps to any tea and call it something else, peppermint tea is common with krauter (herbal schnapps), but don’t forget the sugar!
4. Schumli Flumli
Now your starting to understand how the Swiss drinks are made right? Just take a regular hot drink and add some homemade liquor. Well the schumli flumli is no different, just more fun to say. There are many versions, also known as cafe lutz or cafe flumli and can be customized by the restaurant to include specific liquors. In general it is coffee with sugar and plum schnapps, flumli is Swiss German for plums. The schumli flumli is coffee with flumli and whipped cream on top. The cafe lutz is just a drop of coffee with sugar, hot water and flumli. The plum liquor takes over the coffee taste and being served in quite small cups it is a strong drink. The burn of the schnapps covers any fruit taste. Try it for your the morning coffee in the alps and it is sure to wake you up!
This is similar to an aperol spritz and originated in Italy but has become commonplace among Switzerland and Austria. It is a cold drink made from prosecco mixed with elderflower syrup (my favorite) and a few sprigs of mint over ice. It is light and refreshing, especially after you fill up on the hot drinks or need a break from the schnapps.
Swiss Non Alcoholic Drinks
Yes, these actually exist but rarely consumed while on holidays in the Swiss Alps! Rivella is the most authentic Swiss soft drink, which is sort of like a healthy fizzy drink made. Rivella is made from milk whey, which sounds utterly disgusting but isn’t so bad, and marketed as good for you.
My favorite non alcoholic Swiss drinks is called Sussmost, which is a carbonated swiss soft drink made with apple juice. Most or Moscht is the juice from apples, like a cloudy cider, but mix it with sparkling water and you have Sussmost. It is actually quite refreshing and a lot more common than normal flat apple juice, believe it or not.
Switzerland also has a selection of herbal teas, coffee and hot chocolates but in the mountains, it is totally normal to add rum or schnapps to anything!
Of course if you are looking for some modern beverages there are plenty of good bars sprinkled throughout the Swiss Alps. Even a tiny bar in Wengen that specializes in gin from around the world, with over 100 to choose from! Either way, when you come to Switzerland, make sure you indulge in the local Swiss drink selection. Schnapps is the backbone to any good Swiss mountain drink as it helps to break up the cheese in your stomach. It’s tradition to have a shot of kirsch (cherry schnapps) when you drop your bread in the fondue pot. Be sure to try some local liqueurs on their own along with the teas and wines. Just be careful because the higher and deeper you go into the Alps, the stronger the schnapps get.