Last month, I wrote about different kinds of popular German food that I miss from Germany. This month’s Blogger Stammtisch is all about drinks instead – a topic chosen by the lovely Frau Dietz. I have a somewhat uneasy relationship with that one as everyone here in Texas seems to think that Germans drink nothing but beer.
Did I ever tell you how I ended up in Lubbock, TX out of all places? I was studying International Business in Germany. One requirement of the degree was to spend one semester studying abroad. I had just completed an internship in Paris, France and was semi-secure in my use of French, so I decided I wanted to study in an English-speaking country. Australia sounded like fun, but the dates didn’t work. England is so close to Germany, that I figured I’d end up seeing it sooner or later – I didn’t know then that my sister would end up marrying a British guy and I would get to witness their beautiful wedding outside of London and they would introduce Marco and me to lots of yummy English food on our visits to London. Anyways, that left America on the potential list from our partner universities… the big US of A. I had never been and was kind of curious, so I looked at the websites of our partner universities and chose the one that looked the most “American” – you know, cheerleaders, football, big campus. Texas Tech University fit the bill.
One of the classes I took was International Management. The professor would always start the class with funny multiple-choice questions about stuff in different countries. One question was which country had the most productive workers and the options included Germany, France, and some other European countries. I don’t remember my guess and I don’t even remember the correct answer. I do remember however one of the students yelling through the class that it couldn’t possibly be Germany because all Germans did was drink beer all day…
So, to debunk the myth that Germans drink nothing but beer, let me tell you about some other popular drinks in Germany.
Coffee is a big deal in Germany. Most people will drink at least one in the morning and another one after lunch or, even better, in the afternoon with a piece of cake. In fact, you can almost add Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) as a meal by itself to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So, in Germany, we eat four times a day 🙂 The first few times I took Marco to see my family in Germany, he was surprised that everybody would serve us coffee and cake. Now, he kind of expects it and we schedule visits around mealtimes to avoid way too much food.
Most people drink regular drip coffee (like in the US). However, that is slowly changing and more people now aspire to have fancy machines that provide all sorts of coffee drinks like Milchkaffee (coffee with lots of hot milk, some of it frothed up). Something else you see at restaurants sometimes is a Kaffee mit Sahne (coffee with cream – either liquid cream or whipped cream).
Coffee is one of those things you’ll hear Germans gripe about when they travel. It’s just not the same as back home – in fact, when I want to treat myself, I still order a German brand like Jacobs from the German Deli. What’s so special about German coffee? The ground coffee itself is a lighter brown rather than the really dark brown you see in the US a lot. The grind is usually much, much finer – kind of like Italian espresso. Most importantly, it doesn’t tend to have the bitter aftertaste some other coffees can have. And I found that Germans tend to drink their coffee stronger than their American counterparts, but drink less of it.
Non-Alcoholic Drinks in Germany
Another thing Germans like to complain about when traveling is the lack of (good) sparkling water. In Germany, the tap water is usually very good and drinkable. However, most Germans prefer to drink sparkling water (aka Mineralwasser). In fact, when you order water at a restaurant, they will most likely bring you a glass or a bottle of sparkling water if you don’t specify that you want stilles Mineralwasser (non-sparkling mineral water). Sometimes water is called Sprudel as well. Oh, and water isn’t usually free in restaurants in Germany since you get bottled water and not tap water as in the US. There are different varieties: naturally sparkling, some added carbonation, or a lot of added carbonation. Water is something that most people in Germany buy in a big old plastic case that holds something like 12 glass or plastic bottles. The most famous brand is probably Gerolsteiner. When I first moved to Texas, I bought the not-so-great-tasting soda water at Walmart as a cheap substitute, but when that got more and more expensive I switched to a soda maker. Now, we buy filtered or spring water and add the sparkling part ourselves at home.
Do Germans drink water instead of all the sugary sodas like Coke, Fanta, Sprite, etc.? No, we have plenty of those as well in Germany, the big American brands as well as local brands. By the way, I have been told that the reason that Coke tastes different in Germany is that it’s made with real sugar in Europe and with cane sugar in the US. What’s almost more popular than sodas in Germany is to mix sparkling water with fruit juice. The most popular mix is definitely Apfelschorle which is sparkling water mixed with apple juice. It’s so popular that it’s usually listed as a drink on restaurant menus alongside Coca-Cola, etc.
Alcoholic Drinks in Germany
Yes, yes, you guessed it. Beer in fact is popular in Germany. Germans drink beer – among other things. The fun thing about beer in Germany is that it’s largely a local thing. While there are brands you can get anywhere, every region tends to have a kind of beer that is only brewed in their region. Where I grew up, outside Cologne, Kölsch is the local beer (kind of like Lager). In Düsseldorf, people tend to drink more Alt (a very dark beer). In Southern Germany, Weizen (wheat beer) is big. The type of beer determines the glass the beer is served in. For example, Kölsch is served in small .2 liter glasses that the server transports in what is called a Bierkranz (round plastic thing that holds quite a few small Kölsch glasses. A Weizen is usually served in a big tall glass that holds half a liter of beer. By the way, if you ever get to serve somebody in Germany a beer, make sure you include a two-finger foam above the beer. We Germans are very particular about the way our beer is served and foam is part of it – a beer without foam is assumed to be old and not have any carbonation in it. Marco was nice enough once to volunteer to get everybody at the table a fresh beer and came back with beer without the foam. He was sent back and taught how to do it the right way (i.e., the German way) by my dad very quickly. Poor guy! When traveling through Germany, you might be able to find a local brewery and ask for a tour. I went for many in the Zunft Kölsch Brauerei outside of Cologne growing up 🙂 They all included free samples after the tour.
Another popular drink in Germany is wine. I know that Germany is not often thought of as wine country, but there are some really good local wines that you should try while in Germany. The most famous wine regions in Germany are located along the rivers Rhein and Mosel. Check out one of the wineries there for a local tour. It’s a really pretty region and you might be surprised by the quality of the wine. Most of the wine produced in Germany is white, but there are a few red ones as well. Abroad, German wine is mostly known as the supersweet, cheap white wine, but insiders usually prefer a crisp Riesling. Another popular kind of wine is the sparkling white wine called Sekt (aka Germany’s champagne). A fun one is German Eiswine (ice wine), a wine produced from grapes that went through a freeze after they were fully ripened. It’s a dessert wine and usually very sweet.
On to another popular alcoholic drink in Germany, the Schnaps. While in the US schnapps is a sweet liquor, in Germany Schnaps is a any very strong, clear, lightly fruit-flavored alcoholic beverage. People will usually drink one of these after a heavy meal, sort of to aid digestion. The most popular ones are probably Obstwasser (apple and pear I think) or Williamsbirne (pear only) – but as I said, just because it has fruit in the name it doesn’t mean that they are fruity-sweet. Some people would also call the different kinds of Kräuterlikör (herbal liquor – once again, not sweet) Schnaps. I think Jägermeister is probably the most famous in that group followed by Underberg.
Some fun German beer glasses from my affiliate partner Amazon. Prost!
Seasonal Drinks & Special Occasions in Germany
What people in Germany drink also varies by the season. During Christmas and on Christmas markets, I don’t know anybody who can resist a nice hot glass of Glühwein (mulled wine). Check out my post on popular German food and drinks on Christmas Markets to read more. Other Christmas-y drinks in Germany are Lumumba (hot cocoa with rum), Eierpunsch (eggnog), and Feuerzangenbowle (Glühwein with burning liquor over a sugar cone). In the summer instead, many people prefer beer or beer mixed with lemonade (Radler – literally, a bike-rider). Have you ever tried a Radler? I know it sounds funny, but it’s actually really refreshing on a hot summer day. I’m on a mission to slowly convince all of my friends of this 🙂 A Radler is kind of a southern thing, but can be found throughout Germany. In and around Cologne you can also find what we call Kölsch-Cola which is half Kölsch, half Coca-Cola and also much better than it sounds. During summer other people will also mix wine with sodas or water. The combinations are many: red or white wine with sparkling water (saure Weinschorle) or with Sprite (süsse Weinschorle).
If there is something to celebrate in Germany, you better bring a bottle of Sekt (German sparkling wine). It’s what we Germans drink for special occasions. Birthdays, graduations, births, exams? Bring on the Sekt. While there are of course quite a few foreign brands of sparkling wine sold in Germany as well, the most common ones sold I think are German. Check out the picture below with all the different kinds in a single supermarket. We take our Sekt seriously 🙂 And as you can see, they come in either the regular size or a Pikkolo bottle which contains enough for a single serving.
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