Origins of Mountain Drink

Recently appearing on our student website, Line-S, Clem chats about the best drinks to find in the mountains this winter – it’s no longer Christmas, but doesn’t mean you can still treat yourselves on your holidays this year!

For many, a trip to the mountains conjures up memories of leisurely lunches and endless evenings sampling traditional mountain drinks. But have you ever wondered where these drinks originated from? Here are some of a few firm favourites.

The Italian “Bombardino”

Back in the day, a Genovese man left his city in favour of the Italian Alps. After many years in the Alpini, he opened a ski lodge in Lombardia. One blizzard-ridden day, the door opened to four skiers who cried for something warm to rid themselves of the icy chill. Quickly, the Genovese combined zabaglione (an egg-based custard) with milk and whiskey at a near boiling point. One of the skiers tasted the drink and cried “È una bomba!” (it’s a bomb!) and the Bombardino was born. The egg-based “zabaglione” harks back to 1845, when Gian Battista Pezziol, a Padua resident, had an excess of egg yolks. He specialised in making nougat where he only used egg whites and although he sold the yolks to the poor, there was still too many. Thus, he mixed the surplus yolks with marsala wine, alcohol and sugar to produce zabaglione, or VOV. Over time, cream replaced milk, and brandy or rum was switched in for whiskey. Now, the Bombardino is a much loved staple in the Italian Alps.

Pisco Sour for the Chilean Mountains

The South American brandy, Pisco, is celebrated to such an extent that in Peru and Chile, there are days dedicated to celebrating their shared national drink, The Pisco Sour. However, there is intense rivalry as both Chile and Peru claim to have invented the drink. There are a few differences – the Peruvian cocktail contains pisco, egg white, ice, key lime and angostura bitters, whilst the Chilean version leaves out the egg white and bitters. Although the grapes used to create Pisco are grown in both Peru and Chile, due to the adopted ingredients and methods, they end up producing very different tasting Pisco. One may assume, with such fierce national pride, it’s a drink steeped in tradition and ancient cultures. However, in reality, the Peruvian Pisco Sour was patented by an American bartender, Victor Morris in the 1920’s. If you’re heading into the Chilean mountains for a snow trip, you’ll be sure to find crisp, sharp sunshine, snowy vistas and the offer of a Pisco Sour.

German Schnapps

Schnapps was first used by monks in the 16th century for medicinal purposes, yet the word itself originates from Dutch and Low German: “snaps” meaning “mouthful”, a gulp of strong liquor (which sounds about right). Originally, schnapps was made by fermenting either grain or fruit juices (typically apple, pear, plum, cherry and apricot) to create a brandy. The fruity version is called Obstler, whilst schnapps that is made using grain is called Korn. During the 18th century, Empress Maria Theresa introduced a grant authorising any household to make up to hundred litres of distilled liquor, whilst farmers were permitted to distil up to three hundred litres. Hence, great quantities of wild fruits and berries (that are exceedingly bitter in their raw forms) were turned into fiery schnapps with the blessing of the Empress (who was also Marie Antoinette’s mother). Now this alcoholic delight is slurped on many a mountainoun resort to instantly warm the insides.

Most mountain drinks are potent, fiery and help to ward off any chills. Easy to knock back, but not so easy (if you slurp back a few) to make it back down the mountain after a lazy lunch. Make sure you don’t get too tipsy before you get a chance to try them all.


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