I will never forget my first kiss. I had no idea what I was doing. Would I miss or mess up? Would I like it? And what if I didn’t? Who would I disappoint? Onlookers and the bartender watched as I leaned over, tentative yet excited. I prayed to the gods. Gently, I stole my first kiss. A smooth burning sensation hit the back of my throat, instantly warming my insides. I looked up, smiled, and knew it was love at first sight. Dutch Jenever, will you be my Netherlands soul mate?
Winter Drinks To Warm Your Soul
From local liquors to Glühwein and Belgian beer, winter drinks are The Uncorked Librarian’s favorite part of the colder season. Who doesn’t love a booze cruise down the canals of Amsterdam to see the light festival or ice-skating in front of the Rijks? Not to mention bicycle karaoke at the Heineken Experience. Who could resist the fries, waffles, and beer of Belgium? But, this is not a beer…or is it…as travelers hop from one of Brussels’ hundreds of museums. Don’t miss a secret library experience or walking underground at the less frequented Burnt Court. Germany’s Christmas Markets produce gingerbread men that come to life for carousel rides and Apfelwein, the equivalent of adult apple juice, after a day of walking the botanical gardens. But if all of this seems impossible or budget breaking, Epcot’s International World Showcase in sunny Florida has your back. Grab your passport and tour the Festival of the Holidays through France, Germany, England, and Norway.
Winter drinks define this uncorked lady’s winter travels and make the colder weather bearable. Every year, we plan a few winter excursions to find that Dutch Gezelligheid filled with magical seasonal coziness. How can you obtain the ultimate winter drinking experience in Europe, too? Visit these 4 iconic European destinations—Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Brussels, and…the fake Europe…Epcot—for cozy drinks and activities. Cheers!
How can you obtain the ultimate winter drinking experience in Europe? Visit these 4 iconic European destinations—Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Brussels, &…the fake Europe...Epcot—for cozy winter drinks and activities. #EuropeTravel Click To Tweet
1. Jenever/Genever in Amsterdam
“Have you tried Dutch Jenever? This is how you drink it. Leave your glass on the table, bend over, and give it a gentle kiss for your first sip.”
Man, this bartender was a man after my own heart. Kissing hard liquor? Yes, please! Is that considered cheating on my husband? Or is making out with an inanimate object one of those hall passes that you get and never talk about? Morals aside and completely smitten in a warm library bar as Amsterdam saw a rare and beautiful early snowfall, locked in a passionate embrace, I sucked face with my Jenever. Teeling Whiskey, watch out. There’s a new man in town.
P.S. What you should really know is never refer to Jenever as “Dutch gin” (even though it is) just like you never ever call Smithies ‘girls.’ They are all women. Young, brilliant women.
Drinking in the Netherlands is a must. Who doesn’t want to play at the Heineken Experience or try local brews in a windmill bar at Brouwerij ‘t IJ. Imagine being packed in, chatting with the international students, sipping pure goodness, family-style. What about a cheap bar drink and a stroopwafel in a brown café? And then there is that smooth liquor, mi amor, mi Jenever. WHICH YOU CAN ALSO FIND IN BELGIUM; did you know?!
Amsterdam and “Gezelligheid”
Our first trip to the Netherlands proved more than magical, and I am fantasizing about a spring return for some tulips. I am not the Netherlands expert, as we only saw Amsterdam and Utrecht—but booze, I get.
Squares lit up with trees housed stages full of carolers. Tourists and locals alike danced in the gentle snowflakes. Baby Christmas trees waited for adoption on the sides of roads, and ICE Amsterdam set-up in front of the Rijksmuseum for scenic skating and leg breaking. Not to mention all of those red Christmas lights in the windows with gir….Oh wait…
“Gezelligheid” is the Dutch word for everything I love about Amsterdam at Christmas. Although Gezelligheid is more of a feeling, the word loosely translates to cozy. Picture squeezing onto bar stools at the local pub, and ordering a boozy drink while people watching.
Top Uncorked Experiences in Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Getting lost on one of the floors of the Rijksmuseum. The Rijks is home to Dutch art and history. Of course you’ll find famous artwork from Van Gogh and Rembrandt. Nearby, don’t skip the Van Gogh Museum, and of course, The Anne Frank House is a must. From the moment you walk behind that bookcase, you are entering a piece of history larger than life itself. Be sure to buy tickets in advance for the Anne Frank House.
- Sipping Jenever at the Ambassade Hotel’s infamous library bar. We fell madly in love with this ritzy Herengracht neighborhood hotel near the Tic Tac Toe Streets. Ambassade’s library bar houses 5,000+ signed books, all from authors who stayed at the hotel. Booze porn and book porn all in one? During our weeklong stay, a famous chef interviewed and added his latest cookbook to the collection. This bar is a book lover’s and literary traveler’s dream. Yes, I decided to go there and leave an adjective out. You should be proud.
- Booze cruising down the canals to see the Amsterdam Light Festival. In a traditional wooden boat, we spent an hour and a half gliding down the canals with over 30 light displays. Our cruise included warm mulled wine and all of the free drinks that you could kick back in 1.5 hours. Hilariously, our tour guide had to give up talking as people preferred his bartending services a bit more. If you drank too much, your punishment included scaling the front of the boat to the bathroom. First time ever, I didn’t take advantage of the beer buffet. Uncorked is unbalanced.
- Shopping! I hate shopping, but hear me out… What are the Tic Tac Toe Streets? Officially called the “9 Little Streets” that meet in a tic tac toe grid, travelers and locals can find the best curios: Wig and specialty sock shops, cozy and diverse dining, and just oddities of cuteness and fun everywhere.
- Ice skating in a pop-up rink. Although the iconic ‘I Amsterdam’ sign has been moved from the front of the Rijks Museum to the airport—you can thank the obnoxious IGers for that—ICE Amsterdam is still going strong. As Floridians, finding authentically winter ice-skating is nearly impossible. We loved the playful exercise and wet butts as the Rijks watched over/laughed at us. My favorite: people skating with CHAIRS. Skating is hard, y’all.
- Running through black light rooms and beer tasting at the Heineken Experience. The Uncorked Librarian does not like Heineken; I am so sorry to break it to you. I even gave away my two free beer tokens at the end of the tour. Learn the beer-making process, but even better, play in room after room of trippy simulations, beer making, and even attempting to pour your own beer. Bicycle karaoke anyone? We also caught a magical break: Since the horses were out of town, Heineken converted their stalls into a tasting bar. Whether you like the cheap beer or not, don’t miss this EXPERIENCE.
2. Belgian Beer in Brussels
Did you ever land in a country with little expectations and knowing next to nothing about its history? Belgium has both Dutch and French influences, making it an eclectic little country filled with famous fries, waffles, chocolate, and beer.
A majestic cathedral and endless Christmas lights distracted us and Red Bulled our tired eyes as we pulled up to our hotel in the Sablon neighborhood of Brussels, Belgium. Staying slightly off the Christmas Market path, charm surrounded us with a glimmering tree in the square, seemingly endless stained glass windows from the elite 15th century Catholic Church, and a small garden guarded by stoic statues. Damn, Brussels knows how to make a great impression. Did I mention that Belgium also birthed the Smurfs? Nothing can be a wrong with a place that created such little blue childhood magic.
While I am not exactly a lighter beer drinker, you can find a plethora of beers to taste at the local downtown bars. Venture farther out into the country for the real breweries, but know that you can have your own personal beer tasting in your room. Shop after shop in Brussels sells all the beer you could ever want.
Do I have a specific recommendation? Ehhh….because I drank beer EVERYWHERE I could. Unique, The Sister Brussels Café located near Grand-Place square and the Chocolate Museum, offers a selection of 70 beers with organic and gluten-free choices. They also cook up vegan and gluten-free waffles with ice cream. The café rubbed us slightly the wrong way as they advertise flights. Since they don’t have taps, their “flight” is opening 4 beers, splitting the beers with your partner or group, and paying 20 euros. Cough, cough, not a flight. I warned you. I did love and appreciate the gluten-free, vegan options with a killer beer list, though.
Don’t forget the Christmas Market
If you are in Brussels around Christmas Market time too, grab Belgian wines at the stalls, and of course, find Glühwein. Unlike the German Christmas markets, stalls serve wine in plastic cups. Get the rosary beads out, y’all. I won’t even talk about this further. There. Are. No. Words. Brussels is known for having one of the longest Christmas Markets, and you can catch live dancers and gorgeous lights at its heart.
Top Uncorked Experiences in Brussels, Belgium
- Taking pictures, enjoying a romantic stroll, and old wealth gawking. La Grand-Place dates back to the late 17th century and is the epitome of class and wealth. A combination of private and public dwellings, you’ll stare up at a rectangle of old guild houses reminiscent of Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Today the buildings are an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. Approaching the square on a wintery night is a bucket list item for the eyes. Lit up, the towering buildings exude power and wealth over a blue-lit Christmas tree and nearby nativity scene. Find restaurants, bars, and scenes resembling an Italian piazza.
- Museum hopping at a few of the HUNDRED Brussel museums. No, I am not drunk. You heard me right. Which ones should you pick? Personally, we loved the Magritte Museum as recommended by dark tourist bloggers, Cultura Obscura. In case you have a momentary brain fart or drank too much wine, Magritte is the “This is not an apple” painter. BUT IT IS AN APPLE. We also loved going underground in the lesser-known Coudenberg Palace. If you have 45 minutes to spare, this little gem is perfect. What used to be a palace and then caught fire/fell into ruins is now an archeological site. With a place named “The Burnt Court,” I gladly toured this YA book sounding treasure. Essentially, you walk over grounds and streets that were once up above but are now buried a bit lower underground. Creepy, yet cool, I found myself thoroughly engrossed in the ruins and off the tourist track. Coudenberg Palace is like the Roman Forum yet buried. If you love watching excavation or are an archaeological buff, don’t miss this site.
- Sneaking into the public library, which ended up being the ROYAL LIBRARY OF BELGIUM. Book goddesses, hear my exuberant whispering screams. Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België is the building we magically landed in, although I had no idea what I was doing at the time. I saw the word ‘library,’ waltzed in like I owned the place, and prayed the weapon-scanning guards would not deny me entry. They didn’t. Advanced research like a pro-travel blogger, or anyone but The Uncorked Librarian, would have told me about the rules and greatness. But planning is for boring people. Rooms are marked with rules, which I need, but there is SO MUCH THAT YOU CAN DO AND TOUCH. Don’t miss the free museum, Librarium, showcasing the history of books, writing, and libraries. Need I say more? Oh, and head to the top floor to spy that psycho tourist trap, Atomium. Serendipity and being nosy are my badass superpowers. This concludes the rest of Brussels. I’ll be in the stacks.
- Tasting chocolate at the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate. A small little gig, you head upstairs to a hokey museum to learn about the history of chocolate. Dated but oddly satisfying as you nibble on chocolate pieces, head back downstairs for a chocolate-making demonstration. Although about 15-20 minutes, the chocolatier is entertaining and shows you the porn. Chocolate porn. At the end, he passes out samples–there are gluten- and lactose-free options. You leave feeling like you saw the whole of Brussels. Not really. But you should do it. With low expectations. You just have to.
For More Travel and Drinking Tips, Check Our TUL’s Latest Boozy Travels
3. Glühwein and Apfelwein in Frankfurt
Nothing screams winter in Europe more like a German Christmas Market or hot beverage. Most everyone these days knows about Glühwein thanks to the cheap bottles sold at supermarkets. Imagine steamy mulled wine in special cups sold at stalls. You pay for the wine and put in a deposit on your cup. Nothing warms the soul on a rainy day like the sugary red goodness. Honestly, I love Glühwein like I love my cats—a lot—but I am onto these markets. The more wine you drink, the more you just need that knit penguin hat and owl Christmas ornament. Amiright?
More unique to Frankfurt, Germany visitors can try their specialty: Apfelwein. Just like Dutch Jenever is not really gin (wink, wink), Apfelwein is not really cider. BUT it is. Shit, are we in Brussels? Is Magritte in da houz?! Sweet or dry, Apfelwein goes down like apple juice and will warm you up for those chilly market days. Mind you, Frankfurt stays a bit warmer than the rest of Germany.
Did you know that there is regular red and white wine heated up at the markets? AND IT IS GOOD? Gosh, I hope the booze doesn’t evaporate out. Can someone research this for me? Sometimes when the sugar and spice and everything nice becomes too much, this is perfect for boozy bloggers and their husbands.
Top Frankfurt, Germany Experiences
- Snacking at one of the oldest and largest Christmas Markets in Germany with its beautiful carousels in Römerberg Square. Don’t miss out on the gingerbread and giant pretzels.
- Seeking solace from museum fatigue at Palmengarten, the botanical gardens
- Art spying at the Städel Museum and strolling down the nearby river walk
You can read TUL’s complete Frankfurt and Cologne, Germany guide here.
4. Drinking All The Booze at WDW Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays in Florida, United States
For those who cannot travel to the real Europe, why not indulge in a little Florida Disney magic? Epcot hosts the Festival of the Holidays from mid-November through the end of December. Grab your passport and head to Showcase Plaza for some tasty and boozy treats.
- Reliving a German Christmas Market with cider from Frankfurt and the hot red stuff, Glühwein, in Germany
- Dining on hand-carved smoked ham and sweet potato casserole with a holiday beer flight in America (not European but ya know…)
- Sipping on Spiced Rum and a selection of wines in France
- Clinking glasses with red bubbly Prosecco in Italy
- Celebrating Hanukkah with a blue Cosmo and potato knish between France & Morocco
I hope that you find ways to stay warm this holiday season. What are your favorite winter drinks? What do you love to see and do in Europe in the winter?
Nothing invokes holiday and wintery cheer like warm winter drinks, museum hopping, and Christmas Markets. I love Europe in the winter and definitely try to make a trip each year to celebrate all that is cold. I hope that you find ways to stay warm and enjoy the magical season too.
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