Countries around the world produce booze worth celebrating—and celebrate it they do with parades, week-long cocktail conventions, theater shows and even food fights. If you thought Americans drank a lot during Mardi Gras and St. Patricks Day, just wait until you see how German, Argentine and Japanese drinkers fete their favorite beverages. Here are the boozy festivals worth booking an international flight to attend.
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Where: Islay, Scotland
When: Last week of May
A pilgrimage to Islay is on every scotch lover’s bucket list, but you’ll get the most out of your trip if go during Feis Ile (pronounced “Faysh Eeyla”), aka the Islay Festival of Music and Malt. During the week-long event, distilleries like Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Bruichladdich and Caol Ila hold open days, offering tours, special tastings, workshops and lots of traditional musical performances and ceilidhs (a Scottish folk ball) to go along with all that peaty scotch.
Where: Munich, Germany
When: Mid-September - Early October
Sure, you can attend astounding Oktoberfest celebrations all over the world at this point (including right here in America), but these satellite parties are nothing compared to the main event in Munich. For two weeks starting in September and running into early October, biergartens all over the Bavarian capital froth over with lederhosen-wearing revelers, sausages and pretzels, and steins upon steins of German brews.
Where: Mascota, Mexico
Raicilla, mezcal’s cousin from Jalisco, has been trickling into the U.S. for a few years now, and if you’ve developed a taste for the fruity and floral agave spirit, you should head to the source. For several days each December, the town of Mascota welcomes taberneros from countryside distilleries, who unload barrels of the good stuff on eager locals and visitors. Taco carts feed the crowds while mariachi bands provide the music. There’s even horse dancing in case literal barrels of raicilla somehow become boring.
Where: Haro, Spain
When: June 27-30
At this annual wine fight (a food fight with weaponized wine, not a wine-fueled brawl), much of the vino ends on clothing, in hair, or on the ground, flowing like a river—but there’s plenty to drink as well. Originally meant to celebrate St. Peter’s Feast Day, the festival has become divorced from much religious meaning. Attendees climb a mountain above the town of Haro in Rioja armed with bottles, water guns and gardening sprayers, and unleash a deluge of vino on one another, all before descending into town for a massive party.
Where: London, England
When: Second week of August
Called “the biggest pub in the world,” the Great British Beer Festival gathers over 650 beers (two-thirds of them from the U.K.) in a convention center in London. Organized by the Campaign for Real Ale, the festival gives visitors the chance to sip and sip and sip on brews to their hearts’ content (and then sip some more). Along with an overwhelming number of smaller stands, a select handful of breweries set up large brewery bars inside the festival where you can sample a range of bottlings, including some specially made for the event. Tutored tastings, street foods and live entertainment round out the experience.
Where: Mendoza, Argentina
When: First week of March
Vendimia (the National Grape Harvest Festival) is one part religious ceremony, one part beauty contest, one part epic chariot parade, one part stage show and one part wine feast. The festival, which celebrates the grape harvest and wine making region, was originally celebrated as early as the 17th century, but the current iteration in Mendoza has been an annual event since 1936. The highlight is the parade of 18 Vendimia queens who ride in from their respective departments all over Mendoza Province on large chariot floats. These regional queens are in the running to be crowned Reina Nacional de la Vendimia during a spectacular stage performance that evening that features traditional music, dancers, waterworks, confetti and pyrotechnics.
Where: Tokyo, Japan
When: Last week of November
Japan hosts its fair share of boozy conferences—the Tokyo International BarShow, the Fukuoka Whisky Talk, Chichibu Whisky Matsuri—but these events are either too narrow (focusing on a single region) or too broad (attracting international conglomerates). The Tokyo Whisky Festival is the Goldilocks event for anyone looking to taste the best of the Japanese whisky industry in one place. The event corrals nearly every whisky maker from around the country, with small craft brands setting up stalls beside giants like Suntory. Expect to see bottlings that rarely leave Japan from distilleries like Chichibu, Akkeshi, Asaka, Wakatsuru, Nagahama, Mars Shinshu and Shizuoka. There are even special releases just for the event, like Chichibu’s highly coveted and extremely limited bottling for the 10th anniversary of the festival in 2017, which sold out nearly instantaneously.
Where: London, England
When: First week of October
London has always been a few years ahead of America on the cocktail curve, developing recipes, creating bar concepts and promoting spirits that only slowly make their way to the U.S. later. If you want a glimpse into the future, head to London Cocktail Week, where the newest of the new is on full display at over 250 bars across the city. For a ten-spot (in pounds, that is) you can buy a digital pass that earns you signature cocktails for a discounted six quid at cutting edge spots like Super Lyan, Bull in a China Shop, Oriole, Mahiki and Scout—places where cocktails usually cost double that. There’s also the Cocktail Village at Old Spitalfields Market where pop-up bars from around the world crowd together, as well as fun activations like one in 2017 by Sipsmith that involved a cocktail-serving black cab that you could hail anywhere in the city by tagging the brand on social media.