Thursday, March 25, 2010

Drinking Around the World at EPCOT




It recently came to my attention that there are far too many people out there who do not know the Drinking Around the World basics--or even what Drinking Around the World is, for that matter.

My friends, Drinking Around the World--or DATW, as we affectionately call it--is a staple of every trip I take to Walt Disney World. My trip in September of last year marked my eleventh full completion of DATW, so yes, I think of myself as something of an expert on the subject.

First, the main thing to know is that there are two different ways to DATW--but this entry deals with only one of them! The second is a completely different experience and will take an entry all its own to describe.

Second, yes, there are rules about DATW. Personally, I believe that once someone has fully experienced DATW a couple of times, most of these rules are bendable, but for at least the first time you drink ATW, they must, must, must be followed. Now, these are my rules, based on eleven successful DATW trips. There are other rules out there, but I can only tell you what has worked for me and the many, many people I have introduced to DATW.

I suppose I should at least give a brief description of what Drinking Around the World is. For those of you who don't know, the EPCOT theme park at Walt Disney World has an area called The World Showcase. In The World Showcase are eleven countries--starting at the left, if you are facing the back of the park, and working around clockwise, they are Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, USA, Japan, Morocco, France, Great Britain, and Canada. Yes, there are some very notable world powers missing here, but you might as well push that thought off to the side because the eleven staple countries were "installed", if you will, in 1982 and haven't changed since. There has been a small addition of an African-styled area/corner on the bridge between China and Germany, but there really isn't enough there for it to count as a pavilion--not to mention, they don't carry any drinks or beers native to any African country, so why force yourself to drink another crappy mass-produced American beer? We simply act as if this little African area doesn't exist, and I suggest you do the same.

As for my rules...

My very first and to me, most important rule is that you must start in Mexico. I have many friends who swear by starting in Canada, but I will never understand why. Mainly because of the old adage, "liquor before beer, you're in the clear; beer before liquor, never been sicker". If you start in Canada, you will start with beer, and probably have beer in Great Britain, and from thence move to wine/champagne in France, a mixed drink in Morocco...and I can't imagine that ending with one of the amazing Mexican Margaritas would be pretty. As I said, I have completed eleven trips DATW, and I have never puked from it. (::knock on wood::)

The second rule, and what should be the most obvious one, is that you need to have at least one drink in each and every country. I am not so much of a stickler on exactly what you drink, so long as it isn't just Bud Light every single time. Personally, my day looks like this:
  1. Mexico-Margarita (my favorite drink of the day)
  2. Norway-Beer (nowadays it's Carlsberg, brewed in Denmark--I want to say they used to have a beer that was actually from Norway, but if so it hasn't been around since sometime in 2005 or 2006)
  3. China-Beer (Tsingtao)
  4. Germany-White Wine (they used to have a Riesling; the last time I went it was a Gewurztraminer; regardless, they were both amazing)
  5. Italy-Bellini
  6. America-Beer (I used to slum it with Miller Lite, but the past couple of times I've drank Sam Adams)
  7. Japan-Beer (Sake is probably the braver choice, but I don't like the stuff and so I drink Kirin Ichiban)
  8. Morocco-Tangerine Daquiri (my second favorite drink of the day)
  9. France-Champagne
  10. Great Britain-Beer (I used to get Tennant's, brewed in Scotland, but the past few times I've stuck with Stella Artois, brewed in Belgium, simply because I prefer it)
  11. Canada-Beer (Previously we always had to drink Labatt Blue, but when we went in September of last year they had Moosehead, which I was very excited about!)

This second rule is one that I feel can be broken after you've accomplished a few trips ATW. It's rare that I substitute, but it has happened, so if you are already an established DATW champ, it is a-okay in my book for you to, say, skip a drink in America and instead have sake and beer in Japan, or two glasses of champagne in France, or two beers in Great Britain.

My final true rule is that you need to take your time. Although I know people who have started at 5 or 6 PM and rushed their way around, this just leads to messy drunks and/or puking and/or the very good chance that you simply won't have time to make it all the way around the world before they stop serving at 8:40/8:45 PM. I have discovered, through trial and error, that the best time to start is right around 3 PM. This leaves you time to linger in a few countries (including eating, at some point) and also grab your last drink and a viewing spot for the 9 PM Illuminations--and of course, you'll be good and drunk but not quite to the point of making a fool out of yourself.

The rest of my "rules" are something like the Pirate Code of Parlay--they're more like guidelines ;o), or maybe, more aptly, hints at how to make your DATW experience more enjoyable.

Tip #1: Eat something. For whatever reasons, many of my friends insist upon the sushi in the Japan pavilion; personally, I feel it's best to get something heavy and/or greasy in your stomach during your trip ATW. A giant pretzel in Germany, a burger and fries in America, or fish and chips in Great Britain are my top picks.

Tip #2: The more people you are with, the better. The absolute best DATW experience I ever had was with a group of 17; however, I've also had amazing times with groups of 8-12. That's not to say that it wasn't fun the few times there were only 4 or 5 of us participating; it's just that in a bigger group, people tend to act sillier. Plus, bigger groups make better pictures, as well ;o)

Tip #3: Grab a Kidcot mask! This is basically a white mask made of posterboard, attached to a paint mixing stick from Home Depot. You pick it up when you start DATW, in Mexico (make sure to grab a marker as well!) and as you make your way ATW, you write the silly things your DATW-mates say on it, and hopefully get creative with decorating it as well. Each pavilion has a Kidcot stop, along with a little something that they will add to the mask for free, but we also usually buy a few cheap little souvenirs/trinkets and attach them ourselves. This makes for a great souvenir, although for some reason we are rarely ever able to keep track of who brings the mask home and what happens to it in the future.

Tip #4: Don't bother with cash or a debit/credit card. Grab a gift card at one of the stores in the park, before you start DATW, and load it with at least $80-90. If you only use it for drinks, as of September of last year that would get you all the way ATW, without having to worry about change, or signing something, or balancing your bank account the next day. My good friend Marty pushed this idea on me a couple of years ago, and all I can say is that I'm not sure why I never thought of it--and I definitely owe him one!

Tip #5: Explore the pavilions. This is another big plus when you take your time--you can ride the Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico and make fun of it, and ride the Maelstrom attraction in Norway, which is sadly one of EPCOT's thrill rides. Make sure to do some shopping in China and Japan, keep an eye out for some great photo opportunities in the nooks and crannies of Morocco, hop in the fountain in France (okay, you may not want to do this...I think I'm just lucky that I have yet to get caught), and if British Invasion is playing in Great Britain, try to catch their show. These little opportunities are what make DATW so much better than just hanging out at some bar, whether it be in Orlando or another city.

And now that I've waxed reminiscent for nearly 1500 words, it's time that I left you with one last (and what should be obvious) tip: take plenty of pictures! In conclusion, here is a picture from what I still count as the best Drinking Around the World experience ever, July 2006 with a group of 17 (although not all 17 of us are pictured here) and a very infamous mask:
Rest stop in America, halfway through DATW

5 comments:

  1. Great tips! I own the domain drinkingaroundtheworld.net and have always wanted to do something with it, but like so many things just haven't gotten to it. Maybe you could help.

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  2. Ha! How long have you owned that domain? Too funny. I'm not much for HTML or website building, but I'm always willing to help with content :)

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  3. I strongly disagree with your drink of choice in Germany. When in Germany, you drink one of three things... 1) Jagermeister or 2) Beer or 3)Jagermeister AND Beer. Preferably choice #3. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, under any circumstances should anyone settle for wine. The lone exception is in Italy, where they actually have a few marginally enjoyable wines, and I don't remember if they have any beers or liquors to choose from.

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  4. Well, I'm sorry you disagree but as a note, they no longer serve Jagermeister in Germany...haven't for at least two years now :-/

    Of course the Germans know beer and again, my drink suggestions are just that...suggestions. Germany is also very well known for its sweet white wines which is why I feel that wine is a completely legitimate drink choice in Germany, especially if one isn't big on Franziskaner (yes, I know, GASP) or darker beers in general, and Beck's is a...well, a pussy German beer.

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  5. Hahaha brava! Like I said on FB, I have yet to to DATW. I suppose my greatest opportunity was back in 2005 when I was on my advanced internship, but as I recall, back in those days I was far more interested in shopping around the world or eating around the world or any combination thereof, and I was too cheap to want to pay Disney prices for drinking. (In all fairness, I was only making about $10.10/hr and still paying for Cobra insurance). Aaaaaaanyway, your guidelines look quite reasonable and if the planets align just right, I swear that I *will* join one of your Disney adventures and you can break me in on this.

    And as an side for any doubtful readers, the best German beers are regional and probably not available this side of the pond, and Germany is actually a very respectable wine producer--I've seen the vineyards of the Mosel Valley and it's amazing. It's not all about Jager and beer for them. In fact, I don't know any German who gives a crap about Jagermeister--they'd rather have either beer OR wine.

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