I've always asserted that the best thing about food and drink is its ability to offer such an honest window into the many different cultures you experience on your travels. Whenever I visit somewhere new (or familiar!), I insist on trying the local foods, beers and spirits - sometimes you end up with something questionable, but it's always fascinating and inspiring.
That said, sometimes you need to be able to depend on a good drink to lift spirits, bring people together and to settle you into a new spot. Again, I always try and taste something new and indigenous to a country, area, restaurant or bar, but as discussed in my post on cocktail red flags, I don't want to waste my hard earned on something that is style over substance. There's a magic to a cocktail that I love, and if it's not going to be provided by a local product, I like to defer to the ones I know I can get anywhere, and give all the deliciousness required. So, here is a clutch of drinks I rely upon across the globe. Of course there's loads (loads!) of amazing, smaller, local products to try but these you can get in shops, in dive-bars, in the world's leading cocktail bars and everything in between, so when you're stuck for that quality beverage in each corner of the globe, have a go at reaching for these. Yes, they're all premium products, but they all offer value in what they provide.
Vodka - Belvedere
It's important to mention both luxury products like Grey Goose, and power houses like Ketel One here as they're amazing products that you can get in most spots. But what I've loved seeing with the change in outlook towards vodka is people embracing it as a spirit with character rather than something to fortify a set of flavours, and Belvedere displays this wonderfully. A nutty, spicy rye vodka from Poland that is most certainly a luxury product (look out for it in your nearest shiny nightclub) but the spirit does everything you need in a well made vodka. Just drink it chilled down (very cold, in a very cold, small glass) with a twist of lemon peel.
Whiskey - Jack Daniel's No7
My other favourite thing to do in new cities is to go to a gig, and my nostalgic drink of choice has always been a Jack and Coke. Not only is it delicious, it's a drink you can get anywhere. But Jack Daniels itself is a brilliantly dependable whiskey (I opt for the regular No7). I've tried examples dating back to the 60s that would've adorned every backstage (and on-stage) show and they still taste undeniably like Jack. Branch beyond a Jack and Coke though - try an espresso martini with it and never look back.
Rum - Bacardi 8
A notable call could've been made for Havana 3 or the 'Carta Blanca' Bacardi seen throughout the globe, but the aged Bacardi covers every eventuality that a rum calls for. Given the difficulty of finding 100% agave tequilas everywhere, rum is my second go-to fun spirit, and Bacardi 8 works every which way. You can drink it neat, it mixes great in highballs, works brilliantly in rum classics that immediately transport you - such as a daiquiri or mojito - and it similarly makes rich, stirred down boozy numbers effortlessly too. Worth picking up a bottle and testing my theory.
Gin - Beefeater
A close call between this and Tanqueray, but the versatility of Beefeater, its adherence to its London home (right near to Dandelyan!) and its sheer bang-for-your-buck brilliance tips the crown. It's classically London Dry style with plenty of bold juniper, but it has a wonderful citrussy edge that means it traverses G&T, Martini, Collins... you name it - like a proper gin should. And you can get it everywhere. Gin win.
The Best Bottle You Can Get Anywhere In Any Pub Or Shop - Lagavulin 16
Now, this certainly isn't for everyone, but this is such a dependable, wonderful gem that it takes the overall crown for me. I have plenty of favourite whiskies (Bowmore, Springbank, Clynelish, Talisker, Longmorn, Lochside etc) but this bottle crops up everywhere - and for good reason; it's consistent, and it's exceptional. And even better, it works neat and makes incredible cocktails. But to really surprise yourself (and to really upset some purists) take my good pal Dave Broom's advice and try it equal parts with Coca Cola. Two products you can get anywhere, and I promise it'll be one of the tastiest serves you'll come across.