Sunday, March 31, 2019

W is for: Walt Disney World for Adults, Part I: drinking around the world at Epcot

It's known for being "The Happiest Place on Earth."

After spending three days at Disney World with six other adults... I can confidently say that moniker holds true just as much for the "kids at heart" as it does for the actual children themselves.

Adults can enjoy many of the same thing the kids do... meeting Disney characters, going on iconic rides, and eating all of the Mickey Mouse shaped food you can imagine. However, I think most can agree that the number one "adult centric" activity is participating in an "Around the World" drinking challenge at Epcot World Showcase, so that is where my Disney for Adults guide starts.

If you are an avid E is for Eat blog reader, you may remember that this is not my first time drinking around the world at Epcot. I also completed this bucket list item back in 2013, and detailed my experience here on the blog. I like to now think of myself as a seasoned veteran so I'm passing my knowledge along to you.

(Also, thanks, as always to Justin for the photos... which were truly magical from this trip.)

Also... I think the "rules" I posted about last go around definitely still hold true, so I'm reenforcing them here before we get started...

1.) Eat. It's the age-old rule, but worth mentioning. When you're planning on hitting eleven stops, a full belly is key. Plus, it might be fun to try eating around the world as well! I should also add, that if you plan to eat at some of the more popular restaurants at Epcot, reservations are highly recommended. You can make them for both lunch and dinner, and this is especially important for a large group. Of course, there are plenty of fast-service stops along the way, so if you prefer to eat on the go, then reservations aren't necessary.

2.) Sharing is caring. There's no shame in sharing drinks on this adventure (unless you're my friend Rob who insisted on having a full drink at each stop.) Your liver will thank you and so will your wallet. The happiest place on earth is also one of the most expensive, so expect to pay between $7-14 per drink (not to mention the cost of park admission.) Eleven countries... you do the math.

3.) Plan your route. Being the gigantic dork that I am, I read several blogs before my last visit and took notes in my phone so I had them handy when we got to each country. This was especially key once you've hit the midway point and the alcohol starts to cloud your judgement. 

4.) Slow your roll. This rule is two-fold. First of all, pace yourself. Secondly, set aside enough time. I recommend giving yourself at least 5 hours, and all day if you actually want to explore each country or visit any of the attractions (which is what we did.) Most of the World Showcase opens at 11am and closes at 9:30pm. However, we happened to visit on an "Extra Magic Hours" day, and this allows you to stay until 11pm if you are a Disney resort guest. We used the extra time to visit some of the attractions and rides without the crowds. 

5.) Enjoy the show. If you time it right, you will enjoy the fireworks show at the end of your world tour, right around 9pm. Prime viewing areas are available as part of FastPass reservations, which we took advantage of, but you can pretty much see the show from anywhere in the world showcase. From the "cast members" I spoke with, everyone has their own personal favorite spot, so you really can't go wrong. 

If your game plan is to go in order, then your options are to either start in Mexico or Canada, as the World Showcase is shaped like a giant horseshoe, wrapped around a picturesque lagoon. Being that I started in Mexico my last go-around, I was happy that our crew opted to start in Canada, giving me a different experience.... eh? Let this post serve as your official tour guide... and don't forget your passport (available at the gift shop.)

Canada Pavilion

CANADA: Ottwawa Apple & Unibroue Beer
Unless you are dining at Le Cellier Steakhouse (which is supposed to be fabulous by the way), then your alcoholic options will stem from a small popcorn & drink cart at the entrance to the Canada Pavillion. On my last visit, beer was really your only option here, but I was happy to see a couple of cocktail additions this time around. Our group of 7 had some of the Unibroue beer as well as an "Ottawa Apple" which is Crown Royal Maple Whiskey, apple infusion and cranberry. You can also get them in a souvenir cup!

O'Canada Circle Vision

Bonus attraction: O'Canada Circle-Vision 360
Since we were just at the beginning of our day-long pilgrimage, we decided to experience one of the Canada Pavilion attractions, and were very glad we did. If you have some extra time (or simply want to finish your drinks while watching a 360-degree tour of our neighbors to the north narrated by Martin Short), then this is definitely a worthwhile detour.

United Kingdom Pavilion

Rose & Crown Pub

UNITED KINGDOM: Bloody Mary, Cider & Pub Blends
After you've had your fill of posing for photos next to Mary Poppins or inside the iconic Red Phone Booths, pop into Rose & Crown Pub for your next stop. We ordered a wide variety of drinks here, from a Bloody Mary (controversial whether this originated in the UK or not), Cider, and a couple of the "Pub Blends" including Black & Tans (half Guinness, half ale) and Snake Bites (half cider, half Harp.) Though, our friend Mandy was very disappointed because she thought we were saying "steak bites" the whole time. Speaking of which, if you are hungry, the fish & chips looked pretty tasty as well.

France Pavilion

FRANCE: Orange Slushes, Champagne & Brie Bread Bowl
Once again, France proved to be one of my favorite stops on our whirlwind around-the-world tour. (Oui Oui!) The France Pavillion is famous for its Grand Marnier Orange Slush. Imagine an adult version of an Icee or a Slushy that tastes exactly like a creamsicle. The much sought-after cocktail has a mixture of Grey Goose vodka, Grand Marnier liqueur, rum, orange juice and definitely a ton of sugar. You can find these delightful treats at the Les Vins de Chefs de France stand located near the water across from Les Chefs de France Restaurant. This drink cart also features French champagne, if you want to get your François on minus all the sugar. (TBH, this was probably the hardest decision I made all day.)

Grand Marnier Orange Slush & Mini Brie Bread Bowl
Our visit also happened to fall during the festival of the arts, which takes place in January. As part of this special celebration, there was a pop-up food menu at one of the carts that featured "Creme de Brie en Petit Pain"... or in other words: "Delicious melty brie inside the most adorable mini bread bowl." Here's hoping this delightful dish stays on the menu all year round, because it was a tasty little snack that paired perfectly with the champagne.

Morocco Pavilion

MOROCCO: Casablanca Beer or Spice Road Cocktail
Morocco is actually a very underrated pavilion in the World Showcase (and actually very high on my list to visit as a country in real life.) If we hadn't been pressed for time to make our lunch reservation, I would've liked to explore here more. But alas, Italy was calling, so we got our Casa beer and went on our way. There's also a takeaway bar located inside Spice Road Table, which serves up a variety of cocktails. My friend Adam ordered a "Tangier Breeze," which was a mixture of peach vodka, Midori and pineapple juice. Restaurant Marrakesh or Spice Road Table also would've been a nice option for lunch if you are in the mood for kebabs or tangines.

Now, at this point in our magical adventure, things started to go off the rails. We actually skipped ahead to Italy in order to make our lunch reservation, then doubled back to Japan and America and then sort of jumped around the rest of the day. However, in the interest of keeping everything straight for your own planning, I will post these in the order they appear in the World Showcase.

Japan Pavilion

Unfiltered Sake at the Japan Pavilion

JAPAN: Sake or Kirin Frozen Draft Beer
Japan is certainly one of the more picturesque pavilions, with its bright red gate, towering Pagoda and luscious gardens. And as my friend Marisa accurately pointed out "This was our peak, Fuji style." We were definitely at peak drunkenness in Japan and made some questionable decisions. Namely, the sake I shared with my friend Nicole. I ordered sake because I didn't want to have another beer and I generally like unfiltered sake, but I did not enjoy this. That said, there are other better sake options (like any labeled "premium")... as well as Japanese beer.

You can even get a "Kirin Frozen Draft  Beer," an ice cold Kirin draft topped with frozen beer foam that sort of looks like soft serve ice cream, but is actually beer. The Japan pavilion was the first in the continental U.S. to sell this popular Tokyo drink. You can find it in the Garden House (the stand where we all ordered our drinks), the Kabuki Cafe & Tokyo Dining Restaurant. Supposedly, there is a sake bar in the back of the Mistukoshi Department Store that might be a nice stop if you are interested in doing some shopping while also sampling some more high end sake (as opposed to our $8 glass from the drink stand.) If you would like to sit down for a Japanese meal, I've read good things about Teppan Edo, which provides Hibachi-style dining (think Benihana), with sushi available a la carte.

Red Stagg Hot Cocoa at American Adventure

AMERICAN ADVENTURE: Red Stagg Hot Cocoa, Red Stagg Lemonade or Beer
Looking back, I highly regret not ordering a giant turkey leg in the "American Adventure" just for the photo op alone. Instead, I opted for a Red Stag Hot Cocoa, available at the Fife & Drum Tavern. I'm not sure if this was strictly a seasonal drink (we visited in the winter), but if you're in the mood for a bourbon drink, they also sell Frozen Red Stag Lemonades (frozen lemonade with Jim Beam.) And in true American style, you can also order beer such as Sam Adams, Yuengling & Budweiser. If craft beer is more your thing, check out Block & Hans for other beer options from around the country (a newer option at Epcot.)

Via Napoli in the Italy Pavilion

Giant pizza ovens at Via Napoli

1/2 meter of pizza at Via Napoli

ITALY: Aperol Spritz, Limoncello Mules, Tiramisu Martinis & a half Meter of Pizza
Bellissimo! That's how I felt about our entire experience in Italy. As the "Disney Mom" of the group and wanting to plan ahead for a much needed lunch break, I made a mid-afternoon reservation at Via Napoli (please refer to rule #1.) As you know, I live in New York, and have become somewhat of a pizza snob. So it's a pretty significant compliment for me to say... the pizza at Via Napoli is completely legit. They have giant wood-burning ovens, import their ingredients from Southern Italy, and supposedly sought out the perfect well water in Florida that was similar to the pH of the water found in Naples to make absolute certain the pizza was as authentic as possible. While it is on the pricier side, it can feed a large group very well, which makes it an excellent option for a hungry group of adults (or a family.) We got a Mezzo Meter (1/2 meter) of Pepperoni which will run you $45, as well as one of their special burrata pizzas and all left extremely happy (and ready for the rest of our worldly excursion.) We also had some spaghetti and salad, but they weren't totally necessary, so I recommend sticking to pizza.

Limoncello Mules, Tiramisu Martinis & Aperol Spritzes

As for drinks, Via Napoli had a lot of fun and interesting options. Justin and I both chose the "Limoncello Mule"... which was basically a Moscow Mule with limoncello added (and according to our waitress, one of the booziest drinks on the menu.) Rob, Nicole & Marisa went with the classic Aperol Spritz (always a good option IMO), and Mandy and Adam ordered a Tiramisu Martini, which was basically dessert. Mandy being the espresso martini connoisseur that she is, got a second martini at Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar just outside of the restaurant and gave it high marks as well.

German Pavilion

GERMANY:  Altenmünster beer, Jägermeister shot & a German pretzel
Even though you can order Mickey Mouse-shaped pretzels pretty much anywhere in Disney World, Germany seemed like a good place to get a German-style pretzel "und" beer. You can find both at pretty much any stand in the Germany pavilion. If Jäger is more your speed, you'll have to head back to the bar in the back of the pavilion. And if you are in the mood for a German buffet with a show, then Biergarten Restaurant is said to be an excellent meal with lively German entertainment, where it is Oktoberfest all year round.

African Trading Post

Not an official stop on the Drink Around the World Tour... but they do serve some alcoholic beverages there, if you want to drum up some extra credit. Or, you can just bang on the drums like we did.

Tipsy Ducks in Love at the China Pavilion

CHINA: Canto Loopy & Tipsy Ducks in Love 
The China pavilion was actually a sneaky good spot for cocktails. The Joy of Tea stand is near the lagoon and serves up a couple of delightful drinks. Our group equally enjoyed the Canto Loopy (which is vodka and cantaloupe juice), as well as "Tipsy Ducks in Love," which is pictured above. (Bourbon, coffee, tea, whipped cream & chocolate syrup.)

Norway Pavilion

NORWAY: Viking Coffee or Carlsberg Beer
Norway definitely pales in comparison to some of its Epcot counterparts. It used to be that you could order an Aquavit shot (similar to vodka) at the drink cart, but on this visit, that practice seems to have gone by the wayside (we were told you have to be eating at the restaurant.) You can get a Carlsberg beer (which is technically Danish), or venture into Kringla Bakery for a "Viking Coffee" (coffee with Kamora liqueur and Baileys) and school bread, which is a sweet roll filled with vanilla custard and topped with icing and toasted coconut. We opted for a couple of beers while we enjoyed the sun setting over the lagoon.

Mexico Pavilion

MEXICO: Margaritas & Nachos
Arriba! The last stop on this around-the-world adventure takes you south of the border to Mexico, where there is no shortage of food, drinks or attractions. The pavilion is marked by a giant Mayan pyramid surrounded by a Yucatan jungle, where it is always twilight inside. I highly recommend trying to make a dinner reservation at either San Angel Inn Restaurante or Hacienda de San Angel. Unfortunately, both were already booked when I looked, so we ended up at one of the fast casual Mexican spots for some nachos, which were just OK.

La Cava del Tequila

La Cava del Tequila is considered the best spot for margaritas and fine tequila in the pavilion, but we were starving and they sadly do not serve food. However, if you have a chance, you should absolutely go and try the the Avocado Margarita there, which has a cult-like following among Disney World fanatics. (It features tequila, melon liqueur, fresh avocado, agave nectar, and fresh lime juice, served frozen with a hibiscus salt rim.) Instead I ended up settling for a "Fiesta Margarita" at Choza de Margarita, which was a combo of strawberry, lime and mango. It was incredibly sweet but still pretty tasty, and a nice way to cap off what was most definitely an all-day fiesta.

Gran Fiesta boat ride in Mexico Pavilion

Bonus attraction: Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros
Speaking of fiestas... if the line is manageable, I recommend checking out the leisurely boat ride that originates inside the pyramid. It features Donald Duck and other characters, and a nice way to put an exclamation point on a full-day of country hopping, and a lovely way to kill some time before the fireworks show.

IllumiNations Fireworks Show

Congratulations! You made it around the world… and now it’s time to celebrate! Grab your margarita and head to the lagoon for the IllumiNations show, which takes place nightly at 9pm.

Cheers to a trip of a lifetime and be careful… jet lag can be rough.

If you opted for an Extra Magic Hours night... your journey isn't quite over yet. You get another 90 minutes in the park to check out some rides! Stay tuned for Part III of our Disney adventure for a general trip overview, including the rest of our evening at Epcot, where we stayed, our day at Magic Kingdom. Part II details our trip to Trader Sam's Grog Grotto & Tiki Bar which should absolutely be on your list of places to drink at Disney!

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