12 Popular Swiss Drinks (Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic)

swiss drinks

When visiting a new country, like Switzerland for example, there is a lot to explore. From the stunning landscapes to the culture and the historic sights that go with it, you can pack your itinerary as full as you’d like and not have a minute to spare.

There is more to discover though and this comes in the form of food and drink. When we travel, we always tend to seek out local food to try but quite often we forget about the local drinks which deserve just as much attention.

There are a large range of Swiss drinks, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks on offer around the country, and some are very unique. Join me as I run through some of the most popular Swiss beverages you should try while exploring this stunning country.

Soft Drinks

You’ll find a large number of non-alcoholic Swiss soft drinks while frequenting the many cafes and supermarkets. Some are homemade and others are mass-produced, but they will all be a little different from Coca Cola and other drinks you have tried before.

Rivella

Rivella Red
Rivella Red

Rivella is one of the most popular soft drinks in Switzerland and it is one of the Swiss drinks you should try. Chances are, every Swiss household has a bottle of Rivella lying around somewhere. Yes, it is one of the top-selling soft drinks and it is also considered Switzerland’s national drink.

Rivella is a fizzy drink you can find in the supermarket in a lot of different flavors. It is made using milk whey, or milk serum which is a by-product created during the cheese-making process.

Considering how much cheese Switzerland produces, it was a genius idea to use the milk whey in a drink instead of it going to waste and it is also very healthy for you. You might expect it to taste milky but it has delicious fruity and herbal flavors.

Rivella Blue contains zero sugar, artificial colors, or preservatives, and will actually provide you with health benefits such as regulating blood sugar levels and also aiding weight loss. Rivella Red has added sugar and has a stronger taste for those who like a sugar hit.

Trust the Swiss to make a soda drink that is actually quite good for you and be sure to pick up a few of these Swiss drinks while you’re there.

Hot Chocolate

Caotina hot chocolate in Switzerland
Caotina hot chocolate in Switzerland

One of the non-alcoholic Swiss drinks you simply have to try while in Switzerland is hot chocolate. Hot chocolate is one of the most popular drinks in Switzerland. And it makes sense considering Switzerland makes some of the best chocolate and the best milk in the world.

Hot chocolate was traditionally served at your bedside, and later on in history, for breakfast, especially in French-speaking Switzerland. Nowadays, everyone drinks hot chocolate at any time of the day.

This favorite Swiss drink is made in different ways depending on where you order it. Most of the time it is made from hot milk fresh from the Swiss alps combined with chocolate powder to create a rich and delicious hot chocolate drink.

Of course, different cafes will put their own spin on it, adding extras like whipped cream and other delicious toppings. Cafe 1842 in Zurich is one such place that is renowned for their homemade hot chocolate!

Being one of the most popular hot drinks around, hot chocolate is also made at home and the favorite chocolate powder in Switzerland is Caotina. If you want to make some hot chocolate yourself, grab some Caotina at the supermarket, especially if you plan on doing some camping in the mountains.

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Typical Swiss Breakfast – Muesli & Other Choices

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Apple Juice

Ramseier Apple Juice
Ramseier Apple Juice

You might not think of apple juice as a “Swiss drink” but the Swiss love it so much that it has to be included in an article about the most popular Swiss drinks. Sure, it is not one of those healthy soft drinks, but being made from Apples, it is certainly better than most.

Apple juice in Switzerland can be served as a cold drink or a hot drink depending on the time of year and the Swiss love it. The most popular apple juice in Switzerland is made in the Swiss canton of Lucerne by Ramseier and it is called Süessmost.

Süessmost is made with fresh, ripe Swiss apples, and contains no added sugar. And is vegan to boot. It is as pure as apple juice can be in a supermarket so be sure to pick some of this up when doing some food shopping.

Being one of the top non-alcoholic drinks in Switzerland, apple juice is warmed at Christmas time and is combined with spices such as cloves and cinnamon to give it a festive taste to match the season.

In summer, apple juice is often served with sparkling water to create a fizzy carbonated drink that is a more refreshing version to help the locals deal with those hot summer days that Switzerland is blessed with.

While you have probably had a lot of apple juice before, it is one of the Swiss drinks you should try, as it’ll be a little different in Switzerland.

Alcoholic Drinks

In the 18th century, the Swiss were renowned drinkers and while that reputation isn’t alive today, you can still find some very unique tasting and delicious alcoholic Swiss drinks to try. From the Swiss wine farmed on the shores of Lake Geneva to the production of Absinthe, the alcoholic Swiss drinks on offer may surprise you.

Swiss Wine

Swiss Wine sold in Coop supermarket
Swiss Wine sold in Coop supermarket

Wines are not a drink usually associated with Switzerland but the Swiss have been growing grapes for wine production since Roman times.

Currently, there are around 15,000 hectares of vines in Switzerland that are mostly found in the south of the country, and some of the most prolific around the shores of Lake Geneva.

The most famous vineyard region in Switzerland is Lavaux in Vaud dates back to the 1100s and is classified as a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is said that the grapes in the area benefit from 3 suns. The sun, the light reflected from the lake, and the heat is given off by the walled terraces.

Why haven’t you seen Swiss wine in your local shop? The Swiss drink 99% of their wine and only 1% is exported and almost all of it goes to Germany.

You can find Swiss white wine, red wine, and rosé all around the country. The wines generally have a more minerally-taste to them due to the soil they are grown in, as it differs considerably compared to other wine-growing regions around the globe.

Be sure to have some Swiss wine with some Swiss food. The white wines pair excellently with seafood or heavy cheese Swiss food like fondue.

Swiss Beer

quollfrisch beer
Quollfrisch Beer

Swiss beer is excellent as you would probably expect with Swiss German influences. Germany has long been known as one of the top beer-brewing countries on the planet and those German influences have certainly come over the border into Switzerland.

Historically, beer wasn’t overly popular in Switzerland until 1880 when the vineyards were almost wiped out by a disease called phylloxera. This is when beer-making came into its own and became one of the most popular alcoholic drinks in Switzerland.

Brausyndikat craft brewery in Dietikon near Zurich
Brausyndikat craft brewery in Dietikon near Zurich

The most popular beer in Switzerland is Heineken and it accounts for 25% of all beers drunk in Switzerland. Chances are you have had a few Heinekens in your life but there are some local Swiss beers that you must try while you are there.

Quollfrisch is a Swiss beer that suits summer perfectly. It is a blonde lager that is packed full of fruity hoppy flavors and is very refreshing to drink when the sun is out.

Falkenbrau Hell actually won the award for the World’s Best Lager in 2019 and it is a Swiss craft beer of note that you have to try in Switzerland if you like beer of course. You can find it almost anywhere so you will have plenty of opportunities.

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Holdrio

Holdrio is an alcoholic beverage and one of the favorite winter drinks in Switzerland and it packs a punch due to its high alcohol content. You will find it is one of the top apres ski drinks around and is great to have after a day in the mountains.

Holdrio is only made by combining plum schnapps with rosehip tea and sugar. It is a great winter drink as it warms you up and it tastes rather delicious. The schnapps used here aren’t your regular schnapps either, it is the Swiss version which is akin to jet fuel and is very alcoholic.

The drink tastes delicious with its sweet but fruity aromas but be careful not to drink too many as you will feel it the next day without question.

Absinthe

Absinthe
Absinthe

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One of the top drinks in Switzerland and around the globe that was also first produced in Switzerland is Absinthe.

Absinthe, also known as the “The Green Fairy” is made from a neutral spirit with the addition of Artemisia absinthium (wormwood), a medicinal plant along with a mixture of lemon balm, fennel, botanicals, and the main flavor ingredient, green anise.

This combination gives Absinthe a unique flavor and you can find Absinthe in green or clear versions. Green Absinthe usually has macerated plants inside it but some cheaper versions simply add dye, so be sure to check or you might have a heavy hangover.

Absinthe is a delicious alcoholic beverage with a high alcohol content which was passed for close to 100 years as it was thought to make people hallucinate and be terrible for the public. But, they were wrong and today it is legal and is a favorite drink in Switzerland.

It is said that Absinthe was first made in Val-de-Travers in the Neuchâtel canton close to the French border but it is thought it was used for centuries beforehand.

When drinking absinthe, be careful as it is very strong and it doesn’t take much to feel on top of the world.

Hugo

hugo drink switzerland
Hugo – Image courtesy of eltpics

A delightful Swiss drink that actually originates in Italy but became one of the most popular alcoholic drinks in Switzerland during the summer is Hugo.

Hugo is akin to an Aperol spritz. It is served chilled over ice and is a combination of prosecco mixed with mint and elderflower syrup. The crisp and floral flavors along with the bubbles from the prosecco make a delicious drink to have lakeside while gazing across the views of the Swiss Alps.

You don’t have to only drink Hugos in summer either, they are great winter drinks too while sitting around a warm fire enjoying some apres ski in the mountains. Or, you could try any number of up-and-coming Swiss Gins, they are also really popular right now.

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Best Swiss Gin (Discover the Distinct Flavors)

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Jagertee

Jagertee is quite a historical Swiss drink as it was used by hunters in the mountains to keep them warm as they stalked their prey. Jaeger means hunter, hence the name.

Today, it is one of the top alcoholic hot drinks in Switzerland and one you must try, especially if you are visiting Switzerland in winter.

Jagertee, also known as Rhum Punch, looks like Jagermeister mixed with tea but this is not how the drink is made. To make Jagertee simply mix red tea or black tea with red wine, rum, and spices to create what is a delicious drink that is very high in alcohol.

Traditionally, the rum used was homemade and might hit 80% ABV, and it can still be served like this today, so be careful when drinking more than one.

Jagertee is usually served in a transparent cup and tastes a bit like mulled wine with its spicy notes. It is a great drink to get you going after a day of skiing. You can also put the mixture in powder form in the supermarket, and all you need to do is add some rum and red wine along with hot water.

Glühwein

Glühwein at Christmas market
Glühwein at Christmas market

Glühwein is essentially mulled wine and it is one of the top winter drinks in Switzerland and Europe. Traditionally it is served across Europe during the build-up to Christmas but it is served all winter long in Switzerland, especially around all the ski resorts.

Glühwein is made by heating up red wine with a mixture of sugar, fruit, herbs, and spices. The key to making it is ensuring that the wine does not boil so that it does not lose any of its alcohol content.

Be sure to drink some while visiting Switzerland in the winter, especially at the Christmas Markets or after a day of skiing in the mountains. If you are feeling brave, you can also ask for a shot to be added to it for a bit of an extra kick.

If you happen to be in Basel then you will experience their own version of Glühwein, called Hypokras. Hypokras is a little different as it mixes black tea, white wine, and red wine to make a bit of a souped-up version.

Basel loves Hypokras so much that on New Year’s Day, they pump it out of the city’s famous fountain, Dreizackbrunnen, so everyone can have a glass and start the New Year off in an awesome way.

Schümli Pflümli

Schümli Pflümli is another warm alcoholic drink designed for winters in Switzerland and this one comes with quite a kick.

Schümli Pflümli is made by adding plum schnapps (fruit brandy) to coffee and sugar which is then served with a rich topping of whipped cream.

It also goes by the name of cafe flumli or cafe lutz, and it is often changed by each restaurant or bar into its own version.

Having a Schümli Pflümli before or after being in the mountains is always a good idea. Between the sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, there isn’t much more you need to get you going.

It tastes pretty good too and while you’d think it might taste like coffee, the plum schnapps takes over. Imagine a warm fruity boozing drink with a hidden hit of coffee and you will get the idea.

Flämmli

Flämmli is one of the more unique drinks in Switzerland. It is another winter drink that combines booze with some of the world’s favorite hot drinks, but Flämmli comes with a process to it as well.

Flämmli is very popular at Swiss ski resorts as it gives you everything you need to perk up and be warm after a day in the snow. It consists of coffee, sugar, and William’s pear schnapps but you have to drink it in a certain way, following a certain process.

You will be served a hot espresso, a bowl of sugar cubes, and a shot of pear schnapps on the side. First, add 3 lumps of sugar to your coffee but don’t stir it. Sip your coffee until the leftover sugar on the bottom is visible.

Now add the shot of pear schnapps to the cup. Then add a sugar cube to the spoon and dip it into the schnapps so it pools up in the middle. Light the spoon on fire and drop it into your cup setting the whole thing on fire.

Let the flames do their thing until the sugar caramelizes at which point, pour the flaming drink back into the glass the pear schnapps came in. Now it is time to put the fire out by placing your hand over the glass around the rim to create a seal.

This will put the flames out but also cause the glass to suck onto the bottom of your hand. Now, remove your hand and inhale the vapors through your nose and smell those ripe pear aromas then drink the shot.

This is an incredibly fun drink to have, and it really does get you going after a day of skiing. Just be careful with those flames, and don’t try to blow them out as you will be sure to burn something.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most popular drink in Switzerland?

It is very hard to nail down the most popular Swiss drink in Switzerland as it ranges across the variety available. One of the most popular drinks is, without a doubt, coffee, one of the most popular soft drinks in the country along with Rivella.

When it comes to alcoholic drinks, beer and wine take the center stage as Swiss drinking culture is far more casual which makes wine and beer far more appealing compared to heavy liquors.

What is the national drink of Switzerland?

The Swiss national drink is Rivella and chances are most fridges in the country contain a bottle or two. It is a sparkling soft drink made with milk whey which gives it a specific flavor. The milk serum, which is a by-product created when making cheese, is combined with minerals and nutrients to create a rather healthy fizzy drink.

Almost all Swiss nationals have been drinking Rivella since they were kids and it is a drink deeply ingrained in Swiss culture. You can find it in supermarkets and in lots of different flavors.

What is the national liquor of Switzerland?

There are a few national liquors in Switzerland including Kirsch, a strong cherry brandy and Pflümli, a plu-flavored Schnapps.

What Is the Legal Drinking Age in Switzerland?

Switzerland, like a lot of European countries, and unlike the USA has a very lenient drinking age.

In Switzerland, anyone between the ages of 16 and 18 years old can purchase beer and wine at a supermarket or at a bar in Switzerland but they can not buy harder alcoholic drinks like spirits.

The purchase of spirits such as vodka or whiskey is only allowed by persons 18 years and older.

These rules give rise to a Swiss drinking culture that is very different from countries like the UK and the US. Swiss drinking culture is very relaxed and food, friends, and family orientated, it is more about sharing and a lot less about getting drunk.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

One thought on “12 Popular Swiss Drinks (Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic)

  1. Headed to Switzerland 21 Sept ’23. Anticipating sights, culture, Mts, wine, vineyards, and relaxing with a variety (in moderation, but w/a spirit of discovery the fine drinks of this land.

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