I remember the last time I was at Epcot. It was the early ’90s during Disney World’s off-peak season; it was overcast, and there was a tornado watch.
Utterly terrified by the idea that my blankey and bunny could be swept away by a twister, I cried until my parents allowed me to take them with me into the park. We ultimately compromised on storing them safely in the rental car trunk. Kids don’t really possess rationality.
A handful of decades later, I’m back. And I’m a big boy now. So that can mean only one thing: I’m going to drink my way through each country of Epcot’s World Showcase. Of course.
For the uninitiated, the showcase is a world’s fair-like collection of 11 pavilions circling a man-made lagoon, each one themed after a different country and staffed entirely by their own nationals. The showcase opened with Epcot in 1982, originally hosting only nine countries: Mexico, China, Germany, Italy, United States, Japan, France, United Kingdom, and Canada. Morocco and Norway were later added.
Each pavilion offers a Disneyfied glimpse of foreign lands, complete with impressively built recreations of cultural landmarks, the occasionally racist caricature-based ride, and, of course, large gift shops.
Oh, and there are stands serving each country’s cuisine and drinks. That’s where this self-indulgent adventure begins.
When I was a kid, I was just happy to have my fake Disney Passport stamped at each country and show off my geographical knowledge to random strangers in funny costumes. But now it’s time to soil that innocence with some good ol’ fashioned binge-drinking.
Drinking “around the world” is a daunting task because it requires the metaphorical backpacker to guzzle down at least eleven alcoholic drinks in the time it takes to walk a mile-long circumference of the showcase.
It would make sense to start early and spread the boozing and walking out, but, hey, we’re on vacation, so we’ll start just two hours before the park closes.
Deep inside Mexico’s giant replica Mayan pyramid there is La Cava del Tequila, an appropriately named cellar offering more than 100 varieties of that delicious nectar. But this is Disney, so there’s a long line to get in. We’ll come back later.
Norway apparently missed the memo on promoting its native alcoholic beverages, because I’m now drinking an eight-dollar cup of Carlsberg, a Danish beer. It was the better choice when pitted against downing a shot of aquavit—that yellow-tinged herbal Scandinavian spirit—to start the festivities.
I sip my inaugural beer while staring at the large plywood construction fence teasing a new Frozen-themed ride for the Norway pavilion. Princess Anna and Queen Elsa hail from the fictional kingdom of Arendelle, but close enough, right?
(By the way, if you ever want to briefly forget your adult-life jadedness, go see the “Frozen Sing-Along Celebration” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The way hundreds of little kids ecstatically shout along to “Let It Go” should melt even the crankiest of hearts for a few seconds. Take it from me.)
As we cruise along to the China pavilion, beneath triple-arched ceremonial gates, we happen upon a snack stand selling egg rolls, the obvious Tsingtao brews, and some bizarre cocktails with questionable ties to Chinese culture.
There’s the Mango Gingerita with mango, ginger, rum, and vodka; the Canto Loopy, featuring vodka and cantaloupe juice; and something called the Tipsy Duck, which combines coffee, tea, bourbon, and chocolate into a decidedly non-Chinese drink resembling a Starbucks frappé.
No thank you. I’ll have a “Canto Loopy” please. Because nothing matters.
I throw it out with more than a few sips left. Never again.
The next stop is Germany and, at this point, my wife and I already feel loosened up, so we waltz up to a bier stand. Ignorantly thinking it to be some kind of beer-and-liquor combo for nine dollars, I order the “Barenjäger honey and bourbon shot.”
“It comes as a shot,” the lederhosen-clad cashier says. I’ll purchase it anyway, since we’re too familiar with the beers available.
Yet when the tiny plastic cup with what Epcot deems to be nine dollars worth of brown liquor shows up, we look puzzled. “I told you it came as a shot,” the cashier scolded, outing herself an uncharacteristic grouch among sugar-high Disney employees.
At Italy’s wine cellar, we order some Castello di Querceto Chianti, a light-bodied Sangiovese wine. It’s a little oaky, or something, and it gives us the short-lived feeling of being classier than other Epcot drinkers stumbling their way through cups of Peroni out in the Venetian-looking square.
Speaking of classy, the next stop is America where—fittingly—we wait in line behind two women loudly and drunkenly declaring their excitement that this particular stand sells hard apple cider. We exit the queue and head south towards a lonely craft beer stand, pick up a Blue Point Winter Ale from our native Long Island, and get the hell out of town.
In Japan, walking among the pagoda and torii gate, we sip on Junmai sake and peruse the incredibly large shopping center filled with Pokémon, Hello Kitty, and Godzilla trinkets, along with every variation imaginable of the country’s popular “beckoning cat” lucky charm.
At this point, the booze is really starting to kick in, as six drinks are wont to do. Morocco is next up and while the lamb shish kebabs smell intoxicating, the alcohol selection is frustratingly meager: a few Turkish, Spanish, and Lebanese beers. Nothing distinctly Moroccan.
And then comes France. I’ll have a crepe to pad my stomach for the $13 glass of Canard-Duchêne champagne. I feel a bit wistful as I drink the bubbly while strolling through a mock-Parisian village with newsstands, pools, fountains, and the “Eiffel Tower” off in the distance. The fake cylindrical newsstand seems to have run out of copies of Charlie Hebdo.
The Rose & Crown pub in the United Kingdom’s pavilion is charmingly authentic, until I start sipping on an overly chilled pint of Guinness while a woman in a sequined Union Jack blouse serenades the bar with piano renditions of the most basic British Invasion hits. A fellow patron then asks me, in earnest, how to order a beer. Where am I?
Time to move along to Canada because it’s almost closing time. Briskly walking past the totem poles and a theater featuring a short film narrated by Martin Short, we desperately seek anything other than a cup of Labatt or Molson. Of course, the latter is all they have, so it’ll do. Come on, Canada, don’t undersell yourself.
The heat is on as we rush back to Mexico to complete our global trip before the “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” fireworks signal the park’s closing and everyone rushes to the exit.
Rather than sift through an extensive tequila menu at La Cava, however, it’s time for a Modelo Especial with a shot of Cuervo, two barbacoa tacos, refried beans, and a giant plate of nachos.
Yep, I’m drunk.
As the pyrotechnics begin, everyone rushes to the water to watch, but not us. No, as green and gold, blue and red light up the sky in dazzling patterns, my wife and I stare intently at our chips and dip, gleefully devouring every last morsel of a well-earned meal. We just gained bragging rights to having completed an expensive, pointless, and yet so obviously fun journey around the fake world.
But the magic doesn’t have to stop there. While fatigued parents push strollers full of fast-asleep children towards the park exit like legions ambling into battle, we head the opposite way towards a secret exit that takes you directly to the Disney Boardwalk.
Our after-party: Jellyrolls, a dueling piano bar that’s packed to the gills with bachelorette parties, inebriated flyover-country dads requesting the likes of Journey and Mötley Crüe (yes, one gentleman slipped the pianists a cool twenty to play ‘Home Sweet Home’), and their trophy wives.
A shorter man in a NYC firefighters tee dances with his slender studded-jeans girlfriend to Billy Joel’s ‘Only the Good Die Young.’ One middle-aged woman freaks out when her request for ‘Shake It Off’ is honored. A past-his-prime dudebro with a popped collar leads the most obvious dance party ever to ‘Don’t Stop Believin’.”
After five or so beers, nearing closing time, it’s just us and a few other parties left. As the on-duty piano man launches into a night-closing rendition of ‘Baby Got Back,’ I try to find the culprit of such a terrible request. Through the booze-soaked haze, I catch a glimpse of a girl in a pink dress. I swear she’s the hard apple cider woman from the America pavilion.
And then comes the week-long hangover.