In Dusseldorf there’s no need to go thirsty. You’ll find a dazzling variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages even in the most modest bars and shops.
We should make one thing clear right from the outset: tap water in Germany is perfectly safe to drink – but that still doesn’t stop people from drinking vast amounts of bottled water here. Almost invariably carbonated, it’s available from every supermarket and corner shop as well as from specialized beverage stores known as Getränkehallen (which also deliver). When Germans say Mineralwasser, they almost always mean sparkling water. Another popular drink in Dusseldorf and elsewhere in Germany is Apfelschorle, a blend of apple juice and sparkling water.
Any reasonably large supermarket will have a wide assortment of fruit and vegetable juices, some of them requiring refrigeration. Apple juice and orange juice are available practically everywhere, while upscale stores stock more exotic fare such as tropical blends, often imported. It’s always wise to read the label: German labelling regulations differentiate between Fruchtsaft (juice), Nektar (nectar) and Fruchsaftgetränk (fruit juice beverage). Fruchtsaft has to be made of 100% fruit juice, with no added sugar. Nektar contains 25% to 50% fruit juice, while a Fruchtsaftgetränk can contain as little as 6% real juice, often with a generous dose of sweeteners and artificial flavourings.
Sweet fizzy drinks like Coke, Fanta and their ilk are widely available, though average serving sizes are likely to strike most Americans as pretty skimpy. A classic German specialty is Spezi, a blend of cola and orange soda. Anglo-Saxon standbys such as ginger ale, bitter-lemon or tonic water are available as well, though aren’t always as easy to find; root beer is unheard of.
Alcoholic beverages are ubiquitous. Off-licence beer, wine and spirits are found in all supermarkets, corner shops and kiosks, as well as specialist wine shops, Getränkehallen, drugstores and (amazingly enough) petrol stations. Prices are generally lower than in the UK or US – scotch, for instance, costs a fraction of what it does in Scotland. Most Germans remain patriotically wedded to locally brewed beers, though national and international brands are gradually making headway. Though Germany itself is a considerable producer, most wine drunk in this country comes from France, Italy and Spain, though vintages from more exotic locales are also appearing on supermarket shelves. On the whole, Germans tend to drink beer or wine rather than spirits, but tropical-style cocktails are becoming increasingly popular.
However, Dusseldorf is surely best known for Altbier – the city’s iconic, copper-coloured brew. Colloquially known as “Alt”, it’s a top-fermented beer made with dark malts, which give it its characteristic crisp taste and colour. Another local specialty is Killepitsch, a traditional herbal liqueur.