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Culture: Drink your way around the world

Don’t let our video poker bars and high-end mixology hot spots fool you: The Las Vegas libation scene is surprisingly diverse. For out-of-the-ordinary tastes, you just need to know where to look. Next time you’re stepping out for a drink, skip your standby gin and tonic. Get your taste buds — and your liver — a passport and explore the rest of the world.

Ziveli! For a taste of Eastern Europe, you need look no further than Prince’s Restaurant (6795 W. Flamingo Road, 220-8322). This Serbian stronghold carries a variety of foreign lagers to quench your thirst and a rotation includes two Serbian beers – Jelen (deer) and Lav (lion) – and others from surrounding areas of Bosnia and Slovenia with exotic names such as Nektar, Lasko and Karlivacko. Easy drinking, these beers are the perfect foil for a relatively heavy cuisine rife with sausages and smoked meats. If beer isn’t your style, then seek out libations from the former Yugoslavian region instead. Largely comprising fruit-based alcohols, these tend to be very high-alcohol content drinks with apparently a single purpose in life — to accelerate your descent into drunkenness. Montenegro grape brandy, Excellentia plum brandy and Imperian pear brandy are among distillery products highlighting creative uses of fruit. If presented with the opportunity, I suggest pear all the way; it’s the least searing of the bunch.

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Kanpai! Alcoholic options in Japanese circles are becoming more complex. The decision used to be simply whether or not to drink hot sake; now a plethora of Japanese alcoholic beverages is readily available to valley denizens. While Sapporo and Asahi are standard Japanese macrobrews, Okinawan Orion (pronounced ori-on) is a more flavorful option. The only Japanese microbrew actually brewed in Japan can be found at sushi-haven Sen of Japan (8480 W. Desert Inn Road #F1). Microbrew Hitachino Nest – look for the quirky owl mascot – is recognized for its cutting-edge styles. Search out Hitachino Nest XH — brown ale aged in sake casks, imparted with deeply complex alcohol tones. No need to choose between sake and beer again! The Japanese have even followed Scotland’s lead with whiskey distillation. Yamazaki Distillery, Japan’s first whiskey distillery founded in 1923, has offered Yamazaki 12-year in the states since 1990, but only recently has Japanese whiskey become popular. While not officially a scotch, Yamazaki 12 drinks like a lightly-smoked version of Scotland’s best.

Prost! Germans may love drinking as much as they love the Hof. Vegas’ very own Hofbrauhaus is well-known for its raucous atmosphere, dirndl-outfitted waitresses and rocking oompah bands — and a variety of libations (4510 Paradise Road, 853-2337). Their four taps — Original, Dunkel, Hefeweizen and a rotating seasonal — are only the beginning, as both apple and pear schnapps (in addition to perennial favorite Jägermeister) are served on tap alongside the drafts. While the apple is fairly tasty, brace yourself for the pear schnapps — it’s more like pear-tinged Everclear. You might also find yourself intrigued by the tiny, individually wrapped Underberg bottles — perhaps to rinse out the pear schnapps aftertaste. What harm can come from such a small treat? Well like Tyrion Lannister, this German digestif packs a lot of punch in a diminutive package. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.