From the Dutch Kopstootje to the Italian superstition of looking in the eyes or suffering seven years bad sex to drinking out of the bride's shoe in the Ukraine, offering up a toast, wishing luck and all the traditions that come from it varies country by country. Jack Maxwell, host of Travel Channel's "Booze Traveler," toasts with people from around the globe exploring the history, tradition and culture of a country through its beers, wines and spirits. Maxwell has an infectious energy and seems to get along with everyone he meets on his travels.
Think of it as a more easygoing Anthony Bourdain but with booze... and hangover cures like fresh cow pee.
Since Maxwell is taping the new season of "Booze Traveler," which is scheduled to air this fall, HNGN was able to ask the Boston-born host a few questions about the show, his web series "Jacked with Spirits" and what he has learned from his travels.
Meet the man who sets off to find the "world's most interesting drinks and people who drink them."
The show's open says you got your hooch education in South Boston. Were you a bartender?
Never a bartender, I was actually a shoeshine boy going up and down Broadway in South Boston to make extra money. As I plied my trade I would hear these wonderful boozy tales of adventure and travel.
What was your beverage of choice before becoming host of "Booze Traveler?"
Rum drinks on beaches and morning Bellinis, with juice from fresh peaches, and perfect martinis. Single malt scotches and 'shine made in sinks. These are a few of my favorite drinks.
How did the opportunity to host the show come about?
As an actor it was as simple as going on an audition. The reason I got the job I'm sure had something to do with my childhood in the pubs of Southie.
Have you always been interested in traveling? What was the coolest place you had been to (before the show)?
Being regaled with details of the trips my shoeshine customers would go on spurred my imagination. I created pictures in my mind of what these faraway places might be like. Before "Booze Traveler," London was probably the coolest place I had been to. Great city.
As host of "Booze Traveler," where has been the most interesting place you've filmed?
Oh, too many to name. How about the middle of the Gobi desert in Mongolia? A soccer stadium full of crazy, rowdy, fun fans in Istanbul? Cruising down the Amazon in Peru? Right now I'm in a very cold Siberia, -29°C. Just got done driving across Lake Baikal, the most voluminous lake in the entire world...and it's frozen solid.
What is the grossest alcohol you've encountered?
Again, there are quite a few. How about frog-in-a-blender in Peru? Spit beer from the Amazon? Bovine blood with the Maasai Warriors of Tanzania? Here's a good one, cow urine in India.
How about the best booze you've tried?
Hard to touch the $600,000 scotch I had at the Macallan Estate in Scotland. The Pisco Sours in Peru were top notch. Also love a little-known drink out of Guatemala called Caldo de Frutas.
What is the craziest hangover cure you've encountered while traveling for the show? Did any of them work or just make you sick?
Most of them actually helped. Some were pretty crazy, though. Boiled bull's penis in Sicily. Rotten shark in Iceland. Rooster testicles with Roma gypsies in Hungary is an experience I won't soon forget.
There are many sayings like, "Beer before liquor, never been sicker." Any tested and true adages or words to live by when coming off a bender (maybe something you've picked up in your... studies)?
I think the best adage is "don't overdo it." "Booze Traveler" is not about celebrating excess, but sharing. When you sit down with a stranger and they share their food, their friends and their family - not to mention a couple of drinks - the whole world changes.
The show's crew makes an effort to hide the identity of, say, a street vendor who is slipping you some less-than-legal adult beverages. Has a source for the show ever gotten in trouble either while you were there or after you left? Has the show encountered any problems with local laws?
We are always very respectful of local laws and ordinances. We would never do anything like trying some moonshine that might not be registered with the local authorities. To my knowledge, not a single person who's ever appeared on the show has faced backlash for doing so.
Any naysayers or trolls yelling that your show promotes reckless behavior, or has the response been mostly positive?
The response has been great because those who have seen the show understand "Booze Traveler" is about drinks, not drinking. More to the point, it's a celebration of the people, places and cultures of the world through the lens of a cocktail glass. It's wonderful to get feedback from people who say, "I don't even drink but I love your show because it's entertaining and I learn so much."
Have you adopted these liquors in your day-to-day? Or how about the containers (like the "I Dream of Jeannie" teapot from India)? I would drink anything out of that sweet little teapot!
Man, what a wonderful experience that was, sitting on a blanket out on the lawn drinking from a little teapot with the maharajah. I always bring back my favorites to share with friends and family. Safe to say my palette, and my liquor cabinet, has expanded quite a bit since the show began.
Any favorite lingo you've picked up? Slang you plan to incorporate into your day-to-day?
"Unna Fazza, Unna Razza" or "One Face, One Race." If I've learned anything in my travels, it's that we have so much more in common than we do differences.
How long does it take to tape an episode? It appears in the final product to be one day and the morning after.
We generally shoot out an entire episode in anywhere from nine days to two weeks, with some exceptions.
Have you ever gotten so lit you couldn't tape?
Never. Not once. There have been occasions when I might have had a few too many while celebrating the local culture, but never to that extent.
Does the crew get to imbibe the sauce as well, or are you the only lucky one?
I make sure my crew gets to try everything I do. Sometimes they take a pass. Can't say I blame them.
You have to adapt to so many different cultures. Have you ever been in a situation where you didn't understand the culture and accidentally insulted someone?
Of course there are times when there have been communication issues or something gets lost in translation, but it's paramount to me to err on the side of being polite and respectful. If you watch the show you know we have a good time. My idea is to have fun, not make fun.
Is there anything you won't try (like smoking cow dung in India)? And did you turn down the dung because ew, it's burning poop, or because you don't smoke?
Yeah, I don't smoke. Other than something like that, I've never turned down a drink or an experience.
Do you stop at the spirits or would you get into ayahuasca or any other drinkable mind-altering substance? How far will the show go?
Good question. You will have to keep watching to find out. Seriously, we have some fun and completely unexpected things in store for you this season. Hope you get to check us out on Travel Channel, Tuesday nights at 10/9C.
So, exactly how Boston are you?
I love the city of my birth. It was a struggle growing up poor in the D St. Projects, but I wouldn't trade that experience or Southie for any neighborhood in the world.
Any special boozy traditions in Boston?
You can imagine there are quite a few. One of my favorites is the St. Patrick's Day parade in South Boston every year. Can't wait to experience that again.
Give me a little rundown on "Jacked with Spirits." What is it?
"Jacked with Spirits" is a web series in which we explore the micro-distilleries here in the U.S. Quite fascinating.
You are currently taping season three, and your fans can follow along and get a peek on your Twitter account or Instagram. Can you tell us some of the places you're going to visit? Is there something new in season three that we haven't seen the past two seasons?
Oh, yeah. Here's a preview: one of the favored drinks in Cambodia is tarantula venom wine, replete with tarantula in the glass. You eat the tarantula after. There is also a special American episode of "Booze Traveler" where we travel the Mississippi River from Minnesota down to Louisiana. We drink along the way, of course.
Do you have a dream location that you haven't gotten to travel to yet?
Would love to see Cuba. What an enigma. Just 90 miles off the coast of Florida, and we know so little about who those people are and how they feel about life. Also, Ireland. Got Irish blood in me. Would love to go see - and toss a few back with - those wonderful writers and poets.
What do you want our readers to know?
If you check out the show you'll realize what a big, wide, wonderful world we have, with so many fascinating people out there to meet and have experiences with. That's the beautiful thing about travel, it's never exactly what you think it will be. You don't have to be Magellan but step outside your front door and see the world while you still can. Cheers.
Watch full episodes from the first two seasons here:
Follow Kimberly M. Aquilina on Twitter at @KimESTAqui.