Morocco has a cafe culture rather than a drinking culture. Alcohol is available, but most bars are smoky male-dominated affairs. Top-end hotels, restaurants and some riads offer the best relaxed drinking options if you're looking for something stronger than mint tea.
To wash your diffa down and stay hydrated, you’ll need a good amount of liquid. Day and night, don’t forget to drink plenty of bottled or purified water. Vying to quench your thirst are orange-juice vendors loudly singing their own praises, and water vendors in fringed tajine-shaped hats clanging brass bowls together.
Moroccan tap water is often potable, though not always – so stick with treated water or local mineral water. Sidi Ali and Aïn Saiss are the biggest brands, along with sparkling Oulmes.
If you’re offered Moroccan mint tea, don’t expect to bolt it and be on your way. Mint tea is the hallmark of Moroccan hospitality, and a sit-down affair that takes around half an hour. If you have the honour of pouring the tea, pour the first cup back into the teapot to help cool it and dissolve the sugar. Then starting from your right, pour each cup of tea from as high above the glass as you can without splashing. Your hosts will be most impressed.
Moroccan mint tea ('Berber whiskey') may be ubiquitous after meals, but you can find a mean cup of coffee in Morocco, too. Most of it is French-pressed, and delivers a caffeine wallop to propel you through the souqs and into the stratosphere. Moroccans tend to take their coffee thick and black; ask for nus-nus ('half and half') to have it mixed with steamed milk.
Moroccan Beer, Wine & Spirits
Yes, you can drink alcohol in Morocco without offending local sensibilities, as long as you do it discreetly. Serving alcohol within Moroccan medinas may be frowned upon, and liquor licences an expensive bureaucratic nightmare – but many Moroccan guesthouses and restaurants get around these hurdles by offering booze in a low voice, and serving it out of sight indoors or on a terrace. So if you’re in the mood for a beer and don’t find it on the menu, you might want to ask the waiter in a low voice, speakeasy-style.
One note of caution: quality assurance is tricky in a Muslim country where mixologists, micro-brewers and licensed sommeliers are in understandably short supply, and your server may not be able to make any personal recommendations from the wine menu. Since wines are subject to unpredictable heat exposure in transit and storage, be sure to taste your wine before the server leaves the table – red wines are especially subject to spoilage. Don’t hesitate to send back a drink if something about it seems off; your server will likely take your word for it.
- Casa A fine local pilsner beer
- Flag Special Affordable and the most popular beverage in Morocco (25 million units consumed annually)
Mahia, a Moroccan spirit distilled from figs, is around 80% proof, with a flavour somewhere between Italian grappa and Kentucky moonshine. You won’t find it on most menus, because it’s usually made in home distilleries for private consumption. If you’re staying at a guesthouse, your hosts may know where you can get some, but they may try to warn you off the stuff – mahia hangovers are legendary.
- White Moroccan white wines are a solid bet, including the crisp, food-friendly Larroque; well-balanced, juicy Terre Blanche, a Chardonnay/Viognier/Sauvignon Blanc blend; citrusy, off-dry Cuveé du Président Sémillant; and Siroua S, a cool coastal Chardonnay.
- Gris & Rosé These are refreshing alternatives, especially not-too-fruity Medaillon Rosé de Syrah; peachy-keen Eclipse Grenache/Cinsault blend; fresh, fragrant Domaine Rimal Vin Gris; the juicy, aptly named Rosé d’un Nuit d’Eté (Summer’s Night Rosé) of Grenache/Syrah; and the crisply top-range Volubilia.
- Red Reliable reds include the quaffable Burgundian-style Terre Rouge from Rabati coastal vineyards; well-rounded Volubilia from Morocco’s ancient Roman wine-growing region; and spicier Merlot-Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon Coteaux de L’Atlas Premier Cru. Guerrouane Rouge is a heavy red at the cheaper end of the scale, while Morocco's Jewish community has bequeathed the country an interesting selection of kosher wines.