Jordan has a lively party and nightlife scene, one that is mostly free of alcohol due in part to the country’s prominent Muslim population. Travelers will be able to find alcohol served at some restaurants and clubs, but it is forbidden to drink in public spaces, and highly frowned on to appear intoxicated. Take care to respect these customs, as consequences for those who do not can include heavy fines, arrest, and, in some cases, deportation from the country.
The country does have a small wine scene with a handful of vineyards, and the Carakale microbrewery was set up by a Jordanian engineer who was inspired by the trend of home brewing in the United States. These are mostly for the enjoyment of tourists, and it is difficult to find alcoholic beverages outside of these few designated areas.
So, while you won’t see much alcohol on the menu at restaurants or cafes, you have plenty of delicious and unique drinking options to choose from!
You don’t need alcohol to have a good time exploring the natural dessert beauty of Jordan or to enjoy the vibrant nightlife. Locals find the wide variety of non-alcoholic drinks to be more than enough social lubricant, and they have plenty of delicious and refreshing options for travelers to choose from. Fresh pressed juices are available at street vendors and cafes in a variety of seasonal and regional flavors, including pomegranate, mint, olive, lemon, date, rockmelon, and sugarcane. Tea is served at various degrees of sweetness to your preference.
To order, ask for “sukkar ziyada” if you like it sweet, “sukkar qaleel” if you want just a bit of sugar, or “bidoon sukkar” if you’d prefer to enjoy it unsweetened.
Sharing tea is also a huge part of the nomadic Bedouin custom. They’re known to offer travelers near-bottomless servings of sweetened, aromatic teas served with sage in small glasses. If tea isn’t your thing, the Bedouin also serve coffee in small ceramic cups.
Proper etiquette dictates taking a minimum of three refills, but no more than five. Gently rocking your cup from side to side indicates that you have had enough.
Rich and thick Turkish coffee can be found in many stalls and local cafes, and pairs excellently with fruit or local desserts. Cafes are also an excellent place to enjoy the scenery and culture, watching the world go by or enjoying conversation and card games. It is important for female travelers to keep local customs in mind, dressing modestly and behaving in a respectfully quiet manner to avoid standing out.
If you are visiting Jordan in winter, be sure to warm yourself up with some Sahlab, a delicious traditional drink served hot with cinnamon, milk, and various nuts. You’ll be able to find it at almost any hot drink vendor – just keep an eye out for their silver samovars!
If you are looking to enjoy some wine, your best bet is to visit one of Jordan’s recently established vineyards. These vineyards were revived within the last decade, almost single handedly by Omar Zumot, a Christian man from Amman who studied winemaking in a French monastery. Jordan’s local vineyards allow tourists the opportunity to indulge in a sampling of the organic, locally-produced wines while exploring the beautifully lush vineyards where the grapes are grown.
Travelers with experience touring wineries in America will find the experience familiar, but unique, as it is unusual for Jordanian vineyards to offer food pairings with their wine samplings. Keep in mind, even though a wine tour is an alcohol-centered activity, local customs still apply. So take care not to overindulge (although American vineyards aren’t exactly Bourbon Street anyway).
Aside from the locally brewed Carkale beer, Amstel is the most common beer available in Jordan. You’ll typically find Amstel in bottles and cans where it is sold, but some bars also have it available on tap for around $7 per (large) glass.
In addition to beer and wine, Arak, which is a spirit derived from aniseed, is a popular choice among the Christians of Jordan, especially in the Amman and Madaba areas. It is best enjoyed diluted with water to avoid intoxication and hangovers.
Most bars and cafes do not serve food, even if they offer alcoholic beverages, so keep that in mind in terms of avoiding intoxication. In Jordan, the best policy is moderation or abstinence when it comes to alcohol – though that’s not difficult where there are so many varieties of coffees, teas, and juices ready to be enjoyed around every corner.