Drink Like a Local: Get to Know Thai Spirits
What better way to explore Bangkok than while feeling buzzed and groovy? Besides the infamous Ya Dong, we’ve got a couple of other local Thai spirits for all the adventurous drinkers out there to sample.
“Lao Khao” means “white spirit” in Thai. Common in Thailand, you’ll be able to find this cheap and cheerful drink almost at every convenience store or mom-and-pop shop. The drink itself is clear in colour and made from fermented rice, but it’s different from other rice-based drinks like sake because the fermentation process only lasts a couple of days instead of years. This speedy turnaround is responsible for the strong sensation you’ll feel in your throat. Many Thais choose Lao Khao as a party drink, pairing it with snacks such as pickled fruits or Isaan sausages as they help to dial down the burn. Go ahead: try it by itself or top it up with soda, or to make it extra Thai, you can even mix it up with an energy drink.
Wine lovers unite! Your fave comes with a Bangkok twist. Sato is quickly becoming a hit in town, as it can come in so many different flavours and is very easy to drink. Sato is classified as a type of rice wine similar to sake, but the drink has a distinct sweet flavour that comes through from the process of fermenting sticky rice with yeast balls. Makers can add flavours such as fruit juice or herbs to make the spirit even more unique and the longer Sato is fermented, the more alcohol volume it has. Since the drink has a short shelf life, it is still quite rare to find at many commercial bars in Bangkok. Some exciting restaurants in Bangkok, such as 80/20, have started to make their own Sato in limited quantities, so if you find it on the menu, we highly recommend you order one...or three!
Ya Dong may have been hogging the spotlight lately as a hip drink to have while visiting Bangkok, but this herb-infused drink actually comes from very humble beginnings. Ya Dong is typically made from Lao Khao, the common Thai rice spirit, combined with a selection of herbs and spices. Depending on the mix of herbs, it’s believed that Ya Dong has medicinal properties, from curing muscle aches to boosting libido, with intriguing names such as “Crazy Horse” or “Tiger’s Strength”. To get your hands on this magic moonshine, check out Bangkok’s most hipster hangouts, like Studio Lam or Tep Bar.