What to drink in Thailand

explore Thailand

Tap water is usually not drinkable in Thailand. Bottled water is cheap and ubiquitous depending on its size and brand, and drinking water served in restaurants is always at least boiled. Ice in Thailand usually comes packaged straight from the factory and is safe; there is only reason to worry if you are served hand-cut ice. You can buy a large package of ice in most 7-11s.

Mainly in residential areas, machines dispensing water into your own bottle are often available. This is a clean (the water is cleaned and UV-treated on the spot) and extremely cheap option, also, this way you’ll avoid making unnecessary plastic waste from empty bottles. These machines are widely available street side in Chiang Mai.

Iced drinks

Coconut water, iced and drunk directly from a fresh coconut is a cheap and healthy way to cool the body. Available at restaurants and also from vendors that specialize in fruit juice.

Fruit juices, freezes, and milkshakes of all kinds are very popular with Thais and visitors alike. Thais often add salt to their fruit juices– an acquired taste that you might just learn to like. Thais also like to have basil seeds in their iced fruit juice sold on the road – which looks like small jelly balls down of the bottle.

Tea and coffee

One of Thailand’s most characteristic drinks is Thai iced tea. Instantly identifiable thanks to its lurid orange color, this is the side effect of adding ground tamarind seed (or, these days, artificial color) during the curing process. The iced tea is always very strong and very sweet, and usually served with a dash of condensed milk; ask for chaa dam yen to skip the milk. There is also Lemon tea which is also strong and sweet.

Naam chaa is a loose term for plain tea without milk and sugar, being it black, Chinese or even green tea in some specific context. Though mostly it’ll refer to Chinese tea, asking for Naam chaa can give you any of these depending on what the restaurant serves. To ask for any of those specifically, chaa jiin is literally Chinese tea which is often served in restaurants for free; Western-style black tea is called chaa farang and chaa khiao is green tea, literally. However, green tea is not so common in Thailand, in a sense. Ordering green tea outside of a Japanese style restaurant will most likely give you a sweet bottled green tea or sweet instant green tea which can be quite different from what you might expect.

Coffee is also widely available, and is usually served with condensed milk and lots of sugar. Ask for kaafae thung to get traditional filtered “bag” coffee instead of instant. Two terms used widely and can be found in most local stalls and street restaurants drinks menu are O liang and O yua are borrowed words from Teochew Chinese dialect for iced and hot black kaafae thung respectively; both are very sweet though. Unlike tea, asking for kaafae dam will give you a black coffee but a lot of sugar is not uncommon.

The Starbucks phenomenon has also arrived in Thailand, but for the moment local competitors Black Canyon Coffee and S&P still have the edge in marketshare. These are the places to look for if you want that triple-moccha latte with hazelnut swirl and are willing to pay for the privilege.

Black Canyon Coffee is Thailand’s home-brewed Starbucks, but while coffee is their mainstay they also offer a limited meal menu. Try the chaa yen (lurid orange Thai iced tea with milk).

Herbal juice

Herbal juice is characteristic of Thai drinks. It makes from herbs in nature and it is folkways drinks of Thailand people as well. They call healthy drinks; they often drink herbal juice with ice. Basic process is squashing the herbal, it will give herbal juice. Also, herbal water has benefits to the body such that it can help you refreshed when you feel thirsty as well as it can help you to healthy such that it nurtures the skin, nurtures the blood system and nurtures eyesight etc.

Roselle juice: is red and usually sweetened (though can be ordered without sugar in which case it is a little sour). It has benefit to the body such as it gives high vitamin A, nurtures eyesight, gives calcium to help maintain healthy bones and improves wound healing. You can buy on herbal juice shop, Thai restaurant and street of Chinatown.

Lemon grass water: it’s green and the flavor is rather bitter sweet. It’s a very useful medicinal juice as it helps alleviate indigestion, helps in reducing fevers, helps reduce blood pressure, and helps improve the skin by reducing acne and pimple. You can buy on street of Chinatown and herbal juice shop.

Bael water: it’s brown and rather sweet. It helps to body refreshed, coating on the stomach and helps in the healing of ulcers. You can buy on herbal juice shop, on street of Chinatown and Thai restaurant.

Gotu kola water: is the herbal that has cooling effect within a body. Some seller may add sugar for the better taste. Gotu kola has many properties e.g. decrease acne, cure bruised inside,maintain the brain, support blood flow.

Passion fruit water: this drink has a good taste, little sour and sweet. Drink it when its cool; it that can make you feel refreshed. It makes you easier to sleep, be old slowly, maintain gum, teeth, ability of seeing, hair because it rich of many vitamins.

Pomegranate Juice: it’s color may look terrible because it’s red but the taste is good. If you drink it every day it will have long-term effects that is you will have a healthy skin, antioxidant, Diabetes treatment, prevention of scurvy. You always meet it on the street side at China town.

Butterfly Pea water this drink is violet in color and has many benefits e.g. antioxidant, increase energy, increase rate of blood flowing, Diabetes treatment. The seller usually mixes it with honey or lemon to make better taste.

Energy drinks

Thailand is the original home of the Red Bull brand energy drink – a licensed and re-branded version of Thailand’s original Krathing Daeng, complete with the familiar logo of two bulls charging at each other.

The Thai version, however, is syrupy sweet, un-carbonated and comes packaged in medicinal-looking brown glass bottles, as the target customers are not trendy clubbers, but Thailand’s working class of construction workers and bus drivers in need of a pick-me-up. And a pick-me-up it most certainly is; the caffeine content is higher even than Western-style Red Bull, and packs a punch equivalent to two or three shots of espresso coffee. Krathing Daeng and its many competitors (including M150, Shark, .357 and the inevitable Karabao Daeng, “Red Buffalo”) are available in any convenience store, although in some places you can now buy imported European Red Bull for five times the price.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol in Thailand, especially if you like Western tipples, is actually comparatively expensive.

Note that retail sales of alcohol in supermarkets, convenience stores etc. are banned between midnight and 11:00 and, more bizarrely, 14:00-17:00. Restaurants and bars are not affected, and smaller, non-chain stores are often willing to ignore the rules. However in certain circumstances these rules are relaxed for alcohol purchases above a particular quantity. For example if you purchase 5 liters of wine during the restricted period, then the purchase will not be allowed, however if you were to purchase say 10 liters of wine in the same period then this would be permitted.

There are also occasional days throughout the year when alcohol can’t be sold anywhere – even the smaller mom & pop shops normally adhere to the rules on these days, and most bars and pubs do too (although you can probably find a beer somewhere if you’re desperate enough). Up-market hotel bars and restaurants are probably the only places that are realistically likely to be exempt. Religious holidays and elections are normally the reason for these restrictions.

Whisky

The misnamed Thai whisky refers to a number of liquors. The best known are the infamous Mae Khong brand and its competitor, the sweeter Saeng Som (“Sangsom”), which are both brewed primarily from sugarcane and thus technically rum. Indeed, the only resemblances to whisky are the brown tinge and high alcohol content, and indeed many people liken the smell to nail polish remover, but the taste is not quite as bad, especially when diluted with cola or tonic water. This is also by far the cheapest way to get blotto, as a pocket flask of the stuff (available in any convenience store or supermarket).

The “real” Thai whisky is lao khao, which is distilled from rice. While commercial versions are available, it’s mostly distilled at home as moonshine, in which case it also goes by the name lao theuan (“jungle liquor”). White liquor with herbs added for flavor and medical effect is called ya dong. Strictly speaking, both are illegal, but nobody seems to mind very much — especially when hill tribe trekking in the North you’re likely to be invited to sample some, and it’s polite to at least take a sip.

Rice wine

Thai rice wine is actually a beer brewed from glutinous rice, and thus a spiritual cousin of Japanese sake. While traditionally associated with Isaan, it’s now sold nationwide under the brand Siam Sato, available in any 7-11. At 8% alcohol, it’s cheap and potent, but you may regret it the next morning! The original style of brewing and serving sato is in earthenware jars called hai, hence the drink’s other name lao hai. These are served by breaking the seal on the jar, adding water, and drinking immediately with either glasses or, traditionally, with a straw directly from the pot.

Beer

Western-style beer is a bit of an upmarket drink in Thailand.

Thais like their lagers with relatively high alcohol content (around 6%), as it is designed to be drunk with ice, so the beer in Thailand may pack more of a punch than you are used to. However, if you are an experienced drinker from Western Europe, namely Belgium or part of Germany, you will find it similar to your local tastes.

Local brews: For many years the only locally brewed beer was Singha (pronounced just Sing) but it has lost market to cheaper and stronger Chang. Both Singha and Chang beer are fairly strong, but for those who prefer something a bit lighter, both local brands have introduced low-alcohol versions of their beers. Singha Light comes in at 3.5%, Chang Draught is 5% and Chang Light is 4.2%. There is also now a Chang Export brand at 5%. Both are strong in alcohol percentage, gives a little spicy taste (for Europeans, you can refer them to Leffe or Duvel) rather than blended smoothness of German beers (Erdinger or Paulaner). Chang has a reputation for having inconsistent alcohol content, where sometimes a few Chang beers can be more potent than expected. There are also some cheaper local beers. Singha Brewing launched the lower priced Leo brand to compete more effectively with Chang (very popular among locals and expats) and Archa (cheapest, but the taste is not as nice, it’s not sold in the bars often, but is available in almost any 7-11) being among the most popular. Leo and Archa are both 5%, and Archa is the cheapest of all in the 7-11.

Premium brands: The two most popular premium brands are Heineken and Tiger, but San Miguel, Federbrau and other Asian beers such as the Japanese Asahi are also fairly commonplace. The premium beers tend to be a bit weaker than the full-strength local beers, and are about 10-20% more expensive.

Imported beers: Most upmarket pubs in touristy areas will have at least a couple of imported beers available along with the usual local brands, either on draught, in bottles or both. Belgian and German beers can often be found, as well as Irish stouts and ales such as Guinness, British bitters such as John Smiths and the light Mexican beer Corona is gaining in popularity. Regional favorite Beerlao has also started to make an appearance in bars and pubs around the country. All imported beers (with the exception of Beerlao) are very expensive though, being about twice the price of locally sourced beers.

Other non-beers: The usual range of “alcopops” is available in Thailand, with Bacardi Breezer enjoying the lion’s share of the market. Spy wine cooler (of about 10 varieties) is also popular. Cider is harder to find, although some pubs have started to stock Magners and Bulmers.

‘Imported drinks’

Imported liquors, wines and beers are widely available but prohibitively priced for the average Thai. Note that, in cheaper bars (especially the go-go kind), the content of that familiar bottle of Jack Daniels may be something entirely different.