Jun 10 2011

Bangkok: What to drink

Published by at 6:46 am under Food

Just as each country has a famous dish or two so too does each country have its famous beverage — or three. In Bangkok, the celebrity beverages are aimed at helping drinkers to cope with the heat. In between guzzling vats of water, which you should be in this climate, take a chance on Thailand’s favourite drinks.

Thai iced tea
Sugary-caffeinated goodness of a startlingly orange colour, Thai iced tea is a local hit and, for many, an acquired taste. Strongly-brewed black tea mixed with condensed milk and sugar then topped with another swirl of milk for good measure, this is not a beverage for those counting calories. Served all over the city both in coffee shops and by street vendors, ask for chaa nom yen, iced milk tea.

The best chaa nom yen is often where you'd least expect it.

This may not sound like something that would be unique to a country, but Thailand has its very own twists on juice. Classic tropical fruit juices are fresh squeezed to perfection — orange, watermelon, pineapple — but there is also an entire subcategory of herb and flower juices that are well worth an order. Lemongrass, chrysanthemum, and roselle are favourites of mine but almost all of the unusual flavours are worthy of a try at least once. Often times the best fruit juices are being fresh squeezed on the street corner, a la my favourite vendor in the Ari area. The herb and flower juices are often sold from big pots in local markets. Go for it.

Pick your favourite.

Though I am no beer connoisseur, I know what I like and don’t like. I’ve heard many complain that Thailand’s beers are too watery, but on a hot day the last thing I crave is a dark lager. Thailand’s three most popular beers, or bia as it translates, are Singha, Leo and Chang, and they all go fantastically with Thai food. They’re all light beers, with Singha being the priciest and Leo and Chang bringing up the rear. In these parts beer is served on ice, excellent for both staying cool and avoiding a hangover, but if ice is not your fancy be sure to say “mai ao nam keng,” aka “I don’t want ice”.

Thai food and beer, like Sonny and Cher.

Go into any bar, night club, breakfast joint or nursery school, and everyone is drinking whiskey on the rocks. What is considered to be THE Thai whiskey is actually rum, but Sang Som is the bottle to get if you are drinking like a local. Just make sure to clear your schedule for the following day.

If you are very lucky your Sangsom will come in one of these.

No matter how short your stay, drink up and enjoy a little piece of Thailand! (But responsibly, please.)

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