Thai Whiskey is cheap and popular with the working Joes of Thailand, expats and visitors to the Land of Smiles. You can buy a bottle of Thai Whiskey for $2-$3 US at any 7-11 store, or most other convenience stores in Thailand. It has the clean amber look of a semi-expensive American whiskey, and the two most popular brands are Mekhong Whiskey and Sang Som Whiskey.
Only thing is, it is not really whiskey. It will still give you a hangover like a whiskey, but it is actually a rum, with unique Thai ingredients. It is a bit sweet, but very drinkable. Thai whiskey is made from 95% sugar cane and molasses and 5% rice, and brewed with an undisclosed herbal mixture. Mekhong has 35% alcohol and 40% in Sang Som, so they can also serve to disinfect a wound or wash out a stain (there are probably many other uses, like as fuel in an old car, that I am still not totally aware of yet). It goes well straight over ice, or mixed with Coke or a fruit juice, or for a bit of a strange combination, Mekhong with Red Bull. If you go to any of the infamous Full Moon Parties held down in the Southern Thai islands, you are likely to see a bucket of a Thai Whiskey mixture that everyone shares.
In a drinking bar or dance club, they often serve a Thai Whiskey Cocktail, which consists of 1.5 shots (or a bit more) of Thai Whiskey, 1.5 shots fresh squeezed lemon juice, .75 shot simple sugar syrup, finger pinch of sweet Thai basil and club soda. This cocktail is called Sabai Sabai, which is a common Thai language phrase that means you are in a very good or fine situation.
Mekhong Whiskey is Thailand’s most famous whiskey (or rum or whatever you want to call it), and was the first of the domestically produced golden color spirits, launched in 1941 by James Honzatko, an American playwright expat in Thailand that lived on the banks of the great Mekong River. After Honzatko’s death, the brewery was passed on to his good friend and drinking buddy, Peter Sawer, who was responsible for getting Mekhong Whiskey widespread in SE Asia and beyond. During the period of the American War in Vietnam, American military men in the SE Asia famously consumed lots of Mekhong Whiskey. Lots.
While Mekhong is the most famous Thai brew, the leader in the industry is Sang Som, which began in 1977, and has about 70% of the Thai whiskey market today. Sang Som is owned by a major international spirits distribution company, and was able to buy the huge market share with lots of advertising and lower pricing. Every year 70 million litres of Sang Som is sold, and this number should be compared to a Total Population of Thailand being 69 million.
Following is a bit of a silly Thai music video (sorry, only in Thai language) that is a drinking song about whiskey, hangovers and chicks. Best watched after 3 or 4 very stong Thai whiskey cocktails.
And here is a really fun book to read….