Ding Dong Dunk and Other Reasons I’ll Never Drink Lao Khao Again.

Thailand: They called it “Thai rice whiskey”. They insisted it was a must-try. My first gulp unveiled the cruelty of our new friends. My tongue swelled, my lips puckered and burnt, my nostrils convulsed, my neck kinked, my cheeks filled with spit. I felt a thickness where mouth becomes throat, and I gargled some Chang to wash away the horror. As my sinuses began to drain, I felt her in my belly, a warm, evil puddle.


Lao Khao, a potent rice whiskey made from distilled sahtoh, is the most apocalyptic of liquors. It makes you scream the things that common courtesy locks in the subconscious creases of your brain. It makes you act on the impulses that legal disincentives and social inhibitions usually curb. It is the devil on your shoulder banishing the angel to the harsh light of sobriety. She is an evil, evil mistress. She is the summation of everything that is tasteless, the total of all that is cruel and unkind. She is cheap, she is easy, and she’ll ensure you won’t forget her with the promise of an eyeball-pounding hangover. She’ll pain you to the point of suicide, and she’ll make you wish you were never born.

” Wilai, why is that man over there just standing on the road and not going anywhere?”

” I ask aunt same before. She speak he ding dong (a little crazy) and dunk (drunk). He like dink (drink) Lao Khao too much”. (from thaisabai.org)

Today, cheap Lao Khao is not only sold at virtually every small store in Thailand, it is also the pin on the blue-collar lapel – hawked at bars frequented by the local working man: places where buildings are fashioned from bamboo, roofs from palm fronds, and barstools from trunks of palm trees. The most widely-known and accessible variety is Mekhong. For only 40 Baht, she will accompany you on your travels in a 1-litre glass bottle big enough to get the whole village inebriated.

Some have tried to tame her with Coca Cola or copious amounts of soda water. Another, more interesting technique is to soak special ingredients in the Lao Khao using cheesecloth. After a few days of soaking, the infused liquid is ladled into shot glasses and enjoyed as Lao Yadong. The process is not unlike the one employed in the West to change mediocre hard liquor into expensive liqueurs.

One of these special Lao Yadongs mixes Lao Khao with snake blood, usually a cobra’s. Aficionados believe the blood turns the drink into an aphrodisiac. Mmm, mmm. For those of you who feel your batteries need recharging and just can’t wait to quaff a little cobra blood, it can be found in Bangkok’s Klong Toey Market.

But be warned – if someone offers you a clear shot of the local favourite, make sure you have nothing else planned for the rest of the evening. And good luck to you, my friend.

Jo chasing the Khao with oj.