Rice whisky or Lao-lao is one of the most popular and unique drinks in Laos.
The best kinds of rice whisky, are said to come from Phongsali and Don Khong, the northern and southern extremes of the country, but are available virtually everywhere in Laos. Strictly speaking, lao-lao is not legal but no-one seems to care. The government distils its own brand, Sticky Rice. Lao-lao is usually drunk neat, with a plain water chaser.
Drink Lao-lao in Laos
In a Laotian home, the pouring and drinking of lao-lao at the evening meal takes on ritual characteristics. Usually towards the end of the meal, but occasionally beforehand, the hosts bring out a bottle of the stuff to treat their guests. The usual procedure is for the host to pour one jigger of Lao onto the floor or a used dinner plate first, to appease the house spirits. The host then pours another jigger and downs it in one gulp. Jiggers for each guest are poured in turn; guests must take at least one offered drink or risk offending the house spirits.
In rural provinces, a weaker version of lao-lao known as lao-hai (jar liquor) is fermented by households or villages. Lao-hai is usually drunk from a communal jar using long reed straws. It’s not always safe to drink, however, since unbolted water is often added to it during and after the fermentation process. Tourist hotel bars in the larger cities carry the standard variety of liquors.