31 delectable Asian wines and spirits

lead image

It's not just Asian food that's worth celebrating!

When thinking about Asian booze, sake and soju are likely the first that come to mind. But the entire region has a lot more to offer in terms of wines and spirits.

Asian alcoholic drinks have a long history. Beginning in China, thousands of years ago, where, grapes, honey, rice, and berries were first mixed together to form a fermented concoction, while it was in tropical Asia where palm wine was first created.

Over the years, Asia has concocted a delectable array of alcoholic drinks, from sophisticated cocktails infused with local produce to unique wines that complement the distinct flavours of local cuisine.

Want to expand your palate when it comes to Asian alcoholic drinks? Pour yourself a glass of the following!

Asian Alcoholic Drinks: 31 Buzzworthy Concoctions to Try

1. Makgeolli

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Magal PIK Original (@magalpik) on

This Asian alcoholic drink, which originated in Korea, is an ancient type of rice wine made from rice water and nuruk, which is a fermentation component that breaks down the rice into alcohol form. What results is a hazy, milky rice wine that's tangy, sharp, bitter, and slightly sweet.

2. Hongju

Another folk wine in Korea worth trying is this red, distilled concoction, which is a form of Soju that's concocted using the root of the gromwell plant. This aromatic drink has a pleasant taste despite having a pretty high alcohol content.

3. Soju

One of the most well-known Asian alcoholic drinks is this clear, distilled spirit. Also called Korea's national drink, the taste of soju can be likened to vodka, but it has a more subtle, and some would say, a sweeter taste. Since it has a fairly neutral taste, it's often enjoyed with food or infused into cocktails.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by 무무의먹방여행 (@cymr141206) on

4. Gwasilju

This traditional Korean wine, which is usually made by combining fruit and certain grains with alcohol, is a fragrant spirit that can be sweet and tart. Though bottles of this liquor abound around Korea, some prefer to whip up their own version of this Asian alcoholic drink by adding fruits like plums to soju.

5. Iwhaju

This traditional Korean spirit has a unique texture. It's more like a creamy dessert than a drink, really! Aside from that, it also has an interesting yogurt-like and herby flavour. Though it's not as readily available as it was in the past, this drink is enjoying a renaissance, much like other traditional drinks that are growing in popularity with a younger generation of foodies, like Makgeolli.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Sool Company (@thesoolcompany) on

6. Cheongju

Also known as "clear wine" in Korea, this fermented rice-based alcoholic drink is sweet tasting and a popular choice for those who are also fond of Japanese sake. This drink is usually served during special occasions, and many alcohol drinkers prize it for being of good quality.

7. Baijiu

This heady distilled liquor is often served in shot glasses during special occasions, such as the Lunar New Year. This grain-based drink is also often made using glutinous rice. This is one of the more ancient Alcoholic drinks, like soju and shochu, but it has a higher alcohol content.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Simone Chen (@minismores) on

8. So-maek

Made by mixing a shot soju with a cup of beer, so-maek is a cocktail that's also known as a soju bomb. Because some soju formulations can be quite harsh, the lighter types of beer can work to smooth and balance it out.

9. Shochu

Though sake is one of the most popular Asian alcoholic drinks, shochu is still worth a shot! Shochu is a distilled liquor made of sweet potato, barley, and rice. It's stronger than sake and is often described as "Japanese vodka."

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Vijeesh (@vijeeshnanu) on

10. Lambanog

Also known as coconut wine, tuba, or arrack, lambanog is a fermented liquor from the Philippines that's clear and mild-tasting, while packing a strong punch. Lambanog is made by leaving the sap to ferment in a large clay jar for days. This potent wine can be enjoyed pure or as a base to certain cocktails.

11. Bugnay

This wild berry wine, popular in the northern provinces of the Philippines has a tangy-sweet taste that, when consumed with food, leaves a sour aftertaste, regardless of the flavour of the accompanying dish.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Proudly Promdi (@proudlypromdi) on

12. Mango rum

Rum production in the Philippines dates back to the 19th century, when sugar canes where first processed to create liquor. An exciting first in rum drinks, mango rum liqueur, even earned the late Anthony Bourdain's stamp of approval.

13. Japanese Whisky

The Japanese have a rich history of Whisky production that, though influenced by the West, has developed a distinct taste all its own. Though pricier than other forms of liquor, it will be well worth it. There are many formulations, too, from the sweeter, smooth-tasting whiskies like Suntory Toki to the smokier, fruity varieties like Hakushu.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Tim Yim ? (@timyim710) on

14. Snake wine

In Vietnam, mixing whole snakes in rice wine or grain-based alcoholic drinks, leaving it to soak for a few months until the venom is broken down, results in this unusual concoction. For those adventurous enough to chug a glass of this, they'll find that it tastes like medicine and some would say, quite meaty.

15. Coffee Liqueur

Most countries have their own version of coffee-based cocktails and Asia is no exception. In the Philippines, there is Amadeo Coffee liqueur, while China has coffee-infused beer and Kuala Lumpur has rum with espresso.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by J E E T H U R A M E S H (@jeethuramesh) on

16. Mekhong

This Thai rum, which is often considered a type of whisky, is mostly made up sugar cane as well as rice. Since it's been around since the 1940s, it's become an integral part of Thai cuisine, as it lends itself well to the distinct flavours of Thai dishes.

17. Lao-Lao

This mild-tasting rice-based whiskey, which is popular in Laos, is both tasty and affordable. Much like the coconut wine of the Philippines, lao-lao is fermented in earthen jars, this drink is potent when drunk in pure form, but it can also be infused into cocktails.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Ying (@yingers3) on

18. Sangsom

This is a popular Thai alcoholic drink made from sugar cane with a distinctly sweet flavour. Though it's technically a type of whisky, it can be like you're run-of-the-mill rum, as it's often mixed with soda.

19. Durian alcohol

Despite the myth that durian and alcohol can be a fatal mix, a company in Malaysia has come up with a type of alcohol made of Mao Shan Wang durians. Aside from it being touted as safe to drink, it has a unique taste and promises a pleasant buzz.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Christine Teh (@christine.xryss) on

20. Sake

Easily one of the more popular Asian alcoholic drinks, sake or Japanese rice wine, is definitely a must try when travelling in the region, as it is not just readily available in Japan, but in other Asian countries as well. Depending on how it is prepared, Sake boasts different flavour profiles, from sweet to tart and earthy tones and even a sparkling variety.

21. Arrack

This distilled spirit, found in Sri Lanka, India, and other parts Southeast Asia, can be made by one of two ways: by using fruit and grains or coconut flower sap that's been fermented.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Kamila Wejman (@kamilawejman) on

22. Mijui

This glutinous rice-based clear, subtly sweet alcohol is a traditional Chinese rice wine. Like Sake, it is typically enjoyed warm, and it can also be used as a cooking agent for chicken and duck dishes.

23. Calamansi and Dalandan vodka

Both citrus fruits, considered to be the Philippines' lime and oranges, have been infused and distilled into a local, artisanal vodka. Both drinks can be enjoyed straight up as shots or as an ingredient to cocktails; some even use it as a cooking agent.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Manille Liqueur de Calamansi (@manilleliqueur) on

24. Apo

This alcoholic drink is one of the more traditional concoctions out of India. Also known as rice beer, this fermented spirit is typically served in the more rural parts of the region.

25. Lao Khao

Made by fermenting sticky rice, this Thai drink can be likened to moonshine. Even though Lao Khao is available in commercial forms, there are homemade brews available across Thailand.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by sᴜᴍᴇᴇᴛ ɢᴜʀʙᴀɴɪ (@mistergurbani) on

26. Bangla

This potent drink from India is made out of grains like wheat, bajra, and sorghum. Known as a country liquor, it is simple, affordable, and the makers of this drink have passed down the method of preparation through generations.

27. Baekseju

Another popular Asian alcoholic drink made by fermenting glutinous rice is baekse-ju. This drink also includes herbs like licorice, ginseng, cinnamon, and ginger. Not only is it tasty and potent, but there's an interesting legend behind the drink, as local Korean culture claims the drink will help you live up to 100 years old.

28. Tuak

Indonesia's own take on palm wine offers a sweeter drinking experience. How? It's all because of the dried fruit that's typically infused in this drink.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Karen Eva Chin (@karenevachin) on

29. Sato

This glutinous rice-based beer is one of the must-try alcoholic drinks when in Thailand. This traditional beer is brewed in clay jars and is often served at room temperature, in a bowl designed for sharing.

30. Ciu

This traditional Indonesian wine is made from sugarcane. It's available in certain parts of the country and is sweet-tasting but packs a punch, thanks to its high alcohol content.

31. Samsu

This Malaysian spirit is widely available and affordable. It's sweet-tasting, as it is made with caramel and sugar.

Whatever your preference is, there's something for you in Asia. So says Cheers, Kanpai, Tagay, Geonbae, Tepuk Tangan, Sorakan, or whatever you prefer!

Did we miss out on your favourite Asian alcoholic drinks? Let us know in the comments!

Read also: 23 Uniquely Asian tea brews to soothe and satisfy you