Kitchen & Pantry

Coconut-based alcoholic drinks: tuba and lambanog Coconut-based alcoholic drinks: tuba and lambanog

Along the national highway in Laguna, one of the most common items sold in roadside stalls is coconut-based vinegar. Sold alongside the vinegar are bottles with colored liquid — lambanog, a distilled alcoholic drink made from the sap of coconut flowers. Unflavored, lambanog is clear. Blue lambanog is flavored with gum (as in bubblegum); green, with apples; red, with strawberries; yellow, with mangoes.

Lambanog is an alcholic beverage known for its potency (it is sold in 80 or 90 proof variations). It is primarily produced in the Quezon Province of the Philippines, or about 143 kilometers southeast of Manila. The lambanog making process has been a tradition passed down through generations of coconut plantation farmers in this region. In fact, the Mallari distillery was established in 1918.

The process begins with the coconut tree — “the tree of life.” As with most fruit-bearing trees, flowers turn into the fruit. Lambanog making trees never produce fruit, because it is the sap from the coconut flower that is the crucial ingredient for this unique coconut wine. Plantation workers called mangagarit climb the coconut trees every afternoon to prune the flowers so that their sap drips into bamboo receptacles called tukil. (This process is analogous to rubber tree tapping.) The next morning, the mangagarit returns to collect the sap from these receptacles. The sap is then put through a cooking or fermentation process, which produces a popular coconut toddy called tuba. The tuba is then taken and distilled to produce lambanog. Until recently, lambanog was primarily an local drink, much like home-made apple cider or backwoods moonshine. Lambanog is widely enjoyed by the locals of the Quezon province, and festive occasions are incomplete without the traditional “tagayan” or wine-drinking. While the “tagayan” can take on different forms, the most common kind involves taking turns drinking out of a single glass set in the middle of the group. [TED Case Studies. Lambanog: A Philippine Drink]

And right there in the middle of the second paragraph in the blockquote is the difference between tuba and lambanog. After fermentation, the coconut sap becomes tuba but only after the tuba has been distilled does it qualify as lambanog.

And how do tuba and lambanog differ from basi and tapuy? Basi is fermented sugar cane juice. Tapuy is made from rice. Like tuba, basi and tapuy are not distilled which makes them less potent than lambanog.

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