Lambanog with different flavors. :))
Tuba, (coconut wine), is an alcoholic drink made in the Phiippines from the sap of a nipa palm tree. It can also be distilled into a potent liquor known as Lambanog.
Few people are aware of the long histories of alcohol production and the time-honored drinking traditions in a number of regions in the Philippines. The north has its basi and tapey, wines made from sugarcane and rice respectively. The south has tuba, which is produced by fermenting the sap of coconut flowers. When this fermented sap is distilled, it yields lambanog, a much stronger but smoother drink, with an alcohol content of about 40% and up. The province of Quezon is particularly known for its lambanog.
And the lambanog was celebrated last Monday in a cocktail-tasting event held at Cafe Ysabel. Chef Gene Gonzalez prepared the lambanog-infused cocktails and dessert, as well as the food that complemented the drinks.
Having forgotten about the event, I arrived under-dressed with a full stomach, so I settled on imbibing the cocktails sans food. As a “mild drinker*,” I surprisingly did not feel the effects of the alcohol until after the third cocktail - the lambatonic. The three cocktail mixes served so far were light and pleasant, with none of the bitterness that often comes with potent liquor - I heard that the chef made use of single-distilled lambanog, which makes it almost as pure as water - that I just kept on drinking. It was after the third glass that I felt my eyelids start to droop and decided to have the next cocktail mix - lambanog with daiquiri - served with its food pair - goat’s meat pot pie. What a combination! What a perfect perfect team. (Made me feel bad about not having the other drinks served with food.)
The last mix was my favorite; slightly sweet and a little bit sour. As I sipped the beverage and listened to the mayor of Tayabas, Quezon talk about drinking customs in his town, my thoughts flew to how alcohol has been sustaining national identities. Think of how whisky becomes a point of nation-building among the Scots, and how Vodka “unifies” the varied peoples that make up Russia. Can alcohol do the same in the Philippines, a country of diverse cultures and social classes claiming distinct identities?
(*I highly recommend reading Alejandro Roces’ short story, “We Filipinos are Mild Drinkers,” before you take that first sip of the lambanog.)
Ah had me fooled the first time.
Illustrations by Benjamin
As someone hoping to pursue my career in Marine Biology I find these both stunning and inspiring!