Don't Mention the Drink

first published 7 April 2022

A heads-up for those of you who are in Isaan or will be here over the Songkran period. Along with Songkran shirts, those wonderfully colourful Hawaiian beachwear looking shirts, the other thing to look out for which is only more readily available now, is a homemade alcoholic drink called sato. Made from sticky rice, a mysterious inclusion my wife Gaun calls a powder (yeast?) sugar and who knows what else, it ends up being a half decent drink with a kick.

Depending on the quality of the powder and the amount of sugar added, it varies from sour to sweet. I have had undrinkable (for me) versions through to smooth vintages that slip down nicely and encourage an afternoon nap.

It is illegal to make, so you have to ask around discreetly, not that the police would be too worried. Like the village casinos which spring up over Songkran, and are also illegal but allowed after a donation to the police retirement fund is paid.

Because sato is illegal, I of course don't have any, and the liquid in the glass in the photo is an approximation to what sato would look like if I had some to show you. You can buy commercial sato in 7/11, but it tastes nothing like the village variety.




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