Mexicans make tequila with agave. The Japanese make sake from rice. Filipinos make lambanog from coconuts. Though other liquors of distinct regional origin are household names, this lesser-known tropical moonshine is also in a class of its own. And drinkers know the power of the clear, neutral-yet-potent liquor all too well. The slightly sweet spirit reaches up to 45 percent alcohol.
The Philippines is the world’s second largest coconut producer (behind Indonesia). Almost a third of the country’s farmland is covered in coconut trees. Islanders first created lambanog during the pre-colonial era, and coconut plantation farmers passed down their written recipes from generation to generation. To make lambanog, farmers collect sap from the unopened coconut flower, then ferment and distill it.
Lambanog can be found all over the country, but it is produced in distilleries in the Quezon province. In recent years, small lambanog companies have attempted to enter the global liquor market with little success.