Lao lao is a smooth but powerful rice liquor favored by Laotians. It is distilled over charcoal fires in old oil drums. A shot typically costs 25 cents and the first one is spilled on the floor for good luck and to pay homage to local spirits. A popular place to buy it in the Vientiane area is Ban Xanghai, where dozens of competing bootleggers have stills set up in front of little shacks. Customers pull up to these shacks on boats and pay $1 (sometimes a day’s wage for a city laborer) for a liter. There is a similar place near Luang Prabang. The local lao lao from Phongsali Province is smooth, strong and tinted green ! During the final stage of the distillation process this rice whisky is running over fresh picked raspberry leaves absorbing the green color.
Beerlao beer is the national brand. It is produced by a brewery outside Vientiane and has won several awards. Large bottle generally sells about $1. Other local brands of beer tend to be flat and more watery than the Beerlao. Thai-produced Singha beer, Singapore-produced Tiger beer, and some Vietnamese and Chinese brands of beer are available. Some local bars in Vientiane offer cheap, local-style of draft beer.
Bars in Vientiane feature Beerlao beer, Jim Beam whiskey and Stolichanaya vodka. Local people also drink beer or strong local alcoholic drinks (similar to Mekong whiskey sold in Thailand) made from sugar cane or rice and moonshine. In some rural arural you can see lao hai (jar liquor), a weaker form of lao lao consumers from a communal jar with reed straws. It is not always hygienic. Luang Prabang is famous for a sweet rice wine called khao kam . Imported beers, whiskey and liquor are available but expensive. The choice of French wine in Vientiane is surprisingly good and and nearly tax-free.