“Kalabog” a la Marketman


That I am writing this post soon after consuming a glass of this “kalabog” experiment is a minor miracle. I have been desperately searching for top-notch lambanog, something that I could proudly present to a “guest” in the days ahead. I have already identified a source of fresh tuba, so if that works out well, it will be delivered to me just hours after it is collected fresh from a coconut tree, so that the “guest” can have a taste of the base ingredient for our coconut vinegars, bahalina or slightly fermented tuba, and the distilled lambanog, often an 80-90 proof moonshine that could topple even a serious bar regular. But believe it or not, despite the millions of bottles of liquor and cheap alcoholic beverages in liquor stores metromanila-wide, there is hardly ANY lambanog on offer. I finally found some, and at PHP120 a bottle, dubiously mid- to low-end, and this has forced me to briefly contemplate a six to seven hour round-trip drive to Tayabas, Quezon to acquire a few bottles of the finest lambanog…


But I smelled and tasted the lambanog that I did manage to find in Makati and frankly, it smelled and tasted WORSE than I imagined rubbing alcohol might taste. And at 80-90 proof, it was quite literally, FLAMMABLE. I know that for a fact as I lit a little glass full and briefly ignited a bluish clear flame! “Proof” refers to twice the amount of alcohol content, so if my bottle of lambanog says that has 80-90 proof, then it contains 40-45% alcohol. This lambanog was as strong as vodka, gin or rum… I tasted the lambanog by itself, and wasn’t impressed. I am OFF alcohol completely these days due to a liver issue, but I did at an earlier point in my life enjoy quite a bit of good Vodka, and I may be a bit burgis, but I liked my Absolut, Finlandia, etc. a LOT more than the lambanog. Desperate and wanting to will lambanog into something presentable, I threw some shaved ice into a blender, lots of freshly squeezed kalamansi, a touch of sugar and salt and a hearty dose of lambanog and blitzed it into a slush…


It wasn’t bad at all, but the lambanog brought nothing to the table except the ability to get one drunk eventually. I particularly liked my version with salt ringed around the glass… very margarita like. But this wasn’t a brilliant discovery…just a catchy name. If you have any bright ideas or great sources for lambanog in Manila, I would appreciate your comments. For now, I just don’t think a seven hour drive to get a better quality lambanog from Tayabas is really worth the effort… Maybe a 15 year old Tanduay rum might be a better choice???


41 Responses

  1. My balikbayan sister last year bought a bottle of lambanog from Balikbayan handicrafts in Pasay Road, Makati. She brought it back to Australia for pasalubong. She decided to keep it upon tasting a sip. She swore it was darn good stuff. I do not know the brand but it came in interesting packaging perfect for gift giving. Maybe you can give it a shot.

  2. MM, Tanduay 15 years is actually a pretty good rum. Hard to find though sometimes… Will email you re a lambanog contact from the market.

  3. Lambanog in supermarkets never taste anything close to the real Mcoy in Quezon. Sadly, I think it should be marketed the same way vodka and tequilla are because it is very good.

    MarketMan you may try to put raisins, pineapple or even the Double-Mint chewing gum with the lambanog that you might buy to change the taste a bit. This is quite a practice in Quezon. It affects the taste if the lambanog is to be drank pure but if mixed, like the one above, you will never notice the difference.=)

    The best lambanog I tasted is still the one from my friend’s hometown in Quezon. Maybe the fact that it comes in black water containers contributes to its taste hehehe!=)

  4. Hi MM! My dad’s family is from Mauban, Quezon, so my cousins and I grew up on the stuff. Our lambanog, though, comes from the “sasa” plant (palm?) and comes down way smoother than other lambanogs I’ve tasted. As AleXena mentioned, it’s common practice to infuse it with raisins and other fruits, like “liputi” (similar to duhat).

    We always bring home bottles (sometimes gallons of mineral water) for our friends who have tasted the stuff and truly enjoyed it. Its our favorite drink wehn we go to the beach there because for some reason it keeps the bugs away:-) I personally think it goes down better than really good tequila. Anyway, let me know if you would want to try some… hopefully its better than what you got from Tayabas:-)

  5. My mom used to source lambanog from Batangas (before San Juan) never developed the taste for it, I noticed that they do the same to tequila. Chico, raisins, juicy fruit were soaked placed in the lambanog for maybe a month, the fragrance and the sweetness once melded with the lambanog rids it of the alcohol almost stainless taste.

    The cooking receptacle that holds the tuba whether it is bronze or stainless matters. The bronze spews a better quality, smoother lambanog.

  6. My late Tia Moning from Mindanao enjoyed preparing what they call ‘koter’ (i don’t know if this the correct spelling) every morning. Fortunately, they had a ‘manang-geti’ (tuba gatherer) who supplied them with fresh tuba juice every morning. The ‘koter’ consists of tableya, eggs, fresh tuba and the ‘baterol’ (sikwati mixer). My 86 year old mother is beside me now trying (very hard) to remember how her sister-in-law prepared the drink, with actions, of course. Slowly melt tableya ..add sugar ..then the eggs and whip it up with the ‘baterol’ and lastly add the fresh tuba juice. WHEWWW. MM just experiment.. and maybe add a dash of Tabasco for your ‘guest’???

  7. I think Lex was referring to Malakan’yan Cocovino which was produced for the Philippine Centennial in 1998. It comes in a beautiful container made from “bao”. Great pasalubong if just for the novel packaging. Technically not lambanog, though, since it is made from coconut water. With only 12% alcohol content it doesn’t even come close to the real stuff.

  8. OK, this is out of my comfort zone!…don’t know much about alcohol…only what I use for baking -that much I know about! My resource person on this subject though is one of my mentors…Nadine who is also my mushroom picking partner! She knows her alcohol (being French , I guess!) and her cheeses! When she discovers something worth yapping about, she goes on and on and on. Recently, she told me about her latest discovery…a vodka and gin too tht is soooo smooth….smoother than Grey Goose vodka! it’s called PHROG gin and PHROG vodka. It is made locally in Hornby Island. They are A SMALL distillery producing only a limited number of bottles and sold in ALBERTA…Get this…made in B.C. but available only in Alberta.

    So, anyone in Alberta, have you guys tried this product? IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE FROM aLBERTA, MM…maybe they could bring you one…I would if I reside there!

  9. PS – my mother said not to put in the fresh tuba in the ‘baterol’ or the drink will turn sour. Add the tableya/egg mix to the fresh tuba juce.

  10. I’ve been wary of lambanog ever since a little experiment my friends and I did in college. While surreptitiously drinking on campus one afternoon (mix lambanog and orange concentrate in a jug, pour in plastic cups so teachers think it looks like juice), someone decided to pour pure lambanog in a small plastic cup and light it up. The half-full cup burned for 15 minutes! We pronounced it a MacGyverism: if we ever needed to cook and had no stove, we could just burn a cup of lambanog. ;-) I’ve also heard it can melt paint off a car. True or not, I don’t like to think about what it could do to my insides!

  11. yes, MM, i guess Tanduay would be the best choice, along with that Paradise mango rhum/liquer (i think) that everyone’s been raving about.

  12. FYI, the Kirkland Signature brand (Costco’s in-house brand) of vodka is made by the same distillers of Grey Goose. More alcohol for less money :)

    (Okay, I don’t even drink alcohol. . .My brother is a manager at Costco’s corporate office and the buyer was the one who informed him of this)

  13. You might try to ask the people at the shrimp farm to source some for you, they are right outside Tayabas. Since the shrimp don’t need much help to grow and we haven’t seen any in decades they might as well go find you some decent lambanog.
    As for fruit in alcohol, I have a couple of gallons of damson plums soaking in gin, something akin to “sloe” gin and destined for the holidays but so far it tastes terrible.Maybe next year I’ll try cherries instead.

  14. A couple of years ago I bought a bottle of “strawberry flavor” lambanog in a fancy woven bottle at the Manila Hotel’s gift shop. I can’t speak for the taste as I never opened it–I just liked the fancy container. It says 80 proof.

  15. This is nothing about lambanog or a 15 year old Tanduay, just an interesting experience with tuba.

    A neighbor’s helper stored some fresh tuba, literally taken within 20 minutes from the drip container from the coconut tree to the refrigerator. The tuba stayed in the fridge which unfortunately conked out in the morning where it stayed till evening. During evening libation for the host’s despedida, I would have thought I was sampling champagne or a good bubbly wine……. had my eyes been closed. The tuba had fermented just right by evening time in the temperature it was stored to taste like a good rose bubbly , better than the wine I sampled earlier at the wine section of a local store.

    I’ll try it again, but first, I have to turn off my refrigerator.

  16. MM, I bought a bottle of lambanog in a nice rattan wrapped bottle in a famous restaurant in Batangas/Quezon junction (I just can’t remember the name). I haven’t tasted it my the people there said it’s good. Now, my mission trip takes me to Calauag Quezon (close to Bicol), and they do make fresh lambanog. I wanted to try some but because of my position, I kindda hesitated. Also I know alot of stores in town sells 15 years old Tanduay. So, hihihi, I know where to get tge things you are looking for.

    Chinkee – my mom and dad are from Mauban too. I would want to meet with you and/or communicate through email. here’s my email address: etyrone@fugro.com. Yes in Mauban they do make great lambanog. We use to get gallons and gallons from my aunt there, and I help my dad fill little bottles and sells them “tingi-tingi”. I siphone it through a make-shift straw and when it starts coming out, I place the straw in the little bottles. Hehehe, sometimes, nakaka-tikim ako ng konti. I was just 8 years old then. hehehe.

  17. =) hey MM and friends! lambanog really brings out the laughs, doesn’t it? even just reading your stories cracks me up something fierce!

    your ‘kalabog’ looks excellent! to me it’s probably the love child of a screwdriver, limoncello, and a citron daiquiri (yup, all three tumbled in the sack i guess)! i’d definitely try it at least twice (so as to ensure proper objectivity and limit observer bias.. hehe..)!

    while i’ve never actually had the pleasure of a grey goose (too bizarre, i mean, prohibitive..), i’ve had a smashing (quite literally) relationship with stoli through the years.
    apart from the now and again adios motherf%$#!r (equal parts vodka and lambo) at a rock dive along edsa, i hardly had any lambanog. however, there was a short phase during college marked with flavored lambanog shooters facilitating higher learning on rainy afternoons and, for a while, it seemed like bubblegum, rootbeer, etc (there were more but i’ve since forgotten) were as much a part of the barkada as any of the usual suspects. then the formalin scare tainting the nata de coco and lambanog industries broke out and that was that.

    now that i’m older (and wiser, i’d like to think), when i do have lambanog (from roadside stalls near sariyaya, quezon) or, if i have the good fortune to be offered some, i rather prefer to have it neat, at room temp. i experimented with a limoncello like technique, extracting the flavor from 5 sweet dalandan (rind only) with a gallon of lambanog for 2 weeks with so-so results (filtered, the scent was imbued with a little more than a hint of dalandan but the taste was hardly affected). never bothered to repeat it.

    sorry for the long post. i feel totally ‘at home’ here. ingat. = )

    pahabol: i think basi is a more developed product, maybe you could use that. then again, there’s also mango wine, kasoy/cashew wine, and San Miguel (cerveza negra, super dry, pale..). okay, i’m going, i’m going…

  18. I am from Lucena City, Quezon and drinking lambanog is just a common thing for us “Quezonians”. My tatay used to buy his stash of lambanog (already flavored with raisins or “may babad na”) at a local purveyor who gets his supplies from a distillery in Tayabas.

    I think the well-known and established “distilerias” in Tayabas is the Capistrano Distillery and the Mallari Distillery (believed to be the country’s oldest lambanog distillery). The Mallari Distillery has now partnered with a Fil-Am and created a “high-end” lambanog which they market as “Premium Coconut Vodka” aptly-named VuQo (from BUKO).
    Nice packaging too. Visit http://www.vuqo.com.

    Bigatin na talaga ang lambanog. Dati kapag walang pera ang mga matatanda, lambanog lang at tubig, gitara at bangko lang, ayos na.

    There’s also this ritual that they do when giving/sharing a “tagay”. The “tanggero” will say to the person next in line “Na’ay po!”, then the rest of the group will reply in unison with “Pakinabangan po!”. This is the signal to down the “tagay” of lambanog.

  19. “It wasn’t bad at all, but the lambanog brought nothing to the table except the ability to get one drunk eventually”

    Don’t knock that, it’s the most important thing IMO :D

    I’ve had only sweet-tasting, raisiny lambanog that still had quite impressive inebriation power. I don’t bother with the commercial stuff, or those without flavoring agents. The ones we had (friend’s father was an alcoholic with regional friends) came in huge glass jugs with various fruit at the bottom. Can’t say I don’t miss the taste.

  20. So this is a trick that I used in my college days when drinking was necessary, but being on a budget was even more necessary.

    We used to filter our cheap rubbing alcohol tasting vodka through a Brita water filter 3 times. It took that rubbing alcohol taste away and made us feel a little bit better about spending only $5 for a handle of vodka. When we were done filtering the vodka, we’d filter water through it another 3 times, fill it up, and put it back in the refrigerator like nothing ever happened.

    Not sure if it’ll work with lambanog, but it wouldn’t hurt to try.

  21. Am a huge fan of flavor: was never big on “white” spirits (gin, vodka, etc). The last 10 years have been an educational ride on alcohol for me–from wines to liqueurs (we even had a shop in Manila) to single malt whisky. Ah–single malts, now talk about flavor. 80/90 proof is about 40-45 ABV (alcohol by volume) content. The highest I’ve had so far is 60% ABV single malt whisky (had to rescrew my head back on–and that was just a small sip!) but it was full of flavor (peat, scottish water, etc).

    I know I’ve tried lambanog before (flavorless therefore it didn’t make any impression). But based on the discussions above, it’s obviously treated similar to vodka. Limoncello works because of long term infusion (and the base for limoncello isn’t even high grade alcohol!). Unless you have 4-6 weeks as lead time for infusion (I vaguely remember reading Nigella Lawson had a 1 week lead for home made limoncello), a lambanog cocktail would be your only choice.

  22. I’m a kalungsod (bisdak from cebu) and i enjoy reading your blogs. Recently, I wrote about ‘how to drink tequilla” on my blog and when I checked on yours, it kinda coincided.
    try visiting: https://cuisine-nerainamerica.blogspot.com/
    We should produce quality lambanog and export it. Did you know that most tequilla growers are family businesses handed down from generations. If we could do something similar to that, that’s a totally different industry to tap into. It could be a dollar earning one…next question: what food can be paired with this drink?

  23. Carl, thanks for the link! Wow lambanog has come a long way! I am happy to know that they have developed it for international standards.

  24. many years back, some kindhearted fishermen along the beach of Infanta offered to share with me the lambanog they were drinking. It was darn good! I was just like drinking buko water, sweet and refreshing, and without any bitter after taste. but the heat I felt as the liquor glided down my throat was something else. after a couple of tagays, i had to excuse myself coz my knees were kinda wobbly when i went to empty my bladder.

  25. i hail from quezon but i am not fond of lambanog. however, i have cousins who buy their lambanog in lucban, quezon. these are the ones with raisins or santol inside the big soy sauce bottles (1 gallon). also, i remember not too long ago that flavored lambanog was THE craze amongst the teens (bubblegum, strawberry flavors, etc)

  26. I’m from Batangas. The lambanog I bought from the Casa Rap garden restaurant (Km. 90, San Jose Batangas) was really good. P100 yata for a small bottle. On the packaging it said best enjoyed on ice cream. Casa Rap is one of the destinations of the Viaje del Sol tourist route.

  27. MM, the chef from NOBU was a guest in one of the episodes ..Martha Stewart. He made tempura batter using eggyolk, flour and VODKA as the liquid….He said that using vodka would make the tempura retain the crispness longer. As soon as the batter hits the hot oil, it will foam for a few seconds and subside..(alcohol just evaporates!)…

    maybe you can try with lambanog?

  28. We stumbled on a concoction by a foreigner who made his own lambanog at Laiya Coco Grove. It’s kinda expensive but my balikbayan relatives swear by it. They’ve even brought back to the US some bottles and regularly request more. They drink before a blazing fire when skiing, for wedding toast and Christmas celebrations. It’s more whiskey-ish, though but it’s the only lambanog I drink.

  29. The very, very first time I got really drunk was on lambanog. This was on a trip, also my first, to Calapan, in Mindoro, waaay back when all the boats that sailed from the Batangas port were wooden hulled. (The Princess series: Princess of Calapan, Naujan, etc.) For pulutan, we had “Kinunot na Pating” done by some Bicolano in the group. It was actually a Sand Shark or “Tukong Dagat”. I was in my teens then, and in my late 50’s now and if I ever come across a Sand Shark, it would be “Kinukot” faster than you can say “ka sarap baga nito!” I will experiment with the now popular and readily available Cream Dory (Pangasius Pangasius) to do the dish. It has the same color and a similar flaky texture.

  30. hi,

    we are currently distributing lambanog products to sm. not sure in which branches they are being offered. the only catch is that it has a relatively higher price as compared to buying directly from us. if you want u can email us at capistrano_distillery@yahoo.com for any of your inquiries. we are a trusted lambanog-manufacturer, so no worries on the quality. hope to hear from u soon. The experiment is a great idea though. want to try it for myself. :)

    Capistrano Distillery



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