How to Buy a Drink in Thailand?

Rum & Coke Thailand Style

Buying a Drink in Thailand

No, this isn’t going to be an all important Thai language lesson but it is a Thailand lesson of sorts none the less.

Obviously the easiest way to buy a drink in Thailand is to just ask for what you want and 9 times out of 10 you will get exactly that, if all you drink is beer then 10/10 is the norm. But, what if you like something a little off the beaten track?

While there is a good chance that the bar or restaurant has exactly what you want, actually getting it in any form that that would resemble something you would recognize sometimes takes a bit of work.

I don’t drink beer much anymore but I do occasionally like a nice vodka Lippo ( Liptovan ) or Rum & Coke. The vodka Lippo is usually an easy get, I might have to repeat myself or say it really fast with a rising inflection on the Lippo part to be understood but generally I have no problems getting the drink. Rum & Coke is a completely different matter.

In Thailand if you say “Rum & Coke” you will definitely get a rum & Coke but if you are like me and prefer a specific rum then you may be in for a bit of a wait. When I have a Rum & Coke I prefer Captain Morgans Spiced Rum, mmmm so good, unfortunately the problem usually starts with the name. If you say “Captain Morgans” in a normal voice and tone you will usually get very confused looks.

When asked, again, what you would like, you get more confused looks and a second waiter/waitress or bartender is called over. After a few rounds of this you learn that you have to say Captain Morgan in a speed and tone consistent with the Thai language to be understood. Therefore Captain Morgan becomes Cap Taan Mor Gaan spoken fast with a rising tone on the second syllable of each word.

Problem solved, yes? No, unfortunately this is just the beginning if you enjoy this particular alcoholic beverage. Once there is an understanding of what you want now begins the exercise in finding what you want. Invariably you will either be told they don’t have Captain Morgans, whether they do or not, or they have to ask someone if it exists in said bar. I’ve been told on more than one occasion that the particular bar doesn’t have that brand of rum only to see it sitting on their shelf , the response is usually the same when I point this out ” Ohh sorry mister, Cap Taan Mor Gaan, yes we have….why you not say?”

Now, this is usually the point where the story ends happily ever after with me relaxing on the beach, at the restaurant or in a bar with my much anticipated Rum & Coke and enjoying a perfect Thailand sunset, a great Thai meal and or the company of a beautiful Thai woman…and in some cases all of the above at once. Well, this is Thailand after all and while there are plenty of happy endings sometimes they tend to take the long route to get you there, or in this case new ways to confound the problem.

So, I go to King’s Seafood for dinner the other night with a beautiful Thai woman, there is a beautiful sunset and not only is the food excellent at King’s Seafood but positioned on Pattaya bay there are few other places as nice to relax and watch the sun go down. The waitress takes our order and then asks the fateful question ” Duum Arai Dii?” ( what would you like to drink?), I’ve gotten good at this part now and quickly say ” Cap Taan Mor Gaan & Coke”. She understands me ans says ” I have to see if we have”, I nod, knowing full well that they not only have Captain Morgans Spiced Rum but she has actually served it to me before…twice.

As you can see by the photo at the beginning of the post I finally got my Rum & Coke, this particular night it took 3 tries to get the first one. Once the waitress realized they had the rum specified she brought me a 8 ounce rocks glass with a shot of rum in it. After I explained, again, the nature of Rum & Coke I was then presented a bottle of coke. Before I could ask for ice a second waitress showed up with a glass of ice. Not surprisingly of the three Rum & Cokes I had this night the first and third were both delivered in 2 glasses and a bottle while the second came all in one glass.

As a bonus to the evening: if you look closely at the first glass you will see it is one of the new DEA glasses, you can read more about that in DEA Targets Thailand Nightlife. It’s turned around in the picture but you can just make out the top of Wei Hsueh Kanga’s head, a major drug kingpin running a drug empire from Burma, it was good for a chuckle as I looked around to see if the drug lord was in attendance.

No Alcoholic beverages were harmed in the creation of this post but more than a few were consumed, and no, I am not an alcoholic. I am just a hobbyist with aspirations living in Thailand :)

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15 Comment(s)

  1. Ordering a drink can be a little like a DIY project…mine can sometimes involve a small dish of sliced lime as well.

    My Thai teacher told us by separating syllables of English words and applying a Thai accent, will often get you what you want. Looks like she might be right!

    Snap | Jan 20, 2011 | Reply

  2. Glad I’m a beer drinker Talen. I did have a similar experience quite a few years ago when trying to order Jaeger bombs (yes I know lol). The nice thing is the bartender worked with me as I talked her through the process of making them. After the first few we were good to go at that bar and had many fun nights and hungover mornings. When I returned to Bangkok 6 months later it seemed like everywhere I went they knew how to make them…did I start a Jaeger bomb trend in Bangkok?? :)

    Steve | Jan 20, 2011 | Reply

  3. Talen that made me smile, since I usually drink beer when out my biggest problem has always been to stop the eager waitress mixing it with ice.

    I reckon the advice about splitting the syllables in English words is a winner from you and Snap……now to find some interesting words to introduce into a conversation ;-)

    Mike | Jan 21, 2011 | Reply

  4. Good post Talen. As a female with a sidekick I’m not often faced with ordering alcoholic mixed drinks but I did run into problems getting nam soda (???????) early on (I love the stuff).

    With my terrible pronunciation at the time, some would bring me soda with sweetened lime juice and I’m SO not into sweet drinks.

    In my way of thinking, if I’m going to take on unnecessary calories in a drink it’d better have alcohol or have a really good reason (like hot chocolate – I can find tons of good reasons for chocolate in liquid form).

    Catherine | Jan 21, 2011 | Reply

  5. Snap, I hadn’t heard that before but now that I think about it I hear Thai’s doing that with English words all the time…Like “Stop” becomes sta op

    Talen | Jan 21, 2011 | Reply

  6. Steve, You might just have started a trend….I know I have taught a few bars my drinks that they know now but still this restaurant is killing me.

    Talen | Jan 21, 2011 | Reply

  7. Mike, I hate the ice in beer thing. Whenever I have been up country someone always hands me a glass and I just cringe. When I say no ice put bottle on ice I get funny look and the words “same same”. As for the splitting syllables it does seem to work with quite a few words if they aren’t understanding your English.

    Talen | Jan 21, 2011 | Reply

  8. Cat, can I interest you in a hot chocolate with rum :P

    Talen | Jan 21, 2011 | Reply

  9. I don’t drink alcohol so the only things I order in bars or restaurants are soft drinks and most of them seem to be named for their color.

    My favorites are:
    Nam Som (Orange juice or Green Spot), Nam Daeng (Red Fanta), and Nam Kiaw (Green Fanta).

    As the precedent had been set I tried to persuade my wife that I should order Coke this way (Nam Dam).

    You can only imagine the look she gave me.

    ChuckWow | Jan 21, 2011 | Reply

  10. Talen it took me a long while to get used to having ice in my beer but nowadays I quite like it providing it’s kept to one or two cubes. What I really don’t like are the glasses they take out the freezer, they take the head off a beer straight away.

    Shorts…I normally ask for a Jac(k)Dan Yell and Koke.

    Martyn | Jan 22, 2011 | Reply

  11. Good story, Talen. It’s a good practice to also leave out the “and” and say “rum coke”, as you do with “vodka Lipo”. I will say “vodka or-ANGE” or vodka NAAM so-DUH.
    My fave Tinglish is Tie-GUH, for Tiger beer, which I rarely order anyway. It’s mostly Lee-OH or Black Lay-BUL. Recently I orderd Black Lay-BUL but it wasn’t understood until I said Johnnie Black.
    The Drinking Life is complicated and challenging, but rewards in Thailand always add up to San-NOOK.

    SiamRick | Jan 22, 2011 | Reply

  12. Rick, the only problem with saying rum coke is the fact that they will then completely ignore the Cap taan Mor gaan part and pour me Bacardi instead… Drinking can be a challenge for those of us with an extensive pallete but hopefully we can change that one bar at a time :)

    Talen | Jan 23, 2011 | Reply

  13. Martyn, I have tried …I mean really tried to go along with the ice in the beer program but I just can’t do it. Beer needs to be chilled to the proper temperature and then served in the bottle….I’m just snob :P

    Talen | Jan 23, 2011 | Reply

  14. Chuck, I have seen that look many times and for similar reasons….I’d give it a try anyway.

    Talen | Jan 23, 2011 | Reply

  15. of course you made me laugh with your post .
    i was in thailand for 3 years , i got some trouble when i ordered my favorite drink , it was “dry martini or mojito ” do you known it’s a mix havana rum and lime lemon and sugar ( may be because i’m french ) . anyway , all time i did to reapet my order ,or i did to explain what is mean as alcohol . they always desserved to me an bottle’softdrink . After a couple of time i was so dessappointed that i’m never order some alcohol anymore in this country .
    i lived i mukdahan , and sometimes when i said “chang beer ” they brought me a singha or leo , as they wanted to desserves me , that something funny about thsi country , and a few times that difficult to keep your smile . believe me .
    eric ( sorry for my english )

    eric | Jan 24, 2011 | Reply

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