A friend recently returned from Thailand with tales of lush beaches, charming fire dancers, and fragrant food. She fondly recalled extravagant full moon parties on the beach, where the country's official spirit, an amber-hued liquor known as Mekhong, flowed freely.

At this point, I can only dream of an escape to Ko Samui — but I can get a tiny taste of Thai nightlife through Mekhong, which became available Stateside last year. The spirit ($16.99), which is 35 percent alcohol, is made from distilled sugarcane and rice, then infused with a blend of Thai herbs and spices. When it launched in 1941, Mekhong was Thailand's first domestically branded alcohol — and remains the most popular brand in Thailand to this day.

Mekhong's slightly sweet flavor and distilling process might be reminiscent of rum, but it also channels whiskey, with its burnt-red color and slightly smoky bouquet. It adds balance in the Sabai Sabai, a Thai cocktail with fresh lemon juice and sweet Thai basil. See the recipe.

Sabai Sabai

Sabai Sabai

Recipe for Thai Sabai Sabai Mekhong Cocktail

Ingredients

1-1/2 shots Mekhong
1-1/2 shots fresh squeezed lemon juice
3/4 shot simple syrup
Several leaves of sweet Thai basil, chopped
Club soda

Directions

  1. Pour Mekhong and the rest of the ingredients except club soda into a mixing glass.
  2. Add ice and shake vigorously for 7-8 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass.
  3. Top off with club soda.

Makes 1 cocktail.