Malay Drinking Culture: #1 Complete Guide With Vocabulary

Malaysian people respect Malay drinking culture.

Hey there, fellow adventurers! Are you planning a trip to Malaysia anytime soon? Well, you should know the wonders of the Malay drinking culture. 

And trust me, it’s a thing of beauty! There’s so much to learn and explore, from their unique drinks to their fascinating traditions and quirky customs. 

So, grab a drink (water is fine, too, we don’t judge), and let’s dive into Malaysian drinking culture!

The History Of Malay Drinking Culture

Back in the day, on the beautiful island of Borneo, Malay ancestors were already brewing their own concoctions and celebrating their harvest festivals with plenty of drinks. 

Fast forward a few centuries, and the Malays were already trading with seafarers from India and China, who brought with them their own drinking traditions.

But it wasn’t until the arrival of the British in 1874 that the Malay people got their first taste of gin, beer, and whiskey. 

The British definitely knew how to party. So, they brought a culture clash, as alcohol consumption goes against the predominant Islamic faith in Malaysia.

Despite the restrictions on alcohol consumption, the Malays have managed to keep their unique drinking culture alive. 

Today, Malaysia boasts a small but thriving bar scene, especially in major cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang. 

These bars offer a unique blend of traditional Malaysian and Western drinks, showcasing the country’s diverse history and influences.

Types Of Alcoholic Beverages In Malaysia

Alright, it’s time to talk about the good stuff – alcohol in Malaysia! Whether you’re a beer lover or a whiskey connoisseur, Malaysia has much to offer regarding alcoholic beverages.

Bir (Beer)

Let’s start with beer. Beer is, without a doubt, the most popular alcoholic beverage in Malaysia. On almost every corner, you’ll find plenty of local brands like Tiger Beer, Carlsberg, and Anchor Beer. 

If you’re looking for something stronger, try the Anchor Strong Beer, which has an alcohol content of 7.5%. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s definitely worth trying.

Wain (Wine)

Moving on to wine, while less commonly consumed than beer, it is still a popular choice for those looking for something a little more sophisticated. 

You can find a decent selection of wines at specialty shops and restaurants, like the famous Australian wine Jacob’s Creek. 

Local wine production is also growing, with vineyards popping up in places like Sabah and Langkawi.

Wiskey (Whiskey)

Whiskey is another popular choice for Malaysians who enjoy a strong and smooth drink. You’ll find various brands available, including Johnnie Walker, Chivas Regal, and Macallan. 

There’s also a growing trend of whiskey bars in major cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang. So, if you’re a whiskey enthusiast, check out bars like The Whiskey Bar in Kuala Lumpur for a unique experience.

Rom (Rum)

Rum is a staple in many tropical regions, and Malaysia is no exception. The country has a rich history of rum production dating back to the colonial era, with local brands like Captain Watson and Sime Darby making their mark. 

Rum is often used in cocktails like the famous Mai Tai (aged rum), a perfect drink to sip while lounging on the beach.

Koktel (Cocktails)

Cocktails are a way to experiment with different flavors and ingredients. Malaysia has a vibrant cocktail culture that blends local flavors with international techniques. 

You’ll find plenty of options, from classic drinks like the Old Fashioned to unique creations like the Pandan Daiquiri. 

Some bars even offer their own signature cocktails that you won’t find anywhere else.

Rice Wine And Liquor (Tuak And Arak)

Finally, we have traditional beverages like Tuak and Arak. Tuak is a fermented rice wine that’s made by fermenting glutinous rice. 

People from the Iban and Bidayuh communities in Sarawak love it, but you can find it all over Malaysia. It has a sweet and slightly sour taste and is a big hit during traditional celebrations.

Arak, on the other hand, is a distilled alcoholic drink made from fermented coconut flower sap or sugarcane. 

People often call it “coconut whiskey” or “palm wine” because it’s strong and can knock your socks off. You’ll usually find it in rural areas of Malaysia, especially in most Chinese restaurants in Sabah, and in other countries in Southeast Asia.

Malaysians enjoy drinking beer.

Types Of Non-Alcoholic Drinks In Malaysia

Religion plays a pretty big part in Malaysian culture, and it’s no different when it comes to drinking. 

The majority of Malays are Muslim, and in Islam, drinking alcohol is not okay. That’s why you won’t see many Malays drinking alcohol, especially in public places.

But that doesn’t mean there’s no drinking culture at all! In fact, many Malays drink non-alcoholic beverages like tea or coffee instead of booze. 

And during special occasions, they drink sweet and delicious drinks made with coconut milk and other yummy ingredients. Here are some of them:

Teh Tarik (Pulled Tea)

First up, we have the Teh Tarik, which literally means “pulled tea.” It’s a hot tea made with black tea leaves and condensed milk. 

Teh Tarik is famously served by “pulling” the tea back and forth between two metal cups to create a frothy texture. 

You’ll find Teh Tarik in almost all Malaysian coffee houses and mamak stalls (casual eateries). It’s the perfect drink to pair with some Roti Canai (a flatbread).

Cat’s Tear Drop (Air Mata Kucing)

Next, we have the Air Mata Kucing, which means “cat’s teardrop.” Don’t worry; it’s not made from actual cat’s eyes! It’s a sweet drink made from longan fruit, dried winter melon, and rock sugar. 

The longan fruit is boiled until the water turns brown and sweet, then the other ingredients are added. It’s a refreshing drink that’s perfect for hot days.


Another unique Malaysian drink is the Bandung. It’s a pink drink made from evaporated milk, rose syrup, and water. 

It’s sweet and creamy and a popular drink during Ramadan, when Muslims break their fast. You can find Bandung in many restaurants and coffee shops, often served with ice.


Finally, we have the Cendol. It’s a dessert drink made from shaved ice, coconut milk, palm sugar, and green jelly noodles made from rice flour. 

It’s also sweet and refreshing and can be found in many Malaysian hawker stalls or dessert shops.

Malay Drinking Rituals And Traditions

Drinking in Malay culture is all about good times and good vibes! There are some fun rituals and traditions that make it even more special. Here are some of them:

  • Pantang larang (Forbidden): It’s like a rule that says you can’t drink alone. So, don’t be a loner! And don’t pour your own drink. Offer it to your pals first and pour for them.
  • Sirih junjung (Betel nut): This is like a fancy tray with betel nuts, leaves, and other stuff offered to guests on special occasions. It’s a sign of being a good host and showing respect.
  • Host with the most: The host/hostess is the one who serves drinks during special occasions. They usually offer a sweet drink made of coconut milk, pandan leaves, and palm sugar to welcome guests and show hospitality.
  • Tongkat ali: This drink made from the roots of a plant is believed to give men extra energy and boost their libido. It’s often served during Malay weddings or other special occasions to celebrate their masculinity.

While drinking plays a significant role in Malay culture, it’s more than just a reason to party! It’s a way to build solid relationships and connect with others. 

But remember that responsible drinking and moderation are crucial. Going overboard and getting totally drunk in public is definitely not the way to go.

Tourists drinking coffee in Malaysia.

Alcohol Consumption Rules And Regulations In Malaysia

Alright, listen up. Regarding Malay drinking culture, the government takes things pretty seriously to combat alcohol problems. 

In 2011, the World Health Organization actually ranked Malaysia 10th for alcohol worldwide per capita consumption.

Because of that, they created rules and regulations to keep the Malay people safe and healthy from alcohol abuse. Here are some of them:

  • The legal drinking age in Malaysia is 21 years old.
  • The sale of alcohol is prohibited in certain areas, like near places of worship, hospitals, and educational institutions.
  • The sale of alcohol is restricted during certain times of the day, like during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
  • Drinking and driving in Malaysia is illegal, and the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08%.
  • Drinking in public places, like on the street or in parks, is illegal.
  • The possession of alcohol in public places is prohibited, and those caught could face fines or even imprisonment.

Remember that these rules and regulations may vary depending on the state or region in Malaysia, so it’s always best to check the local laws before drinking.

Malay Useful Words And Phrases For Drinking

Now, it’s time to spice up your drinking game with some Malay language skills! These useful phrases will help you explore the local drinking scene.

Alcoholic beverageMinuman kerasmee-noo-mun ker-us
HangoverSakit kepalasah-kit kuh-pah-luh
Drinking buddiesKaki minumkah-kee mee-noom
Happy hourJam gembirajahm guhm-bee-ruh
Let’s have a drinkMari minummah-ree mee-noom
I’ll buy the first roundSaya belanja round pertamasah-yah buh-lahn-juh roond puhr-tuh-muh
One more glassSatu lagisah-too lah-gee
I’m feeling tipsySaya dah mula naiksah-yah dah moo-luh nye-ek
Can I have some water, please?Boleh bagi air, sila?boh-lay buh-gee eye-er, see-luh?

With these handy words and phrases, you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself in Malaysia’s drinking culture and connect with locals over a pint or two.

So, go ahead and raise a glass to new adventures and new friends, and don’t forget to practice your new language skills!

Learn Malay with Ling App

Learn The Malay Drinking Culture With Ling

So, there you have it – a complete guide on the Malay drinking culture! From the unique flavors of Tuak to the refreshing taste of a cold Tiger Beer, Malaysia has something to offer for every drinker out there. 

It’s not just about the drinks, though – the surrounding rituals and traditions are just as important. But, as with any good thing, it’s important to drink responsibly and be mindful of local customs and regulations.

Ready to put your newfound knowledge of Malay’s drinking culture to the test? With the Ling app, you can easily pick up the Malay language while having fun! 

Ling app is a game-like language learning application that offers over 60 languages, including Malay and Chinese, to name a few.

Download from the App Store or Google Play and start your language-learning adventure today!

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