Drinking Age in Sri Lanka
Although there are many Muslims, Buddhists and Hindis in Sri Lanka who are prohibited from drinking alcohol for religious reasons, it is not illegal. There is a minimum drinking age of 21 years that is enforced though and that includes buying and drinking it. Most festivals and public events will not have alcohol available, but you will find men gathered together socially and drinking, talking and getting quite drunk. This is usually done in someone’s home where the activities can be kept private. While women do drink when together, they do not do so with the men or in public establishments. It is only when a group of women are together and no others will be coming around that they enjoy a few drinks and socializing.
Types of Alcohol in Sri Lanka
Supermarkets, restaurants, pubs and liquor shops will have imported beers, liquors and wines available for sale but you will pay a premium price for them. While there is no beer brewery in the country, it is quite popular among men. It is not hard to find imported beer at a somewhat reasonable price. They also like drinks made from fermented or distilled coconut palm flowers.
Coconut wine, called toddy or tuak by the locals, is quite simple to make because of the high sugar and yeast content of the coconut flowers. The sap from the flowers is collected and put into wooden vats where it will naturally ferment without any other additions. Once fermented, the resulting wine will have an alcohol content of roughly 6 percent.
Sri Lanka is the largest producer of arrack, distilled coconut palm flowers, in the world. It starts with tuak, which is then distilled. The two-step distillation process takes only 24 hours to complete and produces a liquor similar to a combination of whiskey and rum in flavor with an alcohol content between 60 and 90 percent. It is most commonly drank straight, with no additions or ice, in quick shots. It is shipped around the world, including a brand named “Coconut Arrack” to the United Kingdom and United States.
Kassipu is another popular alcoholic drink in Sri Lanka, but it is illegally distilled. Similar to corn moonshine, there are no regulations regarding it. You may get one bottle that has very little alcohol content, wrongly convincing you that you can drink more with no problem. Then the next bottle is so strong it almost kills you from alcohol poisoning.
Visiting Sri Lanka
If you are going to be visiting Sri Lanka and are 21 years old or older, consider trying some local beverages. You may find that tuak or arrack are to your liking. Now that arrack is available worldwide, you will not have to go without once leaving the island. Be careful though and stay away from kassipu. If you do not get extremely drunk, you could very well be arrested for having it on your person. The government is still in debate as to whether or not to make it legal and thereby have its production regulated.