Is Palm Wine An Alcoholic Drink?

Is Palm Wine An Alcoholic Drink?

Published by Inna on 9th Sep 2021

Palm wine is finally gaining the attention it deserves. It was mentioned in Blood Diamond back in 2005. If you are a wine lover, it is important that you learned more about it. It is perfectly fine if you do not know anything about palm wine. However, it is time that you brushed up your knowledge to show off to your friends or just satisfied your curious nature. Palm tree sap is used to make palm wine and other trees such as coconut and date palms. Although it is not technically wine, it still offers a similar feeling.

People in South America, Asia, and Africa regularly consume. But, the Western World has not known much about it. However, that is about to change as palm wine becomes more popular. It has played an integral role in ceremonies throughout Africa, such as funeral wakes, birth celebrations, and weddings. It is even infused with medicinal herbs to use as a health tonic.

How Is Palm Wine Made?

A tapper collects the sap from trees, similar to how maple syrup is collected from maple tree farms in Canada and much of the US. Men climb palm trees barefoot and cut a palm frond at the top. Pots are hanged under the frond to collect the sap as it drips overnight. The sap has a white colour and is very sweet. It is actually non-alcohol initially. However, it starts to ferment immediately as it collects due to natural yeasts in the air. It takes as little as 2 hours for the sap to transform into aromatic wine with about 4% ABV. It is referred to as toddy wine throughout Asia. The wine ferments for up to a day. Its sweetness can be tempered to increase the alcohol content. However, if fermentation is done for a long time, it turns the sap into vinegar. Hence, there is a small window for fermentation.

Another method to collect the white liquid is waiting for the entire tree to fall. In such cases, a fire is lit at the end of the tree for easy collection of the sap. Although it might seem like an easier method, it puts future access to sap on hold. Hence, the method is not as commonly practiced and is only considered to be the last resort. The mildly intoxicating flavour of the drink is what makes it a must-try.

Not many people know that palm wine can even be distilled to produce a stronger drink. In fact, Time Magazine even included the beverage in its Top 10 Most Ridiculously Strong Drinks List. Both animals and tree-climbing animals find it to be addictive. There are certain small mammals that already eat a ton of fermented palm nectar. However, they do not experience the same inebriating effect as us. If you are interested in trying out the sweet drink, you would need to head outside the country as palm wine is not as easily accessible in the United Kingdom nor is it in Europe. But, there are a few adventurous restaurants in the country that offer imported palm wine. If you visit an African grocery store, you might just get lucky and find a bottle. Otherwise, you would have to visit Africa or Asia. A good place to find one will be at niyis.

Generally, palm wine is produced by individual farmers or smallholders. They rely on palm trees as a source of income as selling timber would not offer as much value. To produce a stronger drink, palm wine can be distilled. If it is distilled, it would be given a different name, such as country whiskey, charayam, village gin, or arrack.


Palm wine is normally consumed throughout Africa in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Benin, Kenya, Tunisia, and even the Ivory Coast. It is hard to find a place where you cannot find it on the African continent. Its unique taste has made it extremely popular in the region.

When we look at Asia, people in the Philippines are known for consuming palm wine in large quantities. They usually consume it as distilled palm liquor. However, you should keep in mind that it has a very high alcohol volume. In fact, it consists of up to 45% alcohol. Date palms help provide palm wine in Africa. Things Fall Apart is a popular novel that covers palm wine tapping. On the other hand, coconut palms and Palmyra palms are used for preparing palm wine in South Asian countries like India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Indians even produced unrefined sugar using palm wine. It is important to note that Indians use different techniques to produce different items with palm wine. For instance, the sap is refrigerated in South India, and some lime is added to it to prevent fermenting. This allows fruit juice products to be made. It is very easy to purchase palm wine in India.

Similarly, Indonesia and Malaysia also have their own take on palm wine. Different tribes in the countries consume the beverage on a regular basis. However, different techniques are used for a unique brew. Even Mexico offers palm wine. It uses fresh coconut sap to make the beverage which is topped off with diced fruit and peanuts.


Once you have finished reading our post, you will not only know if palm wine is an alcoholic drink but a lot more about it. Understanding what palm wine is will allow you to appreciate it when you do consume it better. There is nothing like it. Hence, you should give it a try if you still have not. Check it out at here