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Maize-based lotoko production in an improvised, oil drum still. Baringa, Equateur Province, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Lotoko, also known by the slang term "pétrole", is a home-distilled alcoholic drink or "moonshine" in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Lotoko is usually made from maize, but sometimes from cassava or plantain. Heads of corn are cut up and boiled into a mash which is then fermented and distilled using improvised stills made from cut down oil drums. Because of the woody core of the cobs of corn, the alcohol produced contains high levels of methanol which is toxic. Although it is officially banned, because of its high alcohol content (over 50%), its production is widespread in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lotoko made from cassava or plantains doesn't carry the same methanol risk.

Lotoko production, being a cottage industry, is very low-tech. It provides its mainly female producers with a degree of financial independence.

Local NGOs have expressed concern[1][2] as to its health effects in the communities of Kinshasa, where it costs 200 to 300 FC, compared to 600 FC for commercially brewed beers.

Lotoko is a Lingala word and is known country-wide.


  1. ^ Le "Lotoko", un alcool indigène dangereux pour la santé des Kinois [Lotoko, an indigenous alcoholic drink that's dangerous to the health of Kinshasans]
  2. ^ La boisson indigène Lotoko, un danger pour la santé [An indigenous drink, Lotoko, is a health hazard]