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IndustryAlcoholic beverages
Founded2012 (2012)
FounderJoëlle Jean-Louis and Lionel Maitrepierre

Sombai (from Khmer: សំុបៃ – "some rice, please"[1]) is a liqueur manufacturer in Siem Reap founded in 2012.[2] Its beverages have become a national drink of Cambodia[3][4] and symbolic of Siem Reap.[1] Sombai is one of the most popular brands in Cambodia.[5]


Bottles of Sombai liqueur with hand-painted images of Angkor temples

The Sombai liqueurs were created in 2012 initially from rice wine by the Mauritian Joëlle Jean-Louis and her husband Lionel Maitrepierre[6] drawing inspiration from the Cambodian traditional infused rice wine sraa tram (Khmer: ស្រាត្រាំ).[7][8][9] The Sombai bottles are hand-painted.[1] There are 8 different flavours which are always a combination of 2 fruits or spices.

It is usually consumed either neat or on the rocks. Sombai infused rice wines is also an ingredient in several Cambodian cocktails[10][11] such as Asana Sling, Lemon Lemongrass Tini, Sombai Blue, Sombai Fizz, Siem Reap Monsoon, and Sombai Sour.[12] Several leading establishments in Siem Reap sell Sombai rice wine and its cocktails and use it in their cooking,[13] such as Chef Pola Siv at Mie Café[14] and the Park Hyatt.[15]

Production workshop[edit]

In 2014 a Sombai workshop and tasting parlour[16] was set up in the artist's Leang Seckon's house, and has become a tourist attraction in town.[17][18] It also sells products from the sister brand Joe's Cuisine (speciality foods, like spices or alcoholic jams) and Joe's Kampot Pepper Liqueur.[19]

In popular culture[edit]

Sombai-based cocktails are sold in a trendy bar in Washington DC in Backup Man, a science fiction novel written by Paul Di Filippo taking place in the 2050s: Particulate-filtering airfish drifting gently through the biolit dimness; imene tuki and Karelian rune singing on the sound system; sombai cocktails at twenty NUbucks a pop.[20]


  1. ^ a b c Dunston, Lara (31 October 2014). "A Taste of Siem Reap — Sipping Sombai Infused Rice Spirit". Grantourismo Travels. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  2. ^ Sullivan, Nicky (7 September 2012). "Fruit-flavoured infused rice wines make a splash". The Phnom Penh Post. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  3. ^ Rice, Jessica (22 August 2013). "59 national drinks from 59 awesome countries". Matador Network. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  4. ^ Grant, Lara (29 August 2016). "6 Local Liquors Around the World You Haven't Heard Of". Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  5. ^ Carruthers, Marissa (31 January 2018). "11 Local Brands All Cambodians Love". Culture Trip. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  6. ^ Cassiau, Julie (2012-08-24). "DECOUVERTE - Sombaï, une nouvelle boisson locale à Siem Reap". Le Petit Journal (in French). Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  7. ^ "Associated Press: Rice wine spirit is rebranded as a tourist tipple". YouTube. 16 November 2014. Retrieved 2015-08-03.
  8. ^ Dunston, Lara (10 July 2014). "Cambodian rice wine revival". Gourmet Traveller. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  9. ^ Starkey, Tom (24 June 2020). "Distilling a new direction for Cambodian rice wine". Khmer Times. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  10. ^ "Khmer cocktail class at Asana". Travelfish. 19 February 2017. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  11. ^ Baussay, Céline (22 November 2018). "Le top 5 des endroits à ne pas manquer autour d'Angkor". Le Point (in French). Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  12. ^ "Khmer Cocktail Ideas". Sombai. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  13. ^ Mathew, Elisabeth (11 February 2017). "Move over Angkor Wat". The Hindu. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  14. ^ Osborne, Lawrence (14 December 2015). "The New Tastes of Old Siem Reap". Saveur. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  15. ^ "Cambodian rice wine". AsiaLIFE Cambodia. 31 January 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  16. ^ Glasser, Miranda (1 August 2014). "Taste Sombai rice wine purveyors open new showroom". The Phnom Penh Post. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  17. ^ Eckhardt, Robyn (22 July 2015). "36 Hours in Siem Reap". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  18. ^ Ter, Dana (19 August 2015). "Searching for serenity in Siem Reap". Taipei Times. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  19. ^ Olszewski, Peter (23 December 2015). "Cambodian Fusion". Management Insider. Archived from the original on 9 January 2016.
  20. ^ Di Fillippo, Paul (7 April 2016). "Backup Man". Motherboard. Retrieved 10 August 2017.

External links[edit]