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Sombai's workshop in a traditional Khmer wooden house
Painted bottles of Sombai Liqueur with pictures of Angkor temples

Sombai Cambodian Liqueur (Sombai) is a local beverage produced in Siem Reap.[1]

The name Sombai may have derived from sambuca, an anise-based liqueur produced in Italy.


This liqueur was created by a Mauritian lady installed in Cambodia in 2012.[2] It has become the iconic beverage of Siem Reap,[3][4] and for some also of Cambodia.[5][6]

Indeed, this beverage takes inspiration from the Sraa Tram (or soaked wine) that Cambodians drink traditionally.[7][8] Some leading establishments in Siem Reap use this liqueur to cook, prepare cocktails or accompany a whole meal in order to give a local touch,[9] such as Chef Pola Siv at Mie Café[10] or the Park Hyatt.[11] There are 8 different flavours which are always a combination of 2 fruits or spices.

The particularity of the bottles of Sombai is that they are hand-painted making it attractive to tourists visiting Cambodia who want to bring back home gifts or souvenirs.[12][13][14]


Even if usually consumed neat or on the rocks, the Sombai liqueurs enter in the composition of several Khmer cocktails including[15][16] Asana Sling, Lemon Lemongrass Tini, Sombai Blue, Sombai Fizz, Siem Reap Monsoon, and Sombai Sour.[1]

Production workshop[edit]

The workshop and its tasting parlour[17] installed in a traditional Khmer wooden house, has become a tourist attraction in town.[18][19] It also proposes products from the sister brand Joe's Cuisine (speciality foods, like spices or alcoholic jams) and Joe's Kampot Pepper Liqueur.[20]

In popular culture[edit]

In Backup Man, a science fiction novel written by Paul Di Filippo, cocktails made of Sombai appear in a trendy bar of Washington DC: 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.[21]

Sombai is considered as one of the top local brands in Cambodia.[22]


  1. ^ Nicky Sullivan "Fruit-flavoured infused rice wines make a splash". The Phnom Penh Post, 7 September 2012,
  2. ^ Cassiau, Julie (2012-08-24). "DECOUVERTE - Sombaï, une nouvelle boisson locale à Siem Reap". Le Petit Journal (in French). Archived from the original on 2017-08-01. Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  3. ^ Dunston, Lara (2013). "Taste Siem Reap's own brand of infused rice spirit". Afar. Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  4. ^ Duston, Lara (2014-10-31). "A Taste of Siem Reap — Sipping Sombai Infused Rice Spirit". Grantourismo Travels. Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  5. ^ Rice, Jessica (22 August 2013). "59 national drinks from 59 awesome countries". Matador Network. Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  6. ^ Grant, Lara (2016-08-29). "6 Local Liquors Around the World You Haven't Heard Of". Retrieved 2017-07-20.
  7. ^ "Associated Press: Rice wine spirit is rebranded as a tourist tipple". Retrieved 2015-08-03.
  8. ^ Lara Dunston "Cambodian rice wine revival". Australian Gourmet Traveller, 11 July 2014
  9. ^ Mathew, Elisabeth. "Move over Angkor Wat". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  10. ^ Osborne, Lawrence (14 December 2015). "The New Tastes of Old Siem Reap". Saveur. Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  11. ^ "Cambodian rice wine". AsiaLIFE Cambodia. 31 January 2014. Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  12. ^ Lara Dunston "Taste Siem Reap's Own Brand of Infused Rice Spirit". Afar (magazine)
  13. ^ Nick Ray "Sombai". Lonely Planet Online
  14. ^ Dunston, Lara (2014-10-31). "A Taste of Siem Reap — Sipping Sombai Infused Rice Spirit". Grantourismo Travels. Retrieved 2017-07-20.
  15. ^ "Khmer cocktail class at Asana". Travelfish. Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  16. ^ Céline Baussay "Le top 5 des endroits à ne pas manquer autour d'Angkor". Le Point (in French). Retrieved 2018-11-22.
  17. ^ Miranda Glasser "Taste Sombai rice wine purveyors open new showroom". The Phnom Penh Post, 1 August 2014
  18. ^ Robyn Eckhardt "36 Hours in Siem Reap". The New York Times, 22 July 2015
  19. ^ Dana Ter"Searching for serenity in Siem Reap"., Taipei Times, 19 August 2015
  20. ^ Peter Olszewski "Cambodian Fusion". Archived from the original on 2016-01-09. Management Insider
  21. ^ Di Fillippo, Paul. "Backup Man". Motherboard. Retrieved 2017-08-10.
  22. ^ "11 Local Brands All Cambodians Love". Culture Trip. 2018-01-31.

External links[edit]