With contemporary cocktail bars, speakeasies, craft breweries, sports bars, live music and mega clubs, Manila is a bar fly's dream. Cebu is only a tick behind, while some larger provincial cities also party pretty hard. Elsewhere, casual 'restobars' specialising in buckets of Red Horse, Filipino chow and (often) live music, are the name of the game. Then there's Boracay, in a league of its own as a no-holds-barred beach-party playground.
Tap water quality varies wildly in the Philippines. Some cities, such as Davao, boast extremely safe water, while others, such as Puerto Princesa, caution against drinking theirs. To be safe, ask locals and expats for advice or stick to purified water. Most restaurants offer free purified water ('service water'), although service water can also be tap water – be sure to check.
It's a mixed bag for coffee drinkers. Three-in-one packets are dirt cheap, quick and often the only option; however, the taste is overly sweet and weak. Meanwhile, in Manila and other large cities as well as in touristy resort areas, you can find plenty of Starbucks-like imitators serving good ground coffee. A handful of serious cafes with state-of-the-art machinery roasting single origin beans are also in Manila. Otherwise, European-owned accommodation and restaurants tend to prioritise espresso drinks.
Tea is served in Chinese restaurants; elsewhere, soft drinks rule. Buko juice, said to be good for staving off dehydration, is young coconut juice with bits of translucent coconut meat floating in it. It’s usually sold in the nut, but you’d best stick to the type that comes in presealed cups or bottles. Guayabano (soursop) juice is sweet and refreshing. The popular little local citrus known as calamansi or kalamansi is used to make a refreshing cordial or gets added to black tea. Wondrous curative powers are ascribed to it, so take a sip…
At around P30 a bottle, San Miguel (‘San Mig’) pale pilsner and light beer enjoys a virtual monopoly on the local brew market, although pricier imports do provide some competition. With the exception of meek rival Asia Brewery (maker of Beer Na Beer and Brew Kettle), most domestic beers you see on store shelves are San Miguel products, including the wildly popular Red Horse Extra Strong (alcohol content: 7%, chance of bad karaoke post–Red Horse: 100%). There's something of a minor craft beer revolution sweeping the country, but these remain well outside the budget of average Filipinos.
Palatable brandies, whiskies and gins are produced domestically. Tanduay Rum (P40 to P80 for a 500mL bottle) is a perfectly drinkable travelling companion – and a handy antiseptic! Rural concoctions include basi, a sweet, portlike wine made from sugar cane juice. Tuba is a strong palm wine extracted from coconut flowers; in its roughly distilled form it’s called lambanog. Local firewater packs a punch – your stomach (if not your head) will thank you in the morning if you partake of the pulutan (small snacks) always served with alcohol.