There’s a fair number of us who feel that local or authentic food is also a reflection of the place’s culture, its terrains, its usage of the available vegetation and it can all pretty often lead to interesting stories. Even beyond that, I think the local flavours add to our own story from a place. Adding to this experience for many folks is also the local liquor. So, whether you’re the kinds who can’t get over their Rum and Coke or loves a nice chilled beer or even if you’re on way to become a wine connoisseur, here’s a look at some of the alcohols brewing across the length and breadth of our ever so diverse country!
If you have ever been to Goa, chances are pretty high that you have already had this drink. Whether or not you liked it is a different matter as the cashew-based drink comes with a distinctive taste of its own. It is made through the distillation of cashew apple and, similarly, its sister drink Urak is also prepared popularly in the state. When in Goa, taste it for yourself to see if you’re a fan of Feni!
The presence and popularity of the flower from the mahua tree in the preparation of alcohol is so popular that the name mahua is quite often used to refer to alcohol in general parlance. The beautiful flower blooming in Orissa stirs up a drink that is both, pungent yet sweet. Better yet, the flower isn’t used just to make a local liquor out of it but is also highly valued for medicinal uses.
Whether or not the hot toddy actually originates from India is unclear but there are multiple accounts claiming that it came to be whipped up during the British India Raj of the East India Company. Today, it has started gaining presence and popularity as a winter drink but is most popular in South India. The coconut sap is first extracted and then fermented for the elaborate preparation that leads to the making of this drink. But without a doubt, when you find yourself facing cold weather there’s no better fix than this drink!
From: Arunachal Pradesh and Assam
The Nyishi people make for the most populous tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. Hailing from North East India and parts of Bhutan as well, these mountainous people came up with a drink called the apo. Sometimes it is also referred to as apong. Like most of the local drinks from this part of our country, this drink is made using fermented rice. Served in bamboo shoots, this drink is a major part of the tribe’s festivals and activities such as the Nyokum Yullo Festival. Another important thing to know before consuming the drink is the tribal practice of dropping a few drops on the ground as a mark of serving it to the ancestors and their spirits.
From: Himachal Pradesh and other parts of the Himalayas
Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir and many others including the good people of Manali make this drink with the fermentation of rice and barley, occasionally even apples and jaggery. Special mention to Manali because once upon a time, Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor shared a flask of lugdi atop a snow-clad peak in the hit flick Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani. Since then visitors to Manali have made this drink much more popular than it was ever before!
Surprise, surprise, this drink hails from the state of West Bengal! I’m sure you weren’t expecting that on hearing the name. ? Once again, made from fermented rice, this drink is a popular part of the spread during festivities and functions. In some practices, it is even offered to the revered goddess in tribute.
Once again, we have before us a drink from the North East and this time it is from Tripura! Actually, if you’re keen to know more, you’ll find that almost all of the 7 sisters have their own form of a local alcoholic drink. Also called chuwarak, this drink is a local whiskey and one that can knock you out quite soon, so, do drink with caution! ?
From: Bihar, Orissa, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and around
Meanwhile, in North India one of the relatively lighter local liquors of India is found and, it goes by the name of handia. Rice is fermented with a number of local herbs to bring about this drink into existence. In fact, these herbs lend to its blend a number of factors that makes people use this drink in order to ease their pain.
Millet, rice, barley and yeast all come together in a fermented form to make this drink. This one is quite popular in the hilly regions and makes for a nice warm companion on nippy nights. It traces its roots to some of the descendants with Tibetan and Nepalese routes as well.
Unlike the other local liquors this one presents the drinker with a sweet and pungent taste too thanks to its ingredients which include raw mango, jaggery and a nice mix of spices! This sure sounds like a treat for summer days. But don’t you let the hints of fruity notes fool you into believing that this one is a harmless juice because it can be quite the knock out!
Which of these local liquors have you tried so far? Or, are there other local drinks that you’ve tried and loved? Tell us which ones!