Do you consider yourself a connoisseur of alcohol just because you love your single malts and know all the types of beer? Alright, then this should be simple. How many local Indian brews can you name, other than Toddy and Feni? If you are struggling to come up with the answer then you have come to the right post. Owing to the deep love of the forbidden fruit, the inherent ingenuity and the centuries of practical knowledge, our country has an impressive and head spinning list of local liquors to offer. Mind you, they may be home grown and simple to brew but some of them are definitely not for the faint hearted.
Let’s start with something simple and well known. A simple drink to make, Toddy is a favorite of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and most of the coastal states. It is made by fermenting the non-alcoholic juice collected from the flowers of coconut and palm trees (and you thought these only produced oil). Readily available with local vendors or liquor shops, it is a good drink to get you inducted into the realm of desi Daarus.
Every drinker worth his/her salt would have partaken this famous local brew of Goa at least once. If not, then you know which friend to disown. Made from coconut palm sap or cashew apples, Feni has a fruity nutty taste. Though you can drink it straight, a cocktail using Feni is usually recommended and preferred.
One of the most potent drinks in the world, Tharra is also illegal. Obtained after sugar cane pulp is fermented, it should be consumed immediately since it turns poisonous if stored. A favorite in Haryana, Bihar, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Nasik, it is often equated to a crude version of rum.
A variation of the many millet brews in the Himalayan belt, Apong is a potent drink in spite of its sweet, spicy and malty taste. It is made by roasting rice and then fermenting it. The Bhoot Jolokia pepper is used to preserve it.
If you have been to the North-east and haven’t tried the ‘Hot Beer’ or Chhaang, then maybe you should pack your bags and go back! A barley based alcohol, Chhaang is an indispensable drink for the people there. You will need to sip it through a straw while boiling water is added to fermented seeds at the bottom of bamboo tumblers.
The tribes in central and eastern India make Handia by fermenting boiled rice in an earthen pot with ranu, an herbal root, for a couple of days. Also used as a refreshing drink and for social occasions, Handia is called the poor man’s beer.
A popular local drink of states like Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and West Bengal, Mahua is made by fermenting the flowers of the Mahua tree. It is considered to be a sacred drink for the Adivasis in certain states.
Armed with this list, you can now map out your next road trip. Cheers!