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A Taste Of Local Alcohol In India
All over the world, civilizations have developed their own styles of living, eating, entertaining and of course, the all-time favourite - drinking. India is no different. Around the country, people of different states have their own local alcohols that differ in name and in taste, but are usually simple variations of the same grain/plant extract and fermentation process. Here are some of India's more popular local alcohol brews by region. (Please drink responsibly)
Feni is a local Goan liquor brewed from either the coconut palm or the juice of crushed cashew apples. The State of Goa has registered for a patent that would allow it to claim rights on Goan Feni. Goans are possessive about their brand of local alcohol, and Feni is not sold outside the State limits of Goa. There are two types of Feni: Coconut Feni and Cashew Feni aka Caju Feni, both of which are immensely enjoyable.
Kerala: Coconut Toddy
Coconut toddy is made from the sap of the coconut tree. The sap is left to ferment overnight. The longer it ferments, the stronger it becomes. However leave it too long, and it turns into something akin to Vinegar!! Toddy is pretty strong...you wouldn't realize how much you've had until you stand up and feel the world sway! A fun experience is drinking Toddy that's served in coconut shells.
Rajasthan: Kesar Kasturi
The recipe for Kesar Kasturi has trickled down from the royal breweries of the past. It is made from exotic ingredients like saffron, dry fruits, herbs, nuts, seeds, roots and spices by blending them into Ghee (clarified butter), milk and sugar and then distilling them into alcohol. It was traditionally consumed like a therapeutic drink during the winter season. However, it can also be taken on the rocks in the summer season, in small quantities. This isn't a very strong drink. Kesar Kasturi is pretty much an upper class brew and is served in select places only.
Andhra Pradesh/Tamil Nadu: Kallu
Kallu is very similar to Toddy and Feni in as much as they are all extracts of various types of palms. There are two main types of kallu in Andhra Pradesh: Thati kallu (from Toddy Palmyra trees) and Eetha Kallu (from Silver Date Palms). Eetha Kallu is sweet and mild, whereas Thati Kallu is stronger and highly intoxicating. When making Kallu, the Palm sap begins fermenting immediately after collection, due to natural bacteria in the air or by residual yeast left in the collecting container. Within two hours, the natural process of fermentation yields an aromatic wine of up to 4% alcohol strength, which is mildly intoxicating and sweet to taste. People often enjoy kallu au naturale - right at the trees where it is brought down. They drink out of leaves by holding them to their mouths as the kallu is poured straight from the pot. For the more sober at heart, but wild at palate, feel free to chug it down in a glass or small earthen cup.
Chang is a local beer made by fermenting Millet using Yeast. It is traditionally drunk out of a Bamboo receptacle. The Bamboo segment has millet in it that is topped with warm water a few times until the millet loses its flavour and the concoction ferments. Chang is often very intoxicating. It is a great hit in the colder climes of the North East.