Local Indian Liquors and Why One Should Travel For Them

Explore new and old places, its heritage, people, traditions, food and society with a glass of fine country liquor. Here's our list of local brews that we think one should try at least once
Preparation of cashew feni
Preparation of cashew feni

Let's talk about Indian local brews it's a fine subject full of character. Some may even say that traditional local brew is the window to one's culture. It could be the alcohol talking but it somehow makes sense. Traditional brews are usually prepared by using locally sourced ingredients, to be consumed during festivals or any other social gatherings. Over a glass of toddy, many fishermen must have regaled their audience with stories of the seas over a glass of zutho, many Naga warriors must have told tales of their bravery. The list is long and stories interesting. When we talk about local brews we can't help but admit the important status it holds in certain cultures. As we explore new and old places, its heritage, people, traditions, food and society, it would be a gross injustice to leave out the local brews. We don't intend to be unfair so here we are with our list of local brews that we think one should try at least once.

Zutho (rice beer)

If you have visited the northeastern part of India, you must have come across rice beer. Rice beer is a combination of five essential things--rice, water, yeast, an undisturbed spot for fermentation and patience. You mess up with any one of these and you won't have a good rice beer. Nagaland Hornbill Festival is popular for all the right reasons. One of those reasons is zutho or Angami rice beer. They say they make it with secret ingredients that gives it its sweet and sour taste. We suppose there is only one way to find out. 


When in Manipur, you need to be in Andro village, 10 kilometers away from Imphal city. And why The village womenfolks are very popular for their atingbas. Vodka-like in nature but packs a stronger punch, atingba is the product of a very slow process of distillation. Before distillation, the mixture of rice, yeast and water is stored in air-tight earthen pots. This lengthy and tiresome work is mostly done by the women.


Usually made with rice or millet, apong is an important aspect of the culture of Arunachal Pradesh. Arunachal Pradesh shares its apong-culture with Assam. Especially, for the Mishing tribe in Assam, apong is their signature drink. You can expect apong in any social functions and celebration. In Arunachal, millet is used more than rice for making apong. It is mostly prepared by women and the technique and skills gets passed on to the younger generation (women) either orally or by practice.


In Sikkim, it is chhaang or tongba. Chhaang is a very interesting drink to be had in the cold climes of Sikkim. Mostly served in tall jars made of bamboo, semi fermented millet seeds are stuffed in these bamboo jars and hot water is poured on top. As the hot water gets mixed with the cool millet seeds, it produces the alcoholic drink which is then sipped through thin bamboo pipes. It has a very pleasant and sweet taste to it and if not for anything else, try chhaang because it is fun.


If you been to Goa, you must have come across feni. Feni are of two types&mdashcashew and toddy palm. Cashew feni is more popular and the entire process of making it is quite interesting. The production goes through multiple stages. The ripe cashew apples that have fallen on the ground are collected and stomped into pulp, the pulp then gets collected into patties and further pressed for more concentrated juice (called neero). The initial juice post stomping is collected and kept in earthen pots half burried in the ground. The juice is then left to get fermented by itself. But that's not the real feni yet--the drink goes through multiple process of distillation to reach the high alcohol content. When in Goa, look for kaju feni.


Travelling becomes fun when you start exploring. Having said that, when in southern parts of India, especially Kerala, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, look for toddy shops. Food will be spicy, delicious and perfect with a glass of toddy. Palm wine or toddy is derived from fermented sap that a toddy tapper draws from palm trees. It's slightly alcoholic and best consumed the day after it is tapped. Wait longer than that and the toddy becomes more vinegar-like. It is naturally slightly intoxicating but there are stronger ones available too, those produced by the process of distillation. Toddy is very popular in rural areas in urban areas many bars have something called 'warm toddy'&mdashquite unlike the real thing I must add. Drink toddy right underneath the palm trees, directly bought from the tappers. Nothing gets more local than this.

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