Micro-brewing has been a known recipe back in the Vedic era, where Sautramani was sacrificed to the gods. Known evidences have been excavated from the Indus valley civilization sites of fermentation and Distillation. The Indo-Aryans are known to have Madira or Madu, an alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey. Good poetry flowed down as same as liquor, an essential part of the courtly culture of ancient India. Spirit or liquor is a substance that needs no introduction and unarguably is a part of our lives. While the infamous modern ‘Desi daru’ manifests with various names, yet a lot them remain unknown to the outside world and largely endemic to specific regions.
Here is my attempt to enlist the traditional brews from all the states of India that can help you as a ready reckoner while you are out travelling in this beautiful land. I would like to crowdsource the few missing details, please drop in the comments if you have anything to share.
Kallu- This is fermented palm sap that is consumed as a beverage in most places in Asia. In Andhra, there are mainly two types. Thatti kallu, a fermented beverage made from palmyra tree and Eethe kallu, a fermented version of the silver date palms sap.
Apong- This is a local version of rice beer.
a. Judima- This is a rice beer that is brewed to a mild yellow colour and a famous drink among the Dimasa tribe.
b. Xaj- This version of the rice beer that the fables narrate that it was used by the Ahoms to dip their new-borns to bring good luck.
a. Mahua wine- This is a wine made with a native flower called Mahua. The potent and 1st extract liquor is called Fully. After the Fully is extracted, the sediment is resused and heated with water. This 2nd extract is called Raasi and is considered 2nd quality.
b. Landa- Madiya page is a common welcome drink across the state. In it, ragi, tomatoes and onions are boiled together overnight in rice kanji. The fermented form madiya page is called Landa.
c. Laungi & Saunfi- These are potent whiskeys consumed together in combination. These are one of the most expensive brews in the Bastar region. It is made with cloves & Saunf respectively and are consumed only for medicinal purposes. It is primarily believed to treat gall stones and will lead to side effects like blisters all over the body if consumed in excess quantity.
Feni- The party capital of India cannot be without its own potion. Feni is an alcoholic beverage brewed either with coconut palm or cashew apples.
Kanji- This is a speciality consumed during Holi festival. It is a naturally fermented drink made with water, carrot, beetroot, mustard seeds and asafoetida.
Ghanti- Also called as the Kinnaur Chulli, this local beverage is an apple and apricot based liquor.
Jammu & Kashmir:
Lugdi- This beverage is prepared by fermenting cooked cereals.
Handia- This is a rice beer, popular not only in Jharkhand, but also in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.
a. Fruit wines- The quaint hill station of Kodagu is popular for its homemade wines. You name a fruit and you will get the wine here. Even ginger, betel leaf or bird’s eye chilli wine are available, flavors that will linger in your tastebuds for a while.
b. Sendi- This is fermented tree sap from the areca palm. It is largely popular around the coastal and Malnad region.
Toddy- This is coconut tree sap which is left to ferment overnight. It is sold in government approved toddy shops across the state.
a. Hariya- This is a rice beer fermented along with herbs, a speciality of the Santhalias & Mundas tribe. It is offered as a gift to god, dowry during marriages and gifted to relatives on special occasions.
b. Sulphi- Pronounced very similar to a selfie, this is a fermented drink made from the sap of a local palm called as a sulphi tree. It is of two types, one white and the other is honey coloured.
a. Strawberry wine- Satara is the strawberry heartland of India and it is that they have their own version of fruit wine too.
b. Orange wine- Nagpur famous for its orange orchards has its own recipe of the love potion too.
Sekmai Yu- This local rice beer is potent like the Vodka and is often called as the Indian Sake.
Kyat- This is a rice beer which was originally introduced as a medicinal remedy to the Pnar people.
Zawlaidi- The name means ‘love potion’ in the local language. It is a local version of grape wine.
Zutho- This is a generic name for rice beer across Nagaland. However, the flavours, ingredients and brewing method varies for each tribe. Some are even millet based. Hence, it is a great idea to taste all of them while you are there!
Kosna- This rice beer is like handia and has similar origins. Hence, it is also popular in the states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
Tharra- Also called as Punjabi desi, this is a rum brewed and distilled from sugarcane molasses.
Kesar Kasturi- Often referred as the ‘Royal brew’, this potion is a blend of saffron, dry fruits, herbs, nuts, roots, spices with milk & sugar which is distilled into alcohol.
a. Chaang- This is a fermented millet drink and is generally served hot.
b. Kodo & Tongba- These too are finger millet drinks, like Chaang and are served hot.
c. Raksi- This is a local brew that is consumed during local ceremonies, especially before participating in possession of evils.
Kallu kadai- Pathaneer or Neera is the unfermented palm sap which is very sweet and considered very healthy. When this neera is allowed for a few hours, it ferments naturally and then kicks you like any other alcoholic beverage.
Gudamba- This is a local liquor made with sugarcane.
Chuak / Chuwarak- This is prepared through an elaborate process to intoxicate rice and pineapple or jackfruit.
Bhang Thandai- This is a milk-based drink that is a concoction of natural herbs, dry fruits & nuts and spiked up with cannabis. It is available in government run Thandai shops across the state and a speciality consumed during the Holi festival.
Buransh wine- Buransa is a native rhododendron flower. It is believed to be very juicy and used in local squashes and jams. This is fermented and the rare wine is thus made.
Bangla- This is fermented starch prepared as an offering to Goddess Kali. Often, it is believed to have spurious concoction and usually not advised for consumption.
Aren’t alcoholics the true economic warriors of India? Do you agree or not?