Local Indian Liquors That Offer A Uniquely Desi Kick!

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The adventurous traveler takes pride in the exploration of the unknown. From exotic locations in unpronounceable parts of the world to curious and disarmingly delightful local cuisine, the avid traveler has tried it all. So why should alcohol be any different?

From the Soma of the Gods to Lord Shiva’s elixir of choice, India’s love for daaru has been well documented over the course of history. Through prohibition laws and age restrictions, through social stigma and frankly insane licensing laws, the Indian population’s devotion to getting a good buzz on has never once wavered.

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Grab a barstool and prepare your liver for a wild ride- Here’s a list of some of the best local liquors from across the nation!


1. Chuwarak/Langi

tripura-org-chuwarak
Source: Tripura.org

Buzz Quotient: Mild

Where to find a glass: Tripura

Ask anyone in the land of 14 gods for a drink recommendation and it is likely that you will receive a glass of Chuwarak. A versatile drink, Chuwarak may be distilled from a variety of raw materials, including rice, pineapple, jackfruit and local ingredients like tokhiseleng and thakotor leaves. A tedious process that takes almost 24 hours, the distillation of this particular beverage demands care and attentiveness. In a country with regular reports of deaths associated with liquor consumption, this Tripuri whiskey is widely considered to be safe, owing to its characteristically low alcohol content ranging from 6-8%

2. Zawalaidi

zozam-weekly-zawalaidi
Source: Zozam Weekly

Buzz Quotient: Mild to Moderate

Where to find a glass: Mizoram

With a name that translates literally to ‘Love Potion’, this grape wine is known for its irresistible taste and bubbly texture. Following the partial lifting of the prohibition on the sale of alcohol to the region, this premium wine concoction hit the state like a storm. Manufactured in the nearby village of Hnahlan, in the Champal district, about 80% of the population of the area is involved in the manufacturing of the wine.

3. Handia

quora-handia
Source: Quora

Buzz Quotient: Mild to Moderate

Where to find a glass: Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh

Known as a poor man’s beer, Handia is typically produced by tribal women and is a popular gift to bequeath to relatives and as dowry in rural areas. Brewed in an earthen pot containing fermented boiled rice and a herbal root known as ranu, local tribes look to the drink as a means to avoiding sunstroke, and often consume it at social and religious events. Tribal legends dictate that one can survive on nothing but the drink for a span of 10-15 days, without needing other sources of nourishment. With an 18-25% alcohol content, we’d advise against taking their word for it.

4. Kinnauri Ghanti/Chulli

magic-pin-kinnauri
Source: Magic Pin

Buzz Quotient: Moderate

Where to find a glass: Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh

Straight from the land of apple orchards comes a drink fit for even the most selective of connoisseurs. Known for having a texture similar to congac, this distilled brew made from apples, apricots, peaches, pears and grapes is known for its healing properties. Transparent in colour, the drink is known to be so popular that local sensibilities are dead-set against the introduction of foreign liquors to the region.

5. Kesar Kasturi

Source: Oh My Rajasthan!
Source: Oh My Rajasthan!

Buzz Quotient: Moderate to High

Where to find a glass: Rajasthan

This heritage drink is a literal taste of ancient Indian royalty, having been reserved exclusively for members of the royal lineage in the old days. Made using saffron (kesar) and 22 dry fruits, herbs and spices, this golden concoction is meant to be consumed in small quantities. It is said that Octopussy’s 007, Roger Moore himself, once had the privilege of tasting the royal brew, and was instantly taken by its smoothness and rich flavour.

6. Arak/Araq

Source: The Culture Trip
Source: The Culture Trip

Buzz Quotient: High

Where to find a glass: Ladakh

A fiery whiskey produced from raisins, dates and sugarcane, this traditional Ladakhi beverage has an alcohol content that ranges from 50-70%. Originally brewed in Java, Arak is known to be one of the world’s oldest distilled spirits. The Southern variant of the beverage, found in coastal states the liked of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and more, is made by distilling coconut palm sap, sugarcane, coconut and red rice.

7. Raksi

Source: Quora
Source: Quora

Buzz Quotient: High

Where to find a glass: Sikkim

Made using finger millet or kodo, Raksi has been compared to vodka and gin in terms of its potency and texture. An important element of Sikkimese marriage rituals and social and religious ceremonies, Raksi is typically offered to the bride’s family by that of the grooms in exchange for their permission for the couple to marry. While commonly found in Sikkim, Raksi has found a welcome home in Nepal and Tibet as well.

8. Sekmai Yu

ngasigi-manipur-sekmai-yu
Source: Ngasigi Manipur

Buzz Quotient: Mild to Moderate

Where to find a glass: Sekmai, Manipur

This fermented rice beverage is prepared in different communities of Manipur, but is reserved for those belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Best consumed immediately after distillation, the government’s restrictions on its distribution has not stopped its flourishing across Manipur. Known for its medicinal benefits, the drink is thought to regulate irregular menstrual flow, infertility, obesity, loss of appetite, and low nourishment. Often compared to vodka and Japanese sake for its smooth texture, the beverage has an alcohol content of anywhere between 2-15%.

9. Feni

ozy-com-feni
Source: Ozy.com

Buzz Quotient: High

Where to find a glass: Goa

One of the nation’s most popular locally produced alcoholic beverages, Feni needs no introduction. Originally brought over by the Portuguese, cashew nut trees are the unlikely hero of this crowd-favourite. Originally brewed using discarded cashew nut fruit, Feni required 4 days of fermentation before it can be consumed. The first Indian alcoholic beverage to obtain a Geographical Indication (GI) mark, signifying that authentic Feni can only be sourced from Goa, Feni’s 42.8% alcohol content and legal standing have cemented its place in the hearts of the Indian population.

10. Bhang

Source: TOI
Source: TOI

Buzz Quotient: High

Where to find a glass: Banaras

Though not technically an alcoholic beverage, no list of local Indian intoxicants would be complete without a mention of Bhang. Known as the elixir of the Hindu God of Destruction, Shiva, the consumption of Bhang is often viewed as a religious act of devotion. A common feature during celebrations of Holi and Mahashivratri, Bhang is made using a paste made from crushed cannabis leaves. This paste is then mixed with milk, ghee, mangoes and spices, resulting in a potent and delicious beverage that is sure to have you stumbling home (if that is, you manage to get there). Though easy to obtain across the nation during specific religious festivals, the best Bhang is found in Banaras.

What’s your pick for the best locally-brewed alcoholic beverage? Let us know!

 

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