I love traveling and ever since my marriage, I’ve been constantly hopping state after state.
First, Andhra Pradesh, then Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, and finally circling back to Karnataka.
Roaming across the Indian subcontinent tasting popular cuisines of the North to the little-known delicacies of the South, I often wondered what kind of beverages are made in the rustic kitchens of various Indian states.
And, to my surprise, my quest of knowing more about Indian beverages especially Indian home-made wines and beers opened an altogether different chapter of exploration.
There is a quite a number of beverages Indian people make at their homes. From Chang of Sikkim to the Kallu of Kochi, from the delicious thandai of Varanasi to the Rice Beer the Naga people make, Indian home-made beers and wines have their own unique tastes and ways of making.
My little research about Indian beverages yet again reminded me of the distinct and diverse cultures of Indian subcontinent. In this multicultural multiethnic country where each state and region have its language and cuisine, beverage making and drinking add more to the diversity of the nation. And, as their preparation methods and tastes differ from state to state, the rituals involved with wine or beer drinking are also quite peculiar and distinct to each region.
Be it’s crushing the cashew apples or tapping the todi from the palms, the fermentations of the main raw produce or the traditions and cultures involved with drinking Indian homemade beers and wines, the Indan beverages boast the homely taste, ethnicity, and diversity. There’s an unsophisticated appeal to Indian wine and beer drinking, something that’s hard to find in the multitude of beverages served in the sophisticated bars and restaurants of all modern cities across the world.
- Goan Feni: Goa is known for its white sand beaches, hospitality, and picturesque towns and villages. The one more thing that’s synonymous with Goa is Goan Feni. While cashew feni is made up of cashew apples, coconut feni is made by distilling the fermented toddy from the coconut palm. Being classified as country liquor, Goan feni is not allowed to be sold outside Goa, so if you want to taste the spirit of Goa, you have to visit this Western state of India.
- South India’s Kallu: Also known as palm wine, Kallu is made and drank all across Southern India. Made typically by fermenting the toddy tapped from coconut and lala palms, Kallu is one of the mostly consumed Indian alcoholic drinks in all Southern states of the subcontinent. This traditional Indian drink is famous in the rural parts of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Kerala. However, the sale of Kallu is currently banned in Tamil Nadu.
- Sikkim’s Chaang: Chaang is the drink of Northeast India, popular in parts of Eastern Himalayas and typically prepared by Lepcha tribe of Sikkim. A relative of beer, this hot drink is typically sipped from a bamboo tumbler. The semi-fermented seeds of millets are stuffed in a bamboo barrel. Boiling water is then poured onto them. The drink is then consumed using a narrow-bore bamboo tube or can be poured into bamboo mugs before serving.
- Zutho: Usually consumed by the Naga people in the rural terrains of Nagaland, Zutho is also called the rice beer. Known for its fruity smell, the drink is considered to be the Naga version of Japanese sake. The rice beer contains approximately 5% ethanol and is very subtle, natural, and unique in taste. There is a unique tradition that Nagas follow before tasting the beverage. Nagas wrestle in the mud before they have their drink. It’s a major part of their tradition.
- Varanasi Bhang Thandai: Thandai is a North Indian cold drink made up of milk, saffron, sugar, cardamom, rose petals, almonds, and fennel seeds. Thandai is a famous drink of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. When whole milk and groundnuts mixture is mixed with a small amount of bhang (cannabis leaves and buds), it results into a mildly intoxicated milk beverage that is called bhang thandai. Bhang thandai is often consumed during Indian festivals of Holi and Shivratri.
In India, beverage drinking is associated with cultures and traditions of the Indian soil, typically in rural India. Indian indigenous tribes and communities are preserving the Indian heritage of wine making and drinking by passing the unique legacy from one generation to the other.
Indian home-made wines and beers are known for their natural taste and rusticity. Despite modern technological advancements, Indians still practice the old methods of wine making at home. This explains the very existence of age-old methods of wine making and drinking in the rustic kitchens of rural India.
I hope you like what you read. If you’re a country wine lover, please do leave a comment about your favorite beverage. I would love to know if you’ve ever witnessed the actual process of wine making or tasted the fresh brew. Share your experiences and suggestions in the “Leave a Reply” box below.