It’s a hot summer’s day, in the sleepy hinterland of Goa. The fresh smell of cashews from the neighbour’s farm emits a faint musk of sweetness, with a nose tickling pungency that fills the air. The ‘apples’ are being crushed. The elixir produced, Urak or Urrack is the first distilled version of Feni. The Goans lovingly call it ‘Jungle juice’. This essential summer drink is perhaps the second closest reason why Goans love the scorching heat paired with tropical humidity to live through. The first would definitely be the setting sunsets on pristine beaches and offbeat hotspots far away from the touristic maddening crowd.
What makes the Goan drink Urak so popular?
Some say It’s a Hangover free, emotion! A neat pour from your local taverna (liquor store), where one can walk in and ask for a Bisleri bottle filled to the brim with ‘The Taste of Summer’, sit outside and watch the world go by. The locals keep the ‘Jerry cans’ ready for transport from farm to ‘garafaon’ (glass canisters used back in the Portuguese era) back home. One wishes to preserve the essence for as long as possible. The ‘ritual’ would be staple — the gent behind the counter would hand over a slit green chilli, some rock salt from the pans of the local village and wedges of lemon for the tropical squeeze. For many tourists, Limca, Nimbooz or Sprite accompany the top-up. Variations galore, this spirit has now found meaning in many bar offerings. Prices for a litre range from Rs 60 to Rs 120.
Mixologists in Goa on variations of Urak
The Leela Goa has one of the most stunning nature set properties in the south. Imagine sipping on white sandy beaches with The Thesaurus Gimlet. Ace mixologist Pradyumna Shanker is inspired by the most locally available beachside fruit guava. Sweet hints of guava sacrum with infused green chilli for a tongue-tickling afterburn, this perfect beachside drink paired with a fresh press of Urak is a local concussion.
Chef Avinash Martins from Cavatina in Benaulim is a laugh riot. With a playful grin, he presents The Tambde Rosa. This kokum and Urak drink is an ode to the popular Goan folk song Tambde Rosa Tuje Pole ( your red rose cheeks). The reason? The magical colour in the concoction transcends to one’s cheeks after a few tipples. Balanced with sweet & sour notes of kokum, muddled lime and mint and a bit of salt, a heady mix indeed. An alternative is served with ‘chempde tor’ ( pickled water mango), which cites another storyline to the famous bar snacks at Goa’s old taverns.
The Banyan, Eat Bar at the Taj Resort & Convention Centre, Goa in Dona Paula presents the Espirito de Goa (Spirit of Goa). An ode to the age-old Goan tradition of making Urak from ripe cashew apples in the summers. This invigorating libation is a blend of Muddled Jalapeno, Freshly squeezed Orange and Lime juice with just the right amount of spice to awaken the palette for an appetizing gorge.
“Urrak is my tipple of choice during Goan summers. I love the fruitiness and strong aromas of fermented cashew apples. The way I like to drink it is with soda, very little Limca and a dash of lime and salt with a garnish of green chilli”. Lavina Kharkwal, an alcobev and wine writer urges everyone to try the OG as locals call it.
Rohan Shah runs Shau Cho Bar at Verem. His ethos is myopic which makes it filled with flavours from his home town in Pednem. Rustic, local and what his mother would serve in their kitchen and now bar and restaurant. Fresh with servings of mother nature herself, in reverence to Shau, the founder of this local taverna, the Urak is self-explanatory. Fresh catch from the sea finds its way to snack offerings in a crunchy offering of Prawns Kurkure wrapped in banana leaf nuzzled at the side for company. Attention to detail is not missed to even the straws made from stems of their locally grown papaya tree.
Over the picturesque hills of Saipem, the energy behind Rasikta Kamble’s bar and the domain is profound. As she muddles the mix, she regales of inspiration from the streets of Parra, a village close by. “A friendly fruit vendor once tried selling a few pieces of watermelon. Whilst I was hesitant to try at first, he convinced me with his smile and intent. I tried a piece and instantly reminded me of my childhood days, the watermelons were sweet and delicious. The vendor was delighted with the sales and remarked he was going to celebrate this with a drink – Urrack.” She reinvented his version pairing it with the same watermelons keeping in mind the view of the salt pans down below from the property. Voila, ‘Parra Chi Kaaling’!
Joseph Bar, a hip and trendy hotspot for tourists and locals alike is the brainchild of Atish Fernandes who has the heart of Goa embedded in every offering. A son of the soil, his ideas were to keep variations with seasonal locally available produce. From the lemongrass grown in his backyard to the honey, he sources ethically from locals during cleaning and harvest. His muddle has a heady tale of Lemongrass paired with Organic honey with chilli spice and fresh lime. The Urak from the farms have its own distinctive character and shows in every bath poured.
Whether you spell it Urrack or Urak, like it in a cocktail or the way the locals consume it, there’s no missing this emotion and state of mind. A sip will cool your worries away and slumber you into a state of ‘Susegado’. We intend your next trip to Goa be as locally driven and thirsty as possible. Mog Asun.