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These 6 local rice-based alcohol drinks in India will give you a happy buzz

Although we do love a classic whiskey on the rocks, we highly recommend you try these rice-based local alcohol drinks in India the next time you’re travelling to these spots in the country.

The details around the history of the domestication of rice in India are blurry and a subject of debate amongst historians and anthropologists. But there’s no doubt that the crop is intricately woven into the fabric of the different cultures that call the country their home. From being a part of religious ceremonies to featuring in most cuisines across the country, it’s no surprise why India is one of the largest producers as well as consumers of this grain.

Naturally, many locals across different states turn to rice to brew their local beverages. The process behind most of these is similar and involves fermenting rice with the help of yeast, fungi, and lactic acid bacteria to produce alcohol. This makes the resulting beverage potent and loaded with gut-friendly pro-and prebiotics.

Most of these beverages are acquired tastes but there’s no better way to truly experience everything a region has to offer than to sit down for a drink with the locals. Add these unique and traditional fermented-rice based local alcoholic drinks to your travel itinerary for when you decide to head to these spots next.

These local alcoholic drinks in India are a must-try

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Lugdi, Himachal Pradesh

Ranbir Kapoor took a swig of this local drink for some liquid courage in Ye Jawaani Hai Deewani, and if you’re in Himachal Pradesh, so can you. Lugdi is made by soaking rice grains for 24 hours and then fermenting them in a warm room for 12-20 days. The drink is usually prepared in the summer, because the weather then is conducive to fermentation, and is consumed undistilled. Most times, the drink is saved for winters to help with the cold.

Image courtesy: @square_boxes/Instagram

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Zutho, Nagaland

Often compared to the more popular Japanese sake, this Naga concoction has a sour flavour and fruity aroma. Primarily a staple drink of the Angami Nagas, both old and young, nearly all the Naga tribes consume Zutho. It’s made with sprouted rice, and only the Nagas know exactly how to successfully ferment the beverage to make it potent. The process of production can vary across tribes and greatly affect the flavour and potency of the drink. The concoction is believed to have medicinal values and is often served to help those with weak stamina. Grab a glass of this deliciousness when you’re in Nagaland.

Image courtesy: @magikindia/Instagram

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Handia, Bihar

A popular beverage in Bihar and Orissa, Handia is considered auspicious by the tribes of this region and is an integral part of their culture. Locals offer the drink to their gods and consume it on important occasions. Handia is made by fermenting a mixture of boiled rice and tablets containing a mix of 25 different herbs for a week. Since it contains herbs, locals drink it quite regularly and even recommend it to ease physical pain.

Image courtesy: Shutterstock

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Apong, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh

Traditionally made and consumed by the Mishing tribe of Assam, Apong is an integral part of the local festivities and rituals. It comes in two different types: Nogin Apong which is white in colour and Poro Apong which is dark green in colour. The former is made by fermenting a mixture of crushed rice, medicinal plants, and flowers. The latter is made by fermenting a mixture of black-coloured rice and the ashes of burnt rice husk and straw.

It’s more labour intensive to produce Poro Apong and the beverage is generally consumed in the winters to keep warm. It is said that merry minds brew better Apong so the locals remain in good humour while brewing it. The Adi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh also makes and consumes Apong.

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Kiad Um, Meghalaya

The Pnar tribe of the Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya consume Kiad Um as a part of a staple diet. The tart, sweet beverage is practically a necessity for all religious ceremonies. Priests offer the drink to gods in important rituals and babies are fed a few drops of the drink during naming ceremonies.

Kiad Um is made from a starter of medicinal plants that are combined with a local sticky red rice known as Kho-so. This mixture is fermented inside a tightly-sealed cone-shaped basket for two to three days after which it is boiled. Kiad Um is served in tall bamboo tumblers and locals place a charcoal piece at the bottom to ensure that it retains its flavour and has the desired balance of alcohol.

Image courtesy: @travelmeghalaya/Instagram

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Chuak, Tripura

Traditionally had by locals in Tripura on important occasions, Chuak is a mild rice-based alcoholic beverage. To prepare it, boiled rice is mixed with medicinal herbs and stuffed into earthen pots with crushed banana leaves. This is then left to ferment for four to five days. If you’re in the region, don’t forget to ask for a cup of this delicious beverage when you sit down to eat at a local restaurant.

Image courtesy: @tiddlycocktails/Instagram

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Sekmai Yu - Manipur

Women of the Lois community in Manipur exclusively make this delicious rice beverage. The process of making it involves two ingredients, namely dry disks made of wild creepers and unpolished rice. The two are combined through a long arduous process of cleaning and cooling and transferred into a basket lined with leaves of a tree known as Flame of the Forest. This is then left to ferment for four to five days, longer if it’s winter. The beverage is then distilled.

Not only does the community depend on it for their livelihood, but they also consume it during every important occasion such as marriages, festivals, and even birth and death. Give it a go when you’re in the area.

Image courtesy: @rozerncha/Instagram 

Which of these do you look forward to trying the most?

Eshita Srinivas
Eshita spends her days writing, rewriting, and thinking of things to write about. The little time she has left, she spends listening to Taylor Swift’s Willow on repeat and day dreaming about going on a solo trip across Asia.
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