Cheers to alcoholic drinks from the north east!

Imagine yourself standing in the balcony of your hotel room. It is evening; the wonderful crimson hues fill the sky as the hills turn from green to dark green. The cool breeze from the hills hits you and makes you feel chilly and so you cover yourself up and head outside to be one with the peaceful evening. You are new in the town so you don’t know much about the culture or the people. As you pass through the streets, a warm yellow light shooting out of the door welcomes you to a world of merry making. Men, red in their cheeks as they put arms around each other while singing a local song, food and snacks plated all over the tables, the smell of alcohol and high spirits; this place is much warmer than outside, almost as if it is welcoming you to enter and join into the merry making. You do so and then order a drink for yourself and some snacks. Suddenly, all they chilliness goes away and it’s all warm inside, shrugs are not required anymore and you actually start understanding the song that the locals were singing. That’s what a good glass of ale makes you do… makes you feel. And if not at all times, sometimes it is this careless warm feeling that we all need to help us feel normal again.

Talking of drinks, we have always been on the lookout for cool, interestingly made, out of the box, drinks and ales that are unheard of.  These are from the north east and we are convinced that these are super fulfilling and wholesome in terms of the intoxicating feeling that you get from these.

  1. Tongba:

This is one of the coolest and tastiest drinks that can be found in regions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sikkim. Very traditional in origin, the drink is made from Millet seeds and is drunk in a wooden or a bamboo tumbler. Millet seeds are boiled and later after adding “marcha”, an amylolytic starter to commence the fermentation process; it is left closed tightly in a dark corner.

After a few months, the millet ferments and is ready to be used as Tongba.  The seeds are filled in a bamboo tumbler leaving enough space to add water to the seeds. Hot water is poured into the tumbler and the seeds are left to sit in the sauna for a bit. After a minute or two the warm water brings out the alcohol content in the seeds and so the water turns milky white in colour. With the help of a bamboo straw that is designed to separate the seeds and let only the alcohol come up, you pull the alcohol from the tumbler.

In these regions where the Tongba is found, one can tell how strong the Tongba is by how many waters it has been able to hold the alcohol content for. Phrases like “ek pani, do pani” can be heard to describe how strong the drink was. Though it may not be as strong as a hard alcohol, it is still enough to give you a good buzz. It is to say that the drink will make you feel warm as well as well as get you tipsy.

Tongba is a drink that has always been well received by people who try it for the first time. Since it is made from millet, the drink is packed with nutrition and is very healthy. When you visit regions of Darjeeling, kalimpong or Sikkim, make it a point to experience the drink and enjoy the process of drinking it.

2. Xutho:

This is a traditional drink from Nagaland. It is made using fermented rice and is similar to a Japanese drink of the same origin called the Atsukan. In the rural areas of nagaland, villages busties and all, this drink is very prevalent. It is used for both festive rituals as well as for everyday drinking. The drink has only 6 to 7 percent alcohol content that makes it easy to drink. At the same time, the drink may vary in its alcohol content depending on how much of the amylolytric starter has been used along with how long it has been fermented for.

Xutho can feel very heavy if you drink one too many glasses as it is made from rice and one may not want to eat anything after they are done drinking a single glass of Xutho, and yet it is wildly enjoyed in these regions. The drink is mostly prepared by the Nagami and the Mao tribes of Nagaland. Xutho is white in colour and has a very sour taste and a distinctly fruity aroma which is for us personally the most attractive part of the drink.

4. Rhododenderon Wine:

In regions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Nepal and Sikkim, grows one of the brightest red flowers there ever was, the Rhododendron. This is a flower that has been a prime muse to so many artists. In the springs, the flower grows to completely decorate the hills with bright pops of red. There are more than 50 varieties of the flower that come in different colours and structures. The flower has a wonderful floral aroma and such deeply red hues that inspired by its beauty, it was made the national flower of Nepal.

The wine that is made from the flower might be the sweetest most flavourful floral wine one has ever tasted. The wine is dark red in colour and is a clear drink. The flavour is very floral and the aroma is tantalizing. The alcohol content of the wine ranges from 6 to 7 percent which is not a lot. People usually consume this wine to enjoy the fragrance and the flavour of the wine.

5. Kodo ko jaar/bhati jaar:

If one may have noticed, the northeast is full of varieties of alcoholic beverages made from Rice. The rice beer has many names throughout the north east. Some of them being “Xaj Pani” in assam, “Ka Kiad Um” in meghalaya, “Chyango” in Sikkim, “Zhutho” in Nagaland, “ Apong” in arunachal pradesh and so on and so forth. These rice beers are not all the same in terms of preparation but the taste might be slightly similar to one another. In Sikkim we also call it the “Bhati Jaar”. Fermented rice is rubbed in warm water and then strained to separate the drinkable part of the jaar from the chewable part which is the rice. The Bhaati is popularly drunk at rural regions.

Then there is the popular kodod ko jaar which is slightly pricey as well as rare to find because it is too popular. The kodo ko jaar is made from millet grains and tastes super appetizing. The boiled millet grains are left for fermentation in a box and when it is ready to be prepared; the grains are scooped out and then rubbed within the palms of the hands with really warm water to get a thick milky drink. Some people usually add a teaspoonful of sugar in the jaar to make it even more appetizing and intoxicating. If one were new to this drink they would totally down 2 even 3 glasses of this kodo ko jaar based on how appetizing it is.

The entire world has different kinds of drinks and beverages that are alcoholic. These fascinating drinks are made in such complex processes that the procedure to make the drink itself feels so interesting to understand or to watch. After understanding all the behind the scenes processes to how these are made, the drink gathers a lot of value addition to it. This leads us to appreciate the characters of the drink and the after feels of the beverage.

To experience this process one must visit the north east and try these unique drinks for themselves. Next time in North east, opt for local drinks instead of the usual beer… because after all nowhere apart from the northeast can you find such rare drinks to fill your spirits.

NE Origins

all author posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are makes.