Introducing urrak, feni`s cousin, once removed!
Panaji: If you think Goa is all about feni, try urrak for a change this summer.
This semi-distilled, `once removed` cousin to feni is the pride of every bar worth its salt and the local taverns in Goa, once the sun sheds its temperate winter skin.
While feni is cashew juice fermented and distilled twice, urrak suffers the distillation process, but once.
And unlike the twisted, cynical laws of Murphy, urrak hits the bar shelves at that time of the year, when you need it the most. In summer, when the sun begins to beat down with unbridled fury, urrak poured in a tall glass topped with ice, lime cordial and a splash of soda, come as some relief.
William Rodrigues is a new age troubadour from Curca, Goa, lustily singing his way across continents for a living. He has nipped a few traditional drinks and arracks across the world in sunny Jamaica to dopey Amsterdam, but counts the cashew-distilled urrak as one of the best `local` drinks he has had.
"There`s Ouzo from Greece. Jamaica has its own cashew-flavoured rum. Mexico has tequila, but none of these drinks sink in better than the urrak here," Rodrigues told reporters.
Known for his long curls, grunge clothes and ability to play more than one musical instrument at a time, William however bats for urrak manufactured old-style: boiled in earthen pots and then run through pipes made of bamboo stem for cooling.
"Times have changed now. They use metal vats and metallic pipes for cooling, but urrak is still matchless. It`s a delectable, gentle high," Rodrigues says.
Sold for Rs.7 a peg or between Rs.75 and 100 a bottle, one bottle per person at one `sitting` is a more or less a conservative measure of a `good drink` in a local tavern.
Of course, on several of the taverns` tables, downing a bottle is a sign for an encore. And then another and another as slices of lemon, ice, soda, (in some cases pinches of salt) or a lemonade keep accompaniment.
According to botanist Miguel Braganza, Goa was introduced to the wonders of urrak in the 1700s, when the cashew plant was first transplanted in Goa by the Portuguese from their colonies in Africa.
"The cashew was introduced in Goa in 1740. Goans have been drinking urrak from the late 1700s," Braganza said.
The botanist also pitched in with a few tips about how urrak must be tasted.
"You can spot good urrak by the bouquet of its smells and by taste buds at the tip of the tongue. It`s sweet, sour, bitter. The tip of your tongue has to tell you all," he said, adding that the best urrak in Goa is sourced from the Valpoi and Pernem regions, where distillation methods were still traditional in most places.
Braganza also said that urrak is a chiller, in a way it rids the body of excess heat and is therapeutic in Goa`s summers.
And you want to down that beer still?