Feni, a typical Goan drink
Feni or Fenny, as it is called, is a drink synonymous with Goa just as Scotch is synonymous with Scotland, Tequila with Mexico, or Champagne with France!
Feni, undoubtedly is Goa’s most famous triple or double distilled alcoholic drink.
There are two types of feni, both of which are made from local ingredients. Coconut or palm feni is made from the sap drawn from the severed shoots on a coconut tree. In Goa this is known as toddy, and the men who collect it are toddy tapers. One can see toddy tapers working all year round as it can be collected year-round, and so palm feni is in plentiful supply at all times.
Cashew or kaju feni, on the other hand is made from cashew apple and can only be made during the cashew season in March and April. The traditional method of making cashew feni is called the pot still method.
The cashew apple, when ripe, turns a yellow-orange color and the nut ripens inside it. When the fruit is harvested, the nuts are separated from the ‘apples’, and are laid out to dry in the sun. The apples meanwhile are placed in a pit and trampled by foot to collect the juice. Both palm toddy and Kaju juice can also be drunk fresh immediately after collection and are said to be delicious. They soon start to ferment if left for just a few hours.
In typical local method, the juice is placed in large terra-cotta pot over a wood fire; the vapor exits through a tube, which typically passes through an oil drum filled with water, below which the distillate is collected. The first distillate is called ‘Uraq’, which is of a very low strength (10% to 15%), making it a pleasant and reasonably alcoholic drink. Distilling twice more results in good, potent feni.
By the time it comes out of the second distillation, Goa’s national drink has an alcoholic strength of around 30% to 35% proof and as per the locals, after third round it can go upto whooping 45% !
Although the feni is ready for drinking soon as it has been collected, traditionally it is sealed in huge terra-cotta jars and is left to mature for anything up to a number of years.
Many people enjoy drinking straight feni, but it’s also makes a very pleasant mix. Uraq goes well with a squeeze of lime, while feni tastes great mixed with Coke or Pepsi.
Goans are keen to offer advice not to drink it on an empty stomach and mix with other spirits and certainly don’t swim after a couple of fenis.
But the best you will hear is ‘you don’t realise how strong it is until you get up‘.
I haven’t tried it till now but will definitely give it a shot one day.
Here are some photos to illustrate the method with the help of these sculptures .