In summer, ‘desi’ urrack beats beer in Goa

Panaji: Come summer, liquor outlets on Panaji-Margao highway begin to attract footfalls in a big way.

Like hundreds of other small joints, a nameless liquor outlet of a former five-star hotel cook Peter Fernandes offers fresh fish and liquor.

But liquor here does not mean beer. The bar's USP is 'urrack', a brew made from cashew.

In the coastal state of Goa known for cheap liquor, beer and whiskey take a backseat in summer months, till the onset of rains.

"After rains, there is no pure urrack. We serve the drink brought right from the cashew plantation, unadulterated," said Fernandes, who started the bar five years ago.

Though his palm leaves-thatched hut has only three tables and a few chairs, it is not unusual to spot luxury cars parked outside the outlet during summers.

"This is the time when small places like mine, where you get fresh fish and pure urrack, are in demand," he said.

Fernandes sources urrack from places like Canacona. "You can get pure urrack in Pernem and Sattari too," he said, adding that adulteration is on the rise in some parts of the state where the brew is sold to tourists at throw-away prices.

The hilly areas of Sattari, Bicholim, Canacona, Quepem, Tiswadi and Sanguem are the places where urrack is distilled.

Urrack is the first distillate of cashew apple juice with 12-14 per cent alcohol.

The drink also has some curative qualities, especially for stomach ailments, H R Prabhudesai, a scientist with Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR) said.

"It is also an appetiser," he said, cautioning that "too much" can get you drunk.

Unlike fenny, another product of cashew, urrack is not bottled and, hence, can not be exported.

The state excise department does not tax urrack.

A senior excise official said the brew is left out of taxation, as it is unique to Goa and is distilled by cashew-growers as a byproduct.