Why India isn't Known For its Alcohol

France has champagne, Japan has sake, Scotland has whiskey. So, why isn't India famous for an alcohol of its own?

An Indian man selling alcohol to a couple. Gouache drawing (Wikimedia)
An Indian man selling alcohol to a couple, gouache drawing (Wikimedia)

Meher Mirza


September 2, 2021


9 min

India boasts a boggling array of regional, homegrown alcohols — from Himachal Pradesh’s apple liqueur, Goan coconut and cashew feni, and Manipuri atingba to Sikkimese chhang, Rajasthan’s liqueurs, and mahua made by Adivasi communities. This list represents a mere fraction of India’s diverse liquors, vital to the communities, geographies, and cultures that birthed them. 

Yet, the largest segment of India’s alcohol industry isn’t these indigenous liquors, but Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL), namely whiskey, brandy, rum, vodka, and the like — liquors that originate abroad, but are manufactured in India. India is one of the fastest-growing alcohol markets globally, but regional liquors are losing out to IMFL, wine, and beer. So for a country with so many liquors, why does its superb feni or chhang remain mostly unknown outside India?

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