India’s relationship with alcohol is a complex one. Depending where you are in the country, alcohol might be completely illegal, carry extortionate taxes, be of dubious standard, be of world-class standard, be sold in paper bags from under the counter or be home-brewed. There have long been many taboos attached to the culture of drinking alcohol in India, but as the country is evolving so too are people’s attitudes towards drinking.
In many of the larger towns across the country, drinking is widely accepted – especially when it’s a bottle of whiskey on the table. India’s wealthier classes are happy to sip cocktails in swanky bars and hotels – although this is mainly in the larger cities of Delhi and Mumbai. In direct comparison to this are the towns and states which exercise a complete ban on the drinking and sale of alcohol.
But as well as the alcohol consumed within India, a lot is also exported. Indian whiskey has come under fire for not adhering to the “official” definition of whiskey, however that has not stopped it being drunk and enjoyed around the world. With popular brands such as McDowell’s, Bagpiper and Royal Stag being sold in their millions in countries outside India, it is easy to see that the alcohol-consuming public are not that concerned about official standards. This year, India’s top selling whiskey, Officer’s Choice has overtaken Johnnie Walker to become the world’s best selling whiskey.
Moving over to the vine and India’s wine industry comes as a surprise to many. The most famous wine-producing area is Nashik, in the state of Maharashtra. Nashik Valley wine carries with it the coveted geographical indication status, meaning that only wine produced in this region can bear that label. However, with the current economic climate as it is, while the larger of these wine producers are still having success, some of the smaller vineyards are not faring so well.
India also offers a rather splendid line in craft beer. The common names that you see appearing on restaurant menus are Kingfisher, Cobra and Mongoose, but there are also a number of artisan ales you should look out for too, such as Bombay Blonde and Bangla.
If this has whet your appetite for a nice cold bottle of Indian beer, then why not drink it before, after or during a delicious Indian meal? London’s popular Indian brasseries are a great place to meet friends, eat healthy food that is bursting with flavour – as well as enjoying a beer.
Or perhaps you would prefer a glass of wine? Maybe a cocktail if you are making a night of it? And there’s always a good selection of cooling lassis (frothy yoghurt drinks), fruit juices and nimboo pani (a fresh lime squash). With branches in Bayswater, Camden, Covent Garden, Earls Court, Islington, Soho and Selfridges, whatever your plans in London there is sure to be one of these bustling Indian brasseries nearby. They are the perfect place to refuel before your next adventure in the capital.