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We’re great believers in trying the good, the bad and the ugly of food and drink when visiting pastures new – when in Rome and all that. But after two shots of the local fire-water in Goa I was knocking over tables in a bid to escape a giant moth.
Feni, the drink in question, is immensely popular hooch in Goa, India and comes in two flavours; cashew feni and palm, or coconut, feni.
It might seem blindingly obvious but cashew feni is distilled from cashews and palm feni from the toddy from coconut palms. It is dirt cheap (some may say they should pay you to try it) with the better quality cashew feni generally costing a bit more than coconut feni. Cheap is good of course, but the all important question is, can you actually drink the stuff?
The Taste of Feni – The Official Blurb
One feni producer’s website claims that feni can be ‘as smooth as a single malt’ whilst some feni fans get irritated when people refer to the smell, preferring the use of the word ‘flavour’.
The Taste of Feni – My View
Feni has a distinctive flavour (smell) for sure with cashew being slightly less likely to mug your nostrils than coconut. But, unless you’re a feni aficionado, the reality is that a good whiff of either before a gurning competition and you’re coming home with the gold medal.
As for flavour, well it’s a bit like any unsophisticated fire-water; it’s an acquired taste (obviously that’s code). To the virgin feni drinker, quaffing the first can be a bit of a challenge. After that, whilst it’s never going to replace pina colada in the easy to drink stakes, it’s a case of ‘what the hell – in for a penny, in for another round’. The lining of your mouth has been stripped away and the tastebuds numbed into a coma anyway.
Like the carefree fools we are we mixed and matched cashew and coconut feni deciding that cashew feni with its slight hint of nuttiness won out over coconut feni with its slight hint of… err pure alcohol.
Whatever the views are about its taste, feni is potent with a capital P. After one shot I was woozy, after two I couldn’t begin to spell woozy and by the time I was sipping the third the giant moth attacked my leg. On seeing an insect with a wingspan the size of a seagull on my thigh I understandably screamed, shot out of my chair like someone had stuck a red hot poker where the sun don’t shine and nearly upended the table and feni drinks in the process (I could have lived with their loss in all honesty).
The giant moth turned out to be a regular moth which fiendishly used a light to make its shadow look enormous in order to take advantage of my compromised judgement. However, creating a hysterical scene caused by a feni induced hallucination was a good enough signal for me that the feni drinking session was at an end.
So feni… smooth as a single malt then? Hmm, it’s an interesting interpretation of feni. If you’re going to Goa though, I recommend that you give it a go. It’s just one of those travel things that has to be tried. But make sure you have a serious fly swat to hand (maybe a tennis racket)… just in case.
Buzz Trips Tip: Like a lot of hooch around the globe, some unofficially produced feni can be dangerous to consume. The stuff in your hotel should be safe (safe being a relative term). You can drink it as generous sized shots like we did, tame it with a little lime or lemon juice or try to drown its ‘distinctive’ flavours in 7 Up or Sprite.