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Goa's reimagined 'urraca'

URRACA GOA DRINKING GUIDE NIGHTLIFE GUIDE GOA DINING IN GOA
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‘Urraca’, once a summer drink enjoyed only by Goans, has moved from homes and tavernas to upmarket bars

For centuries, urraca was one of Goa’s well-kept secrets, a summer drink distilled and drunk at home, on cashew estates and in the local tavernas. About a decade ago, it slowly started making its way out and a few non-Goans became familiar with the seasonal drink mixed with Limca. Now it has arrived in upmarket bars, with mixologists making imaginative cocktails based on this spirit, which is distilled between March and May.

URRACA GOA DRINKS FENI
Urraca is the first distillate of the cashew fruit, before it is distilled again to make feni, Goa’s most popular spirit. Unlike feni, it’s not pungent; it has a delicate cashew-y, fruity flavour. And its alcohol volume of 20-25%, just a bit higher than wine, means you can have more than a few drinks without worrying about a heavy head. “Urraca is naturally fermented and has no additives, so it’s an easy drink,” says Anika Proença of JUNGLE by Sturmfrei, a hostel with a performance area and bar in Vagator, north Goa.

Urraca also has a relatively short shelf life; it has to be consumed within two weeks of distillation. This, combined with the seasonality, made it less viable for bar menus. “Until recently, no distillery in Goa worked to produce urraca exclusively. It was drunk at home or sold as a way for farmers to make some quick money to buy firewood or pay salaries,” says Hansel Vaz, founder of the feni label Cazulo Premium Feni .

Its seasonality also makes urraca difficult to brand and bottle, something Karl Fernandes, head bartender at south Goa’s popular bar Tesouro, feels is needed to take urraca to the next level. “Even beer has a shelf life of six months. If urraca can be bottled, it will be accessible to more bartenders and can grow even further with government support.” Tesouro is known for its Urraca Granita, with sea salt, sweet water and hints of citrus finished with frozen raspberries and apple.

Since each farm distils urraca differently, it does not have a standard taste either, a fact that often sparks a healthy debate over who has the best urraca—north or south Goa. Most lean towards the latter. Sheldon Abranches, partner at the Hideaway Bar in Vagator, says urraca from the south usually arrives two weeks later than the north. “Distilleries in the south make the first batch only with fallen cashew fruits. Urraca from the north is fruitier and lighter, while that from the south has a heavier body.”

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