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Tap that Toddy

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Coconut Water

We had seen toddy tappers at work a few times, high up in the palm trees around Jaffna and Trincomalee, collecting the liquid of coconut flowers into plastic jugs. The toddy can later can be distilled into arrack, but is one of the country’s favorite drinks even in its unprocessed state. And for nearly three months, we had traveled throughout Sri Lanka without ever trying it. We were being derelict!

Toddy

The toddy is non-alcoholic when first tapped, but ferments quickly and must be drunk on the same day (and is at its best in the morning). Plus, you can only find it in local “toddy taverns”. All of this makes landing a bottle a tricky prospect for tourists. We ended up having to talk a local into hunting some down for us.

Our toddy had been poured into an old water bottle, looked like cloudy urine and tasted like cider, but somehow yeasty. Or cheesy. Yes, it tasted like liquidy, yeasty cheese cider. It’s a common sensation to feel the still-active toddy fermenting inside your belly. I’m not sure whether that’s what was happening to me, but I definitely felt something going on down there, hours after we had stopped drinking.

Apparently, the best toddy comes from the north, where it’s culled from the spiky Palmyra palm trees. Maybe that would have been better, but I can’t imagine that any toddy is going to find its way into my list of favorite drinks. It was still fun to try, but anyone with a sensitive stomach will want to stay far away.

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Toddy
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April 30, 2012 at 9:41 am Comments (2)

Arrack – The Discerning Sri Lankan’s Beverage of Choice

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Sri Lanka Spices

In Sri Lanka, liquor and even beer aren’t normally sold in supermarkets. You have to find a “Wine Store”, as they’re generally called, and join a long queue of thirsty locals. During my first experience in this line of shame, at a dingy shed behind the grocery store in Kandy, I watched in amazement as the twenty-odd guys in front of me all ordered the exact same thing. Arrack.

ARRACK

Arrack is far and away the most popular liquor in Sri Lanka. A sign at the window clearly stated that only ten bottles could be sold to an individual. Well, then! The clerk even kept boxes of it next to him, so he didn’t have to stand up to fetch orders, which were always the same. When it was my turn at the counter, I followed suit and all the way home was in a giddy state of anticipatory bliss. A new sort of liquor! What would it taste like?!

Turns out, arrack tastes great. Mostly like rum, a little like whiskey, but then also not like either of those. The liquor is produced from coconuts; specifically, from the sap of unopened coconut flowers. Every morning at dawn, toddy tappers climb onto palm trees around Sri Lanka’s coastlines to harvest the flower — every tree can provide up to two liters per day.

The collected sap immediately ferments into toddy, which is mildly alcoholic. Within hours after harvesting, the toddy is brought to collection centers for distillation, a process which takes about 24 hours. During maturation, which can last up to twelve years, the liquor is flavored with herbs. Arrack is billed as the world’s “only naturally fermented alcoholic beverage“, which obviously means that it’s totally healthy, and I’m allowed to drink as much as I want. Shut up, Jürgen, that’s what it means. I said shut up.

Arrack goes down easy, both straight and mixed. While in Kandy, it become something of a ritual of ours to sit out on the balcony with a drink during sunset. I’m a master mixologist, and after finding a half-empty bottle of ginger beer in our fridge, I invented the following drink, which I’ve named in honor of my hero.

Arrack Obama
Arrack
Ginger Beer

Sit back and enjoy!

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February 22, 2012 at 6:26 am Comments (8)
Tap that Toddy We had seen toddy tappers at work a few times, high up in the palm trees around Jaffna and Trincomalee, collecting the liquid of coconut flowers into plastic jugs. The toddy can later can be distilled into arrack, but is one of the country's favorite drinks even in its unprocessed state. And for nearly three months, we had traveled throughout Sri Lanka without ever trying it. We were being derelict!
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