Toronto: You won’t believe it. A typical ‘nadan’ Malabari hooch, Mandakini, is creating ripples among Indian tipplers in Canada. Not only in the North American country, but in other places too, it has created a buzz among Indians, especially Malayalis.
The moment social media went viral about its launch, liquor enthusiasts began searching what is all this hoopla surrounding the particular ‘swadeshi’ liquor.
The hooch variety, which hit the shelves in Canada on Friday, is available in plenty at a distillery in Vernon, which is just 30 km drive from the main city of Toronto. The distillery is now swarmed by all those who love ‘desi’ liquor. Many Indians residing even in far-off places come all the way and buy liquor in cases. The marketing of the brand in heads such as ‘desi daru’, ‘desi vatt’, ‘nadan charakku’ and ‘nattu sara’ in Punjabi, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu languages made it quickly known among the Indian diaspora. Apart from wordings, the design of the label also became a hit with boozers.
Of course, it was the Malayali brain that had worked in conjuring up the mixture. Two brothers from Kothamangalam in Ernakulam district along with a native of Muvattupuzha, tried out the brand successfully. They live in Canada’s London, Ontario, and are all known figures among the Malayalis. In the famed list of rums such as Jamaican, Cuban and Puerto Rican ones, it is a “small” contribution from their side.
The idea struck them two years ago. With the new liquor formula, they went and knocked on many doors unsuccessfully. Finally, they landed up in Last Straw Distillery run by Demonte. They convinced him of the unique Malabari mix. Demonte, who had heard much about Hortus Malabaricus and Malabar spices, agreed to give it a try. This Malabar hooch took the popular name ‘Mandakini’ to entice thousands of tipplers. The name became a rage among WhatsApp and Facebook’s users.
Alcohol wash is easy to make. But anyone preparing good quality hooch is like a well-versed cook. Usually hooch is prepared by using jaggery extracted out of sugarcane. At first, the brothers from Kothamangalam thought of making rum. When called for suggestions, they got 20 recipes from different people. But they realised that once prepared, all these would come under the spice rum category. Spice rum doesn’t have a market in Canada. Finally, they caught up with the Malayali psyche and veered round to the idea of opting for hooch with lesser use of spices. Thus came the idea of trying Malabari hooch.
Now, it is available offline only in liquor outlets in Vorne city and can be delivered via Uber in the nearby areas. But you get it anywhere in Canada online. Conquering the international market is their next mission. For them, hitting the dometic shelves is still a distant dream. They hope that just like Malabar ‘biriyani’ and ‘parotta’, a day will come when people will vouch for this Malabari hooch.
Why the name ‘Mandakini’
The oft-repeated question is what is there in a name. But there is significance in this name. The name gives a pan-Indian acceptability. ‘Mandakini’ means a lady who moves quietly. There is also a river named after Mandakini in India. But the name’s cinema connection makes it hotter for the Indian crowd. Mandakini was the one who charmed us with her role in Raj Kapoor’s movie ‘Ram Teri Ganga Maili’. The name has Mollywood connections too. The portrayal of the intoxicating substance ‘Mandakini’ in the Malayalam film ‘Mariyam Vannu Vilakkuthi’ is still fresh in the memory of many.
Once the product was known through social media, all that an average Malayali wanted to check was whether the product is pure or spurious. This inquisitiveness made them find out where this distillery is located in Canada. The grapevine is that those who had an inkling of the Malayali mindset in Canada had given the distillery and the liquor shops in Vernon a prior warning of possible chances of heavy rush. But the liquor traders were more than happy to oblige the crowd that came calling for this variety brand.
(Malabar refers to the old name of the land that is present-day Kerala, not just the northern part; land between Arabian Sea and western ghats in southern Indian peninsula)