Corey writes:

This post is about booze and/or hooch. Here in India, and in rural India especially, drinking alcohol is frowned on. There is no such thing as social drinking, or drinking with meals. You drink to get drunk. And people who get drunk are drunks. I may be overstating things a little, but not too much.

These cultural norms are shown in many ways in Koraput. All of the liquor shops are dark, damp places. Also, they aren't exactly shouting from the rooftops that they sell liquor. Our regular liquor shop is across from the Post Office. I had to circle the block twice before I realized I was staring at the entrance:

Can't you see the sign for the liquor shop? It's the tiny piece of wood hanging crookedly three stories up from the entrance. No joke.

Another interesting phenomenon is that these stores double as bars. There's always a little table or counter full of empty whiskey bottles and plastic cups. I've been waiting for my order when people walk in, buy a small bottle, chug it, and leave.

Also, no one buys in bulk. I've never seen an Indian person buy more than a flask of alcohol at a time. Because it's shameful, people buy for immediate consumption and then discard the evidence. I think the guy at the liquor store must think we're alcoholics when we buy a 750 ml bottle.

All this sets up for an interesting situation for us and our other VSO friends that come from cultures where drinking is accepted and integrated into the culture. Gina and I aren't willing to abstain from alcohol for two years, so this is one cultural norm we've got to break.

My preferred booze is beer. I loved sampling tasty beers in the US, and also enjoyed brewing with my family. However, the beer situation here is pretty bad. Because you drink to get drunk, all the beers are "strong" lagers that have a bunch of sugar added to boost the alcohol content. The best thing about them is the marketing. One of the beer brands has "A strong beer for strong men." written on the side.

When I don't feel like a strong beer for a strong man, I sample something stronger. *Side note: because of the lack of experience/knowledge around drinking, liquor is called wine here, I don't know what wine is called, because no shop sells it*

We can get vodka, rum, and whiskey here. We can also get mixers like Thums Up (Coke) to go with them. In a flash of brilliance, Gina dubbed our Rum and Cokes as "Rums Up"s. Our friends Margaret and Jan also turned us on to Vodka Collins (or Sweet Lime Vokdas as we like to call them). We make them with a vodka called "White Mischief" that's made right here in Orissa.

Also notice the other vodka bottle which is a direct and deliberate ripoff of Grey Goose.

Ultimately though, I miss drinking in America. I miss the taste of a decent beer or bourbon, but I also miss the drinking culture. I miss sampling some new wine with a nice meal. I miss going to a bar. I miss brewing.

This longing has lead us to some interesting experiments. Initially, I tried making my own Ginger Beer. It's really easy actually, and ginger is like 3 cents a pound here. This went pretty well, and I actually got one batch to carbonate. But I gave it up eventually as I figured out it was the source of some digestion issues.

Gina got the crazy idea to make Prison Wine a couple weeks ago. We bought a bunch of grapes and oranges, mashed them up and cooked them down. Then we added a bunch of sugar. It looked pretty gross going into the container:

I was pretty skeptical about it, but we dutifully stirred it every day, smelling the strange smells it emitted. After about 10 days we couldn't wait any longer. We sampled some without going blind, but it wasn't very alcoholic, and was still really sweet. We ended up added some club soda and vodka to make Wine Spritzers. I'm sure a lawsuit from Bartles & James is forthcoming.

We'll keep searching for good hooch here, but I have a feeling this is something I will really miss about the US.