Anyone whos ever toured Indias Goa region typically comes home with a potent memory — sipping fenny at a seaside tavern.
Whether its served neat, mixed with lemon-lime soda or as part of a more elaborate cocktail, fenny is a superb spirit that deserves more worldwide recognition.
Goa, formerly a Portugese territory, is now mostly known for its beaches. Goa produces two types of fenny, also known as "feni." The older type, coconut fenny, comes from the sap of the coconut tree, while the more widely produced cashew apple fenny comes from the fruit of the cashew tree. In fact, tourists say an integral Goan experience can be found simply by sniffing the air during cashew apple season; so prevalent is the smell of the distilling fruit.
While Americans are more familiar with the cashew nut, few realize that the cashew tree also bears a "pseudo" (secondary) fruit known as the cashew apple (Cashew nuts are actually seeds that develop inside the trees "true" fruit). Producers use this secondary fruit to make apple cashew fenny.
Coconut fenny, on the other hand, comes from the "toddy," or sap, of the coconut tree. About twice the number of distillers make the cashew apple fenny instead of coconut fenny, although both types have ardent fans.
Here is an outline of how fenny is traditionally made:
Though more modern methods are available, true fenny connoisseurs swear by this copper kettle method.
Because the Goan government labels the product as a "country liquor," international marketing and selling of the spirit is severely limited. However, one can easily obtain fenny through online suppliers.
Coconut fenny is generally clear and known for its strong alcohol scent. Its flavor has been described as "burnt sugar." Cashew apple fenny is a pale yellow, with a taste that''s both fruity and nutty.
Traditionally, fenny can be added to a simple mixer, such as lemon-lime soda or tonic, or served alone in a shot glass or over ice. For a twist on a classic summer treat, try adding fenny to lemonade.
Of course, fenny also adds an intriguing touch to some traditional cocktail recipes. Here are a few ways to bring a little India to your next cocktail party.
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake and strain into martini glass. Garnish with an apple.
Fill a highball glass with ice and pour the fenny over it. Add lime juice and lemon-lime soda, then stir and garnish with a lime twist and a mint sprig, if desired.
At the bottom of a highball glass, crush together the apple slices and sugar. Add ice and the fenny, then fill the rest of the glass with apple juice and stir. Garnish with an apple wedge and mint sprig, if desired.
Below are two cocktails for which you could use either type of fenny. Coconut fenny, however, would make for an especially tropical touch.
Mix the first three ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add the ice and a splash of lime juice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with the second lime wedge.
In a cocktail shaker, shake the fenny, triple sec and the lime juice over ice. Pour into a martini glass rimmed with sugar and garnish with a lemon peel, if desired.
Of course, fenny also can add depth to cooking, especially Indian dishes. Try substituting coconut fenny for part of the water called for in a pork, chicken or beef vindaloo recipe during the final cooking stage.
Once you start using this versatile spirit, theres no doubt that adding a bottle to your bar or your kitchen cabinet will send you on a passage to India in no time!