Toddy – What is it and Why is it So Damn Tasty?

Palm wine: also called kallu (Telugu: కల్లు,Tamil: கள்ளு, Malayalam: കള്ള്), palm toddy, or simply toddy (Hindi: ताड़ी), is an alcoholic beverage created from the sap of various species of palm tree such as the palmyradate palms and coconut palms (that paragraph was shamelessly stolen from Wikipedia (but that’s why it’s there hey?))

A toddy tapper

A toddy tapper

In Sri Lanka it is simply called Raa. You will not find it in a wine shop…this is part of the fun. You get it from toddy sellers (not to be confused with kassipu sellers, which is moonshine and horrid…not to mention deadly if you become addicted). Toddy is a cloudy palm wine (roughly about 7% or 8% alcohol content)….it’s quite pungent but tastes nice.

It is mostly drunk early morning when freshly made – like 5am or 6am…manual workers, agricultural workers etc. always pop in for a glass or two to get them set up for the day. Fresh is best. I have heard horror stories about rats in the vats etc. So if you really want to try it – go early and with somebody who knows what they are doing – oh and bring your own plastic bottle or plastic glass. Some of the clientele are not the healthiest lot. Alcoholics regularly frequent these places before the wine shops open. It’s dirt cheap. GO WITH SOMEBODY YOU TRUST.

But it’s a hell of a lot of fun and tasty. Like a plastic glass of warm Scrumpy at Glastonbury festival. It tastes like cider. For my Dutch and American friends I have no alternative – just try it (it’s like apple beer). Go easy though – it is also potent 😀

Toddy glass

Glass of toddy

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11 Comments

Filed under Drinks, Sri Lankan food & recipes, Sri Lankan life

11 responses to “Toddy – What is it and Why is it So Damn Tasty?

  1. sarathamarasekera

    Dear Ankie I am from SriLanka and working in Libya. I am a subscriber of your newsletter. I wish to tell you something about the toddy which you have posted today. If you wish to have good and clean toddy you shoud not go to toddy taverns(as they are called) but contact who has coconut estates may be towards Negombo and beyond and you can have the pleasure of tasting the best, just tapped and brought down from the tree top by the toddy tapper. If you wish to taste real toddy pleae feel free to contact me and I will be very happy to oblige. P.S. The bytes which go along with toddy are Manioc and Pork. Best regards Sarath mobile:+218944686065

    • Thanks for the info – I don’t eat pork much (crispy bacon excepted) but I love Manioc (grow it myself) with lunu miris. The best toddy I have tasted was in Induruwa – straight from the tree 🙂

  2. David Blacker

    if you’re describing it to Germans, the closest thing to it is Federweisser (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federweisser ). tastes very similar. oh, and nothing wrong or dangerous with properly made moonshine/kassippu. it’s also lower in alcohol content than arrack. its when chemicals are added to speed up the brewing process that it can be dangerous.

  3. Super – thanks for the info David but kassippu tastes awful (probably because of the chemicals and the random rodents). I’ll stick with a 6am toddy haha..If you can prove me wrong I will have a glass of kassippu with you but evenings would be better – my tum is a bit sensitive to kassippu and hard liquor at 6am.

  4. seoulpenguin

    Love toddy! But maybe not at 5 am….
    Can you recommend somewhere in the Hikkaduwa/Gonapinuwala area where we can get nice toddy? Thanks!

    • There are none Hikkaduwa itself that I know of. You will to travel a bit further afield. Gonapinuwala has a place I believe and so does Thelwatta. Let me ask my fishermen friends for the exact locations and get back to you. I don’t hang around at these places for obvious reasons! Even if you don’t drink it at 5am, buy it then, otherwise it may sit around in the vat all morning and who knows what lurks in those. Fresh is best! Induruwa is also great for fresh toddy and there is a distillery between Beruwela & Aluthgama (and the latter has a toddy place just before Bentota bridge (going South)) that you can’t miss as there are men in sarongs outside with paper cups from 5am until lunchtime. It opens all day I think and has lovely ladies who sell fresh boiled manioc with lunu miris.

      • seoulpenguin

        Thanks for the detailed response! If you find out where the Gonapinuwala place is, that would be great. Do they normally have a sign (in Sinhala), or does everyone just know?
        If I were to bring a bottle (like an empty 1.5 L soda bottle) would that be OK, and around how much would it cost?
        Thanks again!

      • I will find out but a few discussions with the locals may also help you 🙂 They are not normally signposted. Yes always bring your own CLEAN bottle. Gosh I haven’t bought any for a while but a full empty soda bottle shouldn’t cost more than 250 rups. Enjoy!

      • seoulpenguin

        Thanks!

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