Goa has an estimated 4000 and 2200 traditional stills manufacturing cashew and coconut feni, respectively.
North Goa dominates cashew production, while the South dominates coconut.
Feni can be used in cocktails too.
Feni is labelled as a 'country liquor' in modern India, causing handicaps to its growth.
The Portuguese brought the cashew-crop from tropical America to Goa sometime between 1563 and 1578.
Feni has a distinctive smell. Some non-drinkers or drinkers of other spirits find it unpleasant.
For a destination which tends to be costlier -- in almost everything -- than the rest of India, Goa has liquors and wines that are priced noticeably low. Products available range from wine (red and white), to the oddly-named Indian-made foreign liquors (IMFLs, which include whisky, brandy, rum, gin, vodka and more), and local liquors (basically cashew and coconut feni). Prices of domestic products range from Rs 40 to Rs 350 per bottle, depending on product and brand.
There are two local brews long made and drunk in Goa -- cashew feni and coconut feni. One comes from the cashew apple, and the other from the sap of the coconut tree. Goa's feni-making has been much focussed on.
Feni-brewing skills have been honed by Goa's former Portuguese rulers. Strange but true: the cashew was brought in by the Portuguese themselves, and today it seems like a closely integrated part of Goa. Cashew-apples go to waste in neighbouring states, and in the fruiting season, one could get a strong smell of semi-fermenting apples being transported specially from Maharashtra into Goa, at locales close to the border.
Feni has come to become synonymous with Goa. "Indigenous alcoholic drinks include coconut palm toddy from south and eastern India and the Goan liquor 'feni' based on coconut palm juice or cashew nut," explains the website of the Indian Embassy in Russia.
Needless to say, feni has its own strong taste. Some like it, some don't. At one of the liquor outlets in Panjim, you can run into bus-loads of tourists picking up their 'souvenir' of feni.
Of course, there are a range of other options too. Local wines are priced at between Rs 40 to Rs 150 per bottle (of 750 ml).
In recent years, Goa has been hosting what it calls the "Grape Escape", a festival of wines, around the start of each year (held in mid-February 2007 and May 2006, for instance).
In Panjim, new ventures are also bringing in new products. A Nau ("The Ship" in Portuguese, unfortunately since closed down, as of the time of writing this, October 2008) brings in a range of wines and other commodities from Portugal.
Global Spirits and Foods, which operates out of the Pilerne Industrial Estate some 10 kms from Panjim, wholesales a wide range of products from across the globe -- champagne and cognac from France; wines from Argentina and Chile, Australia and New Zealand; vodka from Poland; single malt from Scotland; and even the most popular distilled alcoholic beverage of Brazil Cachaca. (Cachaça is the product of the distillation of fermented sugarcane juice, with its alcohol strength between 38% and 51% by volume. It is often said to differ from rum in that it is made from sugarcane juice while rum is made from molasses.)
In terms of local products, Madame Rosa has also been diversifying into coffee and other liqueur. Flavours include mango, anise, almond and chocolate mint. PVV (Pedro Vincent Vaz), another prominent brand, comes out with its cashew and palm products (in sizes of 750 ml, 180 ml and 60 ml). Other brands have names like Dom Pedro, Goan Treasure, Cashew Inside, Fruit Shape, among others.
The popular alcoholic beverages in Goa are Beer and Wine. There is also the local liquor, Fenny, which is quite potent and strong. It comes in 2 flavours, Cashewnut and Coconut.