Christamas wine in
Bow Barracks

Over the years, Bow Barracks in Kolkata has built a reputation for its gala Christmas eve celebrations. The area houses 132 Anglo-Indian families, some of which have been residing here for generations. A visit to this locality during Christmas will reveal households engaged in chaotic preparation for the holidays—all doors flung wide open while the women inside, bent over big tubs of home-brewed wine, are busy transferring the liquid into recycled and sterilised Johnnie Walker and Antiquity Blue bottles. These recipes for homemade wine have been passed down from mother to daughter for generations and each family has added their own unique touch.

Surprisingly, grapes are not the only ingredient you can brew wine with. Apple, beetroot, raisins and even ginger can be used. Beginners can start with this simple recipe that combines the best of Bow Barracks ~

  • Crush the fruits or vegetables thoroughly.
  • Caramelise the sugar for colour.
  • Boil some water. Leave it to cool.
  • Add the sugar and water to the crushed fruits, along with a little yeast. Cover and keep in a cool place.
  • The mixture must remain like this for 21 days, but in the interim, you have to stir it once a day. While stirring, it is advisable to taste a little to see if you need to add more sugar, for once the sugar is fermented, you will not be able to alter the taste.
  • After 21 days, strain it with a fine, clean muslin cloth. Cover and keep aside.
  • After seven days, strain it again and leave to rest.
  • After three weeks, strain it once again and leave it to rest for another month or two.
  • Pour into sterilised whisky or rum bottles and secure the cap tightly.

It takes around three months to prepare the wine. At the end of this duration, all the sugar would have fermented into alcohol. The longer you keep it after that, the better it will taste. Keep straining the wine from time to time, for no matter how well you have strained the mixture while brewing it, sediments will keep forming. Home-made wine usually tastes sweeter than its branded counterparts, so our instructor in Bow Barracks suggested adding a little alcohol of your choice to make it stronger.


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