So a god and goddess came down to earth. He took a nap under a tall tree. When he woke up, he was thirsty and drank the sap that was flowing down the tree, not realizing that he was drinking toddy from a palmyra palm tree. Soon, he became amorous with his wife, who understood what had happened. In an effort to calm her husband down, she massaged the palm’s trunk to make the sap flow back upwards.This gravity-defying feat was possible because she was a goddess. The slumbering god woke up and wanted more ‘kallu’ liquor.  Not finding any, he slapped his thigh and created a man out of it. ‘Climb this tree and tap the sap,’ commanded the god. Thus, toddy tappers were created. They were called ‘Daivas’ or ‘Thiyyas’ in Kerala and ‘Idigas’ or ‘Edigas’ in Karnataka.

Fun fact: Toddy is tapped from either Palmyra borassus, or from Eecahalu phoenix and additionally from Baine careyota in the ghats and coastal region where it grows.

Lots of Edigas settled in Bangalore.  But the man who belonged to arguably the first family of liquor in Bangalore, was not part of this community. Vittal Mallya, a Gaud Saraswat Brahmin, founded the United Breweries Group, which, you could argue is a forerunner to all the brewpubs dotting Bangalore today.  But several other Idigas made their mark in many fields. Filmstar Rajkumar is an Idiga, as is former Chief Minister, Bangarappa. All of them thronged to Bangalore, bringing their trade and skills with them. They worship Yellamma Thaayi and are more popularly known by a name you might recognize—Gowdaru or Gowdas.

This fanciful legend is perhaps made up but the basic facts about the toddy tapping community hold true. In fact, the Idigas later morphed to managing businesses, and not just in the liquor industry. Sure, they run a lot of the IMFL (Indian-made Foreign Liquor) shops all over the metropolitan region but they also start newspapers—Prajavani, the Kannada newspaper, was founded by a Idiga.

Fun fact: Idigas are patriarchal and speak Kannada or Telugu but toddy tappers of the coastal areas are Billavas who speak Kannada or Tulu. They are matriarchal like the Malayalam speaking Tiyas, who live south of Kasargodu. Billavas are Bhoota worshippers so the Shiva story is likely specific to Idigas.

Combine the Idigas with the British and you have an unbeatable confluence of events and people, all of which led to Bangalore becoming a breezy Pub City where the drinking was easy.

Today, Bangalore has a growing number of microbreweries. Two of them: Byg Brewski in Hennur and Windmills Craftworks in Whitefield are in the Top 30 list of Best Bars in India. Windmill’s has also gone international with an outpost now in Texas. Several of Bangalore’s microbreweries are now bringing their beer to retail shelves like Red Rhino and Arbor, with Toit expected to follow suit soon.

Bangalore How a pensioner's paradise became a pub city

So where do Bengaluru’s 20-year-olds go to drink and dance? This group, coveted by restauranteurs goes out a lot.  While they are generally forgiving of bad food, they instantly change loyalties the minute they sense that the place has lost its edge.  Best of all, they go out in herds. So here are some recommendations 

13th floor is beloved because of its affordable food, great views, well-priced drinks and food that caters to the carnivores and gluten-free dieters with equal aplomb.

Watson’s is another favourite although nobody was able to articulate why.  I suspect that Watson’s like Koshy’s is a beloved Bangalore habit, a memory, somewhere you have gone to forever.

21st Amendment Gastrobar: This is all things that Urban Solace used to be with a lot more space.  Different nights, different things ranging from karaoke, stand-up, DJ, dancing and of course, Bollywood nights on Saturdays.  Forget the food or drink.  Go here to dance.

Geist Brewing Company: Geist has two outlets, one in Old Madras Road (OMR) and a just-opened one in Bharatiya Mall.  The OMR one is more atmospheric, the Bharatiya Mall is a lot more spacious.

Adda 1522: Any place that has Paul Fernandes’ illustrations on the walls and red oxide floors is someone who knows Old Bangalore.  This one does pretty cocktails and comfort food.

Daysie: With a bright pink awning and well-priced cocktails, this restobar just off M.G. Road is patronised by large groups.

7Rivers Brewing Company: Located inside the Taj M.G. Road, this is one of the few breweries in star hotels that takes its beer seriously.

New BEL Road Social: Church Street Social is still going strong but Riyaz Amlani, the man behind it has opened a sprawling outlet in New BEL road.  Its location makes it a hit while the tested-and-tried formula doesn’t fail in the food and drink department.

Mirage: This self-described ‘opulent’ bar is worth visiting for the people watching if nothing else.  College students go here when they want to dress up a bit, drink and dance.  

Uru Brewpark in J.P. Nagar has a great selection of Indian gins and a number of well-crafted cocktails in its 17-page bar menu.  

So how does this pensioner’s turned pub city compare with India’s other cities? I asked Vikram Achanta, who co-founded “30 Best Bars India.” He said, “Delhi has more, shall I say pure bars, like PCO, Sidecar, Hoot’s and Lair. Mumbai has an outstanding selection of restaurants with great cocktail programs, like Ekaa, Masque, Bastian and Americano. For Bangalore, one definitely hopes for the growth of cocktail culture outside of 5 star environs like Copitas and singular outposts like Raahi. The recent opening of Roxie, Boteco and Off the Record, are good portents for the future.”

How a pensioner's paradise became a pub city

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