NAURU: Demangi

I’ve found a few references to demangi, or coconut toddy, as a traditional alcoholic drink in Nauru – I would assume it’s been particularly central as this 1981 Nauruan dictionary not only lists it but also gives “demangimangi” as the word for drunkenness. But how do you actually make demangi? I found a photographer’s reference to naturally fermented coconut sap, which means it’s palm wine, which is drunk all around the coconut-growing world.

Sadly, palm wine doesn’t ship well, and there’s not a lot of coconut trees to tap here in Canada, so I’m going to try with a variation that uses coconut water instead of the sap. It may not be exactly the same, but I figure I’m definitely in the right ballpark of “homemade coconut wine” at least.

I’m going to use this recipe from Life ippo – it’s very straightforward, get a bit of yeast going into fresh coconut water and let it ferment for 24 hours. I made sure to get 100% pure, not from concentrate coconut water, since green coconuts are scarce around here.

I put it all together, covered with a clean cloth and a rubber band, and made sure my kitchen was nice and warm. After just a few hours, I could hear it fizzing from the fermentation. At around the five hour mark I took a sample – it was fizzy, the coconut flavour had taken a back seat, and it reminded me a bit flavour-wise of makgeolli or even sake, though I don’t think the alcohol content is particularly high yet.

After around 16 hours, most of the coconut flavour and the sweetness was gone, and it’s starting to take on that “carb-iness” that beer or rice wine has.

After 24 hours, the fizzing has stopped. I strained it off, and I’m left with about a litre of an opaque off-white drink. I can smell there’s a fair bit of alcohol in it, and it almost has a hint of white wine in the smell – not coconut, though. There’s also only the slightest hint of coconut in the taste, though it has an almost creamy mouthfeel. It’s a bit tangy, not very sweet at all, and almost a suggestion of an unfiltered wheat beer – though it’s not carbonated. I’d guess it’s stronger than beer and needs to be drunk almost immediately – it doesn’t keep.

Not bad, though I kind of liked the five hour mark sample more than the finished product. After my taste test, I added a few chunks of frozen pineapple into my glass of it – it goes really well. I wonder if I could make a similar drink with maple water?

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