Cholai is an illegal alcoholic beverage made in India, equivalent to "hooch" or "bootleg" alcohol.[1] Usually made from rice, it is sometimes mixed with industrial alcohol or methanol, which has resulted in several hundred deaths.[2][3]


The Indian encyclopedia, Bharater Adibasi, has a description of cholai as being a distilled alcohol made with two earthen pots joined together; the lower pot filled with yeast and mixed rice/jaggery; the upper pot left empty with an output tube. When the lower pot is heated, the vapour of 80% alcohol goes to the upper pot and comes into contact with cold air, which distills the vapour to become "cholai".[4]

It is locally made, and sold cheaply and illegally. In 2011, consumption of cholai adulterated with industrial alcohol resulted in the death of over 140 people.[5][6]

Cholai is also considered a local name, or a variant, of "desi dāru" (Hindi for "country alcohol"), i.e., cheap distilled liquor.[7][8]


  1. ^ "1,000 litres hooch seized in Bengal". 14 March 2014.
  2. ^ Dean Nelson (15 December 2011). "130 Indian villagers die from alcohol poisoning".
  3. ^ "India doctors fight to save West Bengal alcohol victims". 15 December 2011.
  4. ^ "bharater adibasi"
  5. ^ "Tainted alcohol kills scores in India". 15 December 2011.
  6. ^ "Alcohol Rehab for Bangladeshis".
  7. ^ Jana Tschurenev and Harald Fischer-Tiné. "Indian anomalies? – Drink and drugs in the land of Gandhi".
  8. ^ "Country Liquor (Desi Daru)".