Easter, Holiday of Big Drinks

With the preparation for the Easter holiday and the end of the longest fast, observed by those who follow the Orthodox and Catholic doctrines, the demand for liquor has increased. Traditionally a gift to take to someones's house during the holidays, both the traditionally homemade and factory distilled liquors are a choice for celebrations, reports, Bethelhem Bahran, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, April 4, 2018, different from the other days that week salespersons of National Alcohol & Liquor Factory (NALF) were busy selling their products to customers.

Like previous holidays, customers were waiting on a long queue inside the Factory’s compound located on Dej Woldemikael Street in Mexico Square, to buy liquor for the Easter holidays. The factory distributes its products on a dozen routes in Addis Abeba, from its plants housed in Mexico and Sebeta.

The 26-year old father and businessperson, Ephrem Tilahun, was one of the customers who were at the Factory to buy six bottles to present them as a gift to his relatives. He bought different brands at a around price of 70 Br per bottle.

“I usually take liquor to both my family and my wife’s family,” he said.”They always expect that.”

Unlike his family members, Ephrem takes wine to his friend’s home as a gift; this is because traditionally consumption of alcohol is an integral part of celebrations during the holidays.

One of the seasons, when the demand for such spirits boom is the Ethiopian Easter holidays. This is followed by the most extended fasting season, known as Hudadi or the Abiy Tsom, which lasts for 55 days.

During these fasting days, followers of the Orthodox and Catholic doctrines keep aloof from meat and some liquor until the last day of Easter, a festival celebrated in commemoration of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus from the dead after three days.

Alcohol is an integral part of peoples’ lives during holiday celebrations. After the traditional cuisine, Ethiopians enjoy liquor recalling its significance for digestion. Total alcohol consumption per capita in Ethiopia was reported at 4.3 in 2015, according to the World Bank (WB).

Along with locally produced brews, imported spirits are also in high demand. Whisky, vodka, Tequila, wine, gin, and rum are imported types of spirits consumed in large quantities, during the holiday seasons.

The local name for this liquor, araqe, is one of the Amharic words with a foreign origin. Countries as near as Iran and as far as Lithuania use variations of this word for similar liquors that are often home-made. Other than the traditional home-brewed beer, also known as tella, and home-processed, tej, mead or honey wine and factory products of liquor are consumed in large quantities during holidays.

On holidays Ethiopians invite neighbours over for a meal, the liquor being part of the celebrations.

Ouzo brand liquor with a 41pc alcoholic content and Double Ouzo, also known as Enat ena Lij Araqe having 43pc alcohol, are in high demands during holidays, according to Mesfin Abate, deputy chief executive officer for production & technic at NALF produces 17 types of liquor and distributes them around using its 18 vehicles.

The 111-year old Factory, which supplies products with an alcoholic content ranging from 24pc to 43pc, increased its revenue by more than three folds from 188 million Br in 2011 to 607.4million Br in the 2016/17 fiscal year. Its capital rose drastically from 12 million Br in 2011 to 222 million Br last year. The firm has 683 employees.

Along with locally produced brews, imported spirits are also in high demand. Whisky, vodka, Tequila, wine, gin, and rum are imported types of spirits consumed in large quantities, during the holiday seasons.

Nur Hussen Yassin, a company, engaged in the import business, is the only authorised importer of Winter Palace Vodka. It is one of the companies which reaps, extensively from the lavish spending of holidays that push the demand of spirits up.

Nur Hussen, which has been in the business for the past two decades, runs NN Duty-Free outlets, London Cafe and Satellite Restaurant in Bole International Airport under its umbrella. It experiences a double customer flow during the holiday seasons, according to Danny Davis, the managing director of the company. They usually import their products from Scotland and Russia.

The company import over 130 types of products, with a price range of between 300 Br to 35,100 Br. King George whiskey is an exceptional brew from Johnnie Walker which is the most expensive spirit in the market. Talking about quantity in packaging, the company offers their products in packages ranging from half a litter to five litters.

In conjunction with the imported brands, Micro & Small Enterprises (MSEs) bazaars offer various types of locally made liquor, a.k.a araqe.

The Scotch whiskey, Johnnie Walker and the Russian vodka Winter Palace imported by Nur Hussen, are the exotic liquors which are highly consumed by buyers on any given holiday.

“Not only individual buyers but distributors and hotels will gobble them up,” Davis told Fortune.

Elsa, Winter Palace Vodka Shop is another liquor retailer located on Djibouti Avenue for the past three years.

Black and Red Label whisky, Vodka and White Horse are prefered by many consumers, according to Henok Alemu, the salesperson at Elsa.

The 29-year old computer maintenance specialist, Yonas Worku, is one of those whose alcohol consumption increases during the holiday seasons.

“Even though I’m not an alcoholic, I drink beer and draught beer once in a while,” said Yonas, who owns a 10sqm shop in Genet Commercial Building around Kenenisa Avenue, “but during holidays, my consumption is always higher.”

“I buy whiskey and wine for my family and friends as a holiday gift,” Yonas told Fortune.

In addition to the locally brewed and imported drinks, domestic wines – like Axumite, Guder and Awash are highly appreciated. Gerar and Rift Valley, both products of Castel Winery, which is under the French-based corporation, Castel Group, are also getting a better acceptance during the holidays.

In conjunction with the imported brands, Micro & Small Enterprises (MSEs) bazaars offer various types of locally made liquor, a.k.a araqe.

The demand for the spirits will always remain high even after the Easter holidays, as alcohol is required on Dagmawi Tensei, a celebration which originated after the acceptance of people who did not initially believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus on Easter. Traditionally, on this day, Araqe, both locally brewed and factory distilled, are casual gifts to take to relatives, along with Difo Dabo – a traditional bread.

By Bethelhem Bahran



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