5000 years ago a few sages somewhere in Northern India decided that plain mango juice was no longer their thing and they needed something more uplifting if they were to get on with their work of contemplating the cosmos. Thus Soma was born. The nectar of the Gods had a long innings (a few millenia) till it vanished much to the dismay of the current generation of Indians.
The culture of drinking in India is strong indeed. Though the inhabitants of India till circa 1000 AD were fairly rambunctious (some of the poetry of that period will set the current moral police by its ears) the Islamic invasion put a slight crimp on the festivities. Slight, mind you. The Emperor Jahangir had his own collection of wine cups. Emperor Mohammed Shah was not called "Rangeela" (colorful) for nothing. Mirza Ghalib spoke lovingly of the wine shops of Meerut. Though the moral police have been active, the determined tipplers have soldiered on and even have a signature poem - the amazing "Madhushala" by Harivansh Rai Bachchan (Amitabh Bachchan's one true durable claim to fame could be the fact that he is Mr. Bachchan's son).
Given the fact that the majority of the year is hot and dry, Indian potions normally tend to be light and fruity. Also given the ambient conditions, very few products are ever aged. The focus is always on freshness. Drinking freshly tapped toddy, early in the morning by the roadside in peninsular India is one of the joys of rural life.