With the Nepali New Year around the corner and warmer weather finally upon us, we turn to some tasty libations for this months ‘Five Things to Do—or Drink—in Nepal.
Aila: This potent Nepali firewater comes in many degrees of potency—all unknown, of course—since this is very much a homemade affair, and you won’t find any proof numbers on the bottle. But let’s just say the strong versions can be set alight…like the one on offer at Bhojan Griha as part of their traditional Nepali dinners, which is sourced from a family in Bhaktapur that has been making it for years. Some people are just clearly legendary at producing the stuff; I’ve tasted a twenty-year-old aila in someone’s home that was so nuanced it could have won prizes if there were aila competitions, which sadly, there aren’t.
Chyang: This is a really fun drink, primarily because there are so many different kinds of chyang on offer, depending on where you get it from. A homemade brew, usually made from barley, millet, or rice, it can be sweet, sour, thick, bubbly, or anything in between. Small local restaurants often make their own, or procure it from a nearby local chyang maker. There’s the Sherpa style, the Newari style, or the this-is-the-way-my-grandmother-makes-it style. If you don’t already have a favorite place to drink chyang, start asking around!
Tongba: Some people find tongba to be an acquired taste, and while it is admittedly more of a winter drink than a summer one, we can’t leave it out of a list of the country’s local brews. The lightly fermented millet is heaped into a wooden or metal receptacle and hot water is poured over it, now add a straw, and you’re ready to go. Originally from the northern Tibetan and Sherpa communities, it’s now gaining in popularity with just about everyone. It’s a relaxed, easygoing sort of drink. You can’t knock it back in a hurry; rather, it lends itself to long evenings with friends, a thermos of boiling water close at hand to top up.
Beer: Nepal’s got a lot of great beer, though it does seem most are of the lager variety. Some popular homegrown favorites include Everest Beer, Gorkha Beer, and the more recent Khumbu Kolsch from Nepal’s first craft brewery. If you’re a die-hard beer lover, though, and are missing the wide range of beers available abroad, then get down to the Yeti Taproom and Beer Garden in Thamel, where a truly impressive spread of over sixty craft beers from all over world can be found on offer. As you might expect from the name, international beers will be available on tap, too—by the time you read this or soon thereafter. Whichever brew you select, there’s a beautiful garden to enjoy it all in!
Wine: Gone are the days when a good glass of wine was hard to find in Nepal. With a greater quality of imports now flowing in regularly, you can now enjoy a wide cross-section of international wines at restaurants around the city more often than not. Some even specialize in the products of the vine, like Vino Bistro in Lazimpat, whose knowledgeable staff will cheerfully guide you to a perfect choice from their huge wide selection. The Vesper Cafe & Restaurant also has an ever increasing amount of choice wines on offer.