From majestic mountains to gorgeous Terai plains, from beautiful valleys to deep lakes, from delicious cuisines to amazing liquors, Nepal has it all. The beauty and food of Nepal are always hot topics, but when it comes to alcoholic beverages, we aren’t quite famous. It is not because Nepal doesn’t have the best alcoholic beverages, but because they aren't often promoted.
Nepal being an agricultural country, most of the drinks are prepared using grains at home itself. So, the alcohols are very pure, without any mixture of chemicals. In many instances, Nepali alcohol beverages are also used for medicinal purposes and are a must-have in many cultures to carry out cultural rituals. The home-brewed alcohol of Nepal is unmatchable, and many of the houses still brew alcohol in the traditional method.
In the Himalayas, most people take a few sips of alcohol to warm their bodies and beat the freezing nights. In many communities, people consume alcohol to mark the harvesting season. Alcohol has been a very essential part of Nepali culture, tradition, celebration, and day-to-day life.
Here are the top 5 alcoholic beverages you must try on your visit to Nepal:
1. Rakshi/ Aila
Rakshi in Nepali and Aila in Newari are two of the most popular and consumed local alcoholic beverages in Nepal. The wholegrain millet is fermented in yeast for a long time and then brewed in clay and brass pots. This type of alcohol is a must in Newari rituals. It is very strong and hits without warning. It is served from a very decorative brass pot in a clay vessel in the Newari community. Rakshi, or Aila, is also taken as a token of love for people’s houses when visiting. It is said that if Rakshi or Aila is heated in ghee with thyme seeds, it will cure the common cold and help to heat the body.
Chhyang is a drink that is close to Jaad and Tongba. It is also made by the fermentation of rice. It is milky white in color. It has a strong yet very soothing sweet and sour taste. It is said that this drink is inspired by Tibet and Bhutan. It is mostly used in the Sherpa and Newari (it is called Thwoo in the Newari language) communities, but normally most people drinking alcohol enjoy it. Chhyang has high calories, vitamin content, beneficial lactic acid bacteria, and yeast. It is not just tasty but also gives energy and provides nutrition.
Tongba is also a millet-based drink that is mostly consumed in the mountainous region of Nepal. It has cultural and religious significance to the Limbu community for their special occasions, ceremonies, and festivals. The beverage is made by using millet, yeast, and water. The consumption of this drink is different from others. The fermented millet is kept in a wooded pot, and then hot water is poured into the container. A metal or bamboo stick is stuck in, and then the drink is sucked in. Once the tongba gets dry, you can add water and drink again. This process can be repeated until the taste of alcohol fades away. This drink helps with digestion because the prebiotic nature of lactobacillus can be found in it.
Toddy is an alcoholic beverage made from the saps of various palm trees. Usually, sap from wild dates, palmyra, and dwarf dates is used to make toddy. It is also called Taadi, or Palm Wine, in English. It is mostly drunk in the Terai region of Nepal. Toddy is white in color, similar to Chhyang, and has a sweet taste. Toddy without fermentation is just basic juice, but when fermented with yeast, it becomes an alcohol of 5 to 10%. It is also famous in other regions of Asia, besides Nepal. It is strong and has a very fast alcohol kick-in. People consume it on a regular basis. It is a cold drink, so it helps to beat the Terai heat in the summer.
Marpha is a drink that is produced in Manang district, in the upper mountainous regions of Nepal. It is made up of fermented apples from the organic apple orchids of the Nepali mountains. It is a brandy drink with a strong alcohol taste and no color. It is a very famous branded drink in the Nepali market. Marpha has become a popular souvenir item for tourists, but also for their families and friends back home.
Not just these five, but there are many other beverages that are consumed in Nepal, like Jaad, Mahuwa, etc., belonging to various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Nepal’s alcoholic beverages are a reflection of Nepalese culture and traditions. People have been preserving and celebrating the roots of Nepalese culture, resulting in a long-standing alcohol history passed from generations to generations.
-feature image from Tips Nepal