From nature to culture, culture to tradition Nepal doesn’t know how to disappoint. The same thing applies to the authentic food and beverages of Nepal. In food or drink, we Nepalese people reflect our culture. The originality and Unique texture of the beverage is unmatchable in Nepal.
However, without drinks, the food cannot be complete. Thus, here are the “5 best alcohol to try in Nepal” when traveling.
Check our “Must try foods of Nepal” too.
No 1 Alcohol to try in Nepal: Raksi
Raksi is a traditional distilled alcoholic beverage made and served in Nepal. Before, the word Raksi was given to only one specific alcohol which was a homemade Raksi but nowadays Raksi word has become the common name for all alcoholic beverages.
According to Hindu legends like Ramayana and Mahabharat, it was brought up as a recreational drink drank by gods and goddesses.
It is produced, sold, and mostly consumed at distilleries scattered around the countryside. Usually, it is stored for future consumption but not aged. And the taste resembles Japanese sake.
Generally, Raksi is a very strong drink that can be a little cloudy in color or clear as well. Also, it is mostly made in the consumer’s house and is made from Kodo (millet), rice, and other different grains. The different grains give different flavors to Raksi. In CNN’s list of the world’s 50 most delicious drinks, Raksi was ranked 41st.
Raksi also has high ceremonial value in many communities in Nepal. There are many festivals that are not complete without the use of Raksi. It is also taken as Koseli (token of love) during different occasions and festivals. In the Magar community, Raksi is taken as Koseli(gift) during a marriage proposal, name-giving (naming child), rice feeding, hair-cutting, and many other occasions.
How to Make Raksi?
To make Raksi first, we have to clean the millet and boil it in a copper pot until the millet is cooked and gives a fine aroma and flavor. During the process, the millet is cooked breaking the starch cells and making it flexible for fermentation.
Once the cooked millet is cooled down to around 20 degrees Celsius, yeast is added (known as morcha in Nepal) mixed properly, and stored in a container for about two weeks or more to be fermented. During the fermentation process, the yeast reacts with sugar and converts sugar present in millet into alcohol.
The yeast plays a major role in making alcohol. The container is stored in a warm place so that yeast can chemically react with the fermented millet. The utensils used during the process of making Raksi are not very complex either.
An earthen pot is used and it is again covered by a copper pot which is in an oval shape at the bottom so that the vapor can drip through the back of the pot and get stored in a small earthen pot inside the big copper pot.
The small gap between the big earthen pot and the oval-shaped pot is covered with a clean wet cloth so that no vapor can pass through the container. It is very important to keep the cloth wet so that it becomes airtight.
The oval-shaped copper pot is filled with cold water and the water is regularly changed when heated. Generally, the Raksi becomes high-quality with the best strong taste & is flammable if the water has been changed three times only also known as teen-pani in Nepali.
The alcohol percentage of teen pani Raksi is around 45% which is why when you drink Raksi it can be so strong that you can feel it smoothly running through your throat to your stomach. But talking about normal raksi consumed in daily life, it contains only 20% to 30% of alcohol percentage.
No 2 Alcohol to try in Nepal: Chyang
Chyang is a Nepalese and Tibetan alcoholic beverage also popular in parts of the eastern Himalayas, Yakkha, Limbu, Newar, Sunuwar, Rai, Gurung, Magar, Sherpa, Tamang, and Lepcha communities. Among Lepcha communities, Chyang has renamed ‘chi’.
It is also considered the second most popular alcoholic drink in Nepal. In general, it is slightly fizzy and gives out both a sweet and tart texture. Usually, Chyang is drunk at room temperature in summer but during winter it is served red hot in a bowl or wooden mug.
How Chyang is made?
Chyang is a white liquid extracted from fermented white rice. That is also why it is called rice wine or rice water as well. Some leftover rice is mixed with a special type of yeast prepared locally in Nepal called marcha. The fermentation process takes around 3 to 4 days in summer but it might take a longer time in winter, which is around 10 days. To sharpen the alcohol percentage and taste it is left to ferment for a few more days. After fermentation, water can be added according to the taste and mix it properly with the fermented rice mass and it is ready for consumption.
The alcohol contains in Chyang is 6.4%. Chyang has high calories, vitamin content, beneficial lactic acid bacteria, and yeast. It quenches thirst, gives energy, and provides nutrition as well. Mostly Chyang is not aged but stored.
Local legends believe that it is yeti’s (Himalayan ape-like creature) favorite beverage and is said to be the best remedy to ward off the severe cold of the mountains. Apparently, it is also believed that it has many healing properties for conditions like a common cold, fevers, allergic rhinitis, and so on.
No 3 Alcohol to try in Nepal: Tongba
Tongba is a millet-based alcoholic beverage found in the eastern mountainous region of Nepal. It is culturally and religiously important to the “Limbu people“. Offering Tongba is considered a sign of respect in the Limbu community and also an important drink for special occasions, ceremonies, and festivals. Taplejung is widely known as the ultimate destination for drinking Tongba. Whereas Limbuwan (present-day in eastern Nepal) is regarded as the origin place of Tongba.
How to make Tongba?
The main ingredients for making Tongba are millet, yeast, and water. Actually, Tongba is a vessel that contains the fermented millet beverage known as mandokpenaa thee, which is prepared by cooking and fermenting whole grain millet.
Then it is laid down to cool and a special mixture of yeasts and herbs is added. Afterward, the mass is placed in a bamboo basket lined with green leaves or plastic to prevent leakage, covered with thick folds of cloth, and allowed to remain in a warm place for 1–2 days depending upon the temperature.
Afterward, the sweet mass is packed tightly into an earthenware pot or plastic jars and the opening is usually sealed off tightly to prevent air from entering or any other leakage. After storing for 7–15 days, the fermentation process is complete and the mass is converted to mandokpenaa thee.
The mandokpenna is left untouched in the pot after completion of fermentation leads to its maturation. After maturation, the flavor intensifies and gives a more mellow flavor.
Whereas, the consumption process of Tongba is very unique. The sweet mass (fermented millet) is kept in a wooden or metal container and hot water is poured into a container up to the brim, then we leave it for around five minutes. A bamboo or metal straw is used to suck out the alcohol from the millet grain. As the Tongba gets dry, we can refill it with the hot water to enjoy the Tongba again until the taste of alcohol fades away.
Tongba alcohol contain is approximately around 2%. Looking from a health point of view Tongba has some benefits as well. It helps with digestion because you’ve got the right kind of bacteria. It also helps with [nutrient] absorption. The pro-biotic nature of lactobacillus can also be found in Tongba, which is very beneficial for the digestive system.
No 4 Alcohol to try in Nepal: Marpha
Originally Marpha is a district located in Mustang district in Gandaki Province. Marpha village is quite a popular trekking destination itself. The name Marpha resembles a meaning, where ‘Mar’ means hardworking and ‘Pha’ means people. This village is also well known as the apple capital of the nation. Marpha has a cold semi-arid climate with cold, dry winters and mild, slightly wet summers.
Coming back to the alcohol, Marpha is a distilled alcoholic beverage from fermented apple mash. It is basically made up of different local fruits like apple, apricot, and peach. So, it falls under the category of fruit brandy.
Marpha is a colorless but potent alcoholic drink. Mostly Marpha is popular for its freshness and unique texture. It comes in two varieties, an apple, and a “premium” apricot brandy, both containing around 42% alcohol.
The making process of Marphas is not widely discussed. But according to some sources, the making process of Marpha and Raksi is not very different.
No 5 Alcohol to try in Nepal: Aila
Aila is a traditional Newari beverage that is produced from the distillation of fermented grains like rice, millet, and other grains. Aside from casual drinking, Aila is also an important part of the festival. Typically, it is made at home by the Newari community, by traditional methods.
The production of Aila is not commercial in Nepal but it is available in restaurants that serve Newari cuisine. CNN has famed it as one of the “50 most delicious drinks in the world”. Aila is also renamed firewater. In terms of appearance, it is water clear and it resembles the taste of good quality Baiju (typical Chinese liquor).
Generally, Aila is prepared by Newari people before any festivals, occasions, or socio-cultural events. Mainly rice and marcha (a local organic fermenting compound) are mixed and fermented for at least four to five days.
The fermented mass is also called ‘Jad’ and even this can be consumed as a raw and strong liquor. Millets are used as a substitute for rice in order to gain stronger flavor. The preparation of Aila requires a set of clay and brass vessels specially designed for this purpose alone.
How to make Aila?
‘Phosi’, ‘Pottasi’, ‘Dowacha’, ‘Jaisa’, and the ‘Aila bata’ are the names of these vessels. First, we have to put fermented mass into the Phosi and light up the oven. Then placed Phosi (the burning vessel), on top of the Potasi, which has numerous holes in its base. Through these holes that the vapor passes and is cooled by the cold-water present in the Aila bata (bucket).
The Aila bata (a vessel made out of brass) is placed on top of the Potasi and cools the vapor, changing it into liquid droplets. The liquid droplets are collected in the Dowacha (a vessel that is holding the Aila), which is placed inside the Potasi.
The texture is determined by the amount of heat transferred to Poshi and the cold water in Aila bata. There is a special way of pouring Aila at feasts and celebrations: it is poured from the graceful spouted anti (traditional Newari jug) into tiny clay cups called sallie, an art that tests the grace and skill of the pourer.
The alcohol contains in Aila is 60%. It is believed that around 3 shots (30ml) of strong Aila are enough to knock anyone from their senses. A good Aila is highly flammable. A fine-colored flame (usually a deep blue), reflects the quality of the drink.
In the Newar community, the consumption of Aila is very encouraged. According to traditional tantric (principles of the Hindu or Buddhist tantras), it is believed that the foods are divided into three categories; mamsa (meat), matsya (fish), and madya (alcoholic beverages).
It is highly believed that presenting alcohol will satisfy the tantric gods and they will bless the follower’s life will good luck and good fortune. Before consumption Aila is first offered to God and then only served.
To sum up, we promote the local and traditional alcoholic beverage which reflects our culture. We don’t promote or advertise excessive and irresponsible drinking habits. Drinking with family, and friends during occasions and creating beautiful memories can be a win for you, or drinking irresponsibly and inviting problems can be a loss to you. It’s all upon you so, drink responsibly.