Aila (or Ayla) is a Newari alcoholic beverage made by distilling fermented grains like rice and millet. It is traditionally prepared in people’s homes and it is not yet commercially bottled and sold in the market. However it can be found in the menus at many traditional Newari eateries in and outside of Kathmandu. It manages to retain a very mellow taste despite containing about 60 percent of alcohol and it was listed as being one of the 50 most delicious drinks in the world by CNN. It is usually prepared by Newari women to mark the beginning of festivals and social events in the Newar society. Rice and millet are mixed with special yeast called marcha that help the fermentation process. The amount of rice and millet depends on the taste, as adding more millet intensifies the taste. The distillation is done using clay and brass vessels designed specifically for this purpose. The raw fermented mixture is cooked over a wood fire stove. The temperature of the flame and the cooling water are the two factors controlling the quality of this beverage during distillation.
Aila and other alcoholic beverages play a big role in the Newari culture, in which consumption of alcohol is not only allowed but also encouraged. According to the Tantric traditions, food is divided into three groups: mamsa (meat), matsya (fish) and madya (alcohol). Newars believe that offering alcoholic beverages to the local deities would satisfy the gods and bestow the worshippers with good luck. Therefore, aila and other types of alcohol are offered to the gods during every religious festival and social function, after which it is served to the rest of the people who attend it.
If you want to explore the taste of different types of aila, just enter any Newari restaurant and ask for a glass of the liquor. You will definitely not regret it!