If you spend a lot of time in Patan, it is likely that you are already familiar with Ai-La, the restaurant and lounge atop Trimurti Bhawan, known for its tasty food and spectacular city-wide views. But have you tried their varied range of classic and specialized cocktails? Bartenders Kumar Lama and Shiva Bhandari impress with their competence and experience, and are excellent at pairing flavors in ways that are familiar and also occasionally unexpected. Good bartenders have a wealth of knowledge about different drinks and what goes well together, so if you’re not sure what to order, tell them about your tastes—sweet, sour, and so on—as well as what sorts of booze you like, and they will be able to point you in the right direction and suggest cocktails that are sure to be winners.
All this makes Ai-La a great place to get your drink. Here are a few suggestions to get you going, and if you’re feeling adventurous, we’ve included the recipes so that you can try them out at home, too. Adding a few fun and unique cocktails to your drinks repertoire is a great thing to do, and will surely impress your friends and loved ones at your next party! Don’t let the look of them put you off, with a little practice, these are easier than you might imagine.
Don’t forget to drink responsibly, and when enjoying these drinks at Ai-La, order a few of their delicious and well-loved snack options while you’re at it, like the Onion Rings, Cheese Balls, or Spicy Chicken Tenders with Honey Mustard Sauce. The right snack can make a good drink that much tastier. Enjoy!
This was one of the most impressive and sophisticated cocktails that we sampled. Even though the taste of anise is not something I generally enjoy, the flavor combination of this drink was just about close to perfect; this is an amazing and professionally created drink that feels refreshing on the palate. And I was really impressed with the use of such a unique local spirit—the aila—and the way its flavour really added to the drink. This is one drink destined to become a classic!
Himalayan Aila: 45 ml
Sambuca: 15 ml
Pineapple juice: 30 ml
Apple juice: 30 ml
Thin slices of apple to garnish
Put the aila, sambuca, and pineapple and apple juices in a shaker filled with ice, shake well, and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with thin apple slices and serve immediately, it’s best very cold.
This is a simple drink to make, but make sure you measure the ingredients accurately. Sambuca is a strong, anise flavored liqueur, and a little goes a long way, so don’t overdo it. If you have fresh squeezed pineapple or apple juice available, do use those, as they will give an extra dimension and zing to your cocktail.
This is quite a strong, sweet cocktail that is fun to drink. While the technique may take a few practice runs to pull off accurately, don’t let this put you off. Even if you don’t get the layers down right on your first try, it’s still a tasty drink, even if the layers get a bit mixed up.
Grenadine: 20 ml
Orange juice: 90 ml
Crème de menthe: 10-15 ml
Vodka: 45 ml
Slice of orange to garnish
This is a layered cocktail, which means it takes a little time and patience to assemble properly, but the end result is well worth any effort. The Rainbow Day is an impressive show stopper!
Pour the grenadine in the bottom of the glass—use a tall thin glass such as a champagne flute—and then carefully pour over the orange juice. To keep them from mixing, you can pour gently over the back of a spoon, letting the juice slowly run down the sides of the glass instead of pouring it in a heavy stream. Mix the crème de menthe and vodka together, then pour carefully over the orange juice in the same manner. You should end up with an attractive glass with three distinct layers in it. This works because the thicker, heavier grenadine syrup stays on the bottom and the lighter vodka mint mix floats. You can find some good sample videos on the internet if you need a visual sample of this technique.
This was one of my very favorite cocktails from the tasting. I love a good margarita, and the addition of strawberry syrup puts a whole new spin on things and takes an already excellent classic drink to a whole new level. This is a fairly sweet drink, but the salt and lime provide a good counterbalance, and the tequila really comes through as it should. Definitely order this one next time you go to Ai-La!
Tequila: 45 ml
Triple sec: 15 ml
Sour mix: 30 ml
Strawberry syrup: 15-20 ml
Salt and lemon or lime slices to garnish
Put the tequila, triple sec, sour mix, and strawberry syrup in an ice filled shaker and shake vigorously. Rub some lime around the edge of a margarita glass and dip carefully in a dish of salt. Pour in the drink, taking care not to disturb the salt rim. Garnish with slices of lemon or lime and drink immediately, while very cold.
Hot Rum Punch
Everyone’s favorite cold weather drink, we’re just now coming into the season for enjoying this best. When you’re chilly and need a pick-me-up, there’s almost nothing better than a hot rum punch. I really enjoyed Ai-La’s take on this drink—it was visually attractive, as well as full bodied and flavorful, and the addition of the small amount of cinnamon gave it that something a little bit different. This is a drink that everyone probably has their own casual recipe for, but if you want to make it a little more sophisticated, here’s how to do it the Ai-La way.
Dark rum: 60 ml
Lemon juice: 15 ml
Freshly boiled water
Use a heatproof glass for this drink, preferably with a handle. Spoon a large tablespoon of liquid honey into the bottom of the glass, then gently pour over the rum, lemon juice, and hot water. Sprinkle just a pinch or so of powdered cinnamon over the surface of the drink, make sure you don’t use too much, or it will overpower all the other flavors. Serve to your guests with a long teaspoon, so they can stir it all together themselves before enjoying.
The bartenders told me this is a popular drink among the ladies who visit Ai-La, and it’s easy to see why. This is a cool, refreshing cocktail that is light and energizing and goes down a treat. When I take a big sip, I can imagine sitting in the sunshine on the beach or by a swimming pool; it has a tropical zing to it, and the flavors combine so well together.
Bacardi white rum: 45 ml
Malibu rum: 15 ml
Blue Curacao: 15 ml
Pineapple juice: 60-90 ml
Orange wedge for garnish
Combine the Bacardi, Malibu, Blue Curacao, and pineapple juice in an ice-filled shaker and shake vigorously. Pour into a large glass (bubble shaped is fun) over more ice. Garnish with an orange wedge, and enjoy!
This is a delicious and cooling cocktail served in a large glass. At first glance it looked like a mint lemonade, but don’t be fooled, this is boozy. It tastes light, minty, and refreshing, but with an undertone of delicious rum—it’s impossible to go wrong ordering this, it’s so good!
Bacardi white rum: 60 ml
Lemon juice 15 ml
Sugar syrup (or brown sugar) 15 ml
Lots of mint, carefully washed and sorted
Lime slices to garnish
Fill a large glass with ice and pour in the rum, lemon juice, sugar syrup, and mint leaves. Stir vigorously and top up the glass with soda water, adding a slice of lime to the rim as a garnish, and a few more mint leaves, if you like.