The Malla Hotel has been around for almost five decades and is one of the prestigious hotels besides being one of the oldest and most notable in Kathmandu. Started by Maharajkumari Rama Malla in 1975 with a capacity of 75 rooms, it was later expanded to 119 rooms. The hotel was built at the old site of the legendary Rang Mahal, the palace of many colors, a well known landmark in Nepali history.

The Cocktail Club at the Malla brings you something exciting and ingenious, and to talk about it all is Bar and Restaurant Manager, Ram K. Pudasaini who knows what it takes to create a killer cocktail. With a 20 year experience as a mixologist, Ram has built up quite a reputation with his colorful signature cocktails. After completing a stint in Dubai working for the Irish Pub for 10 years, he returned home and joined the Dwarika’s Hotel where he spent another 12 years honing his skills. Working for Dwarika’s, he had time to add to his repertoire of cocktails and found recognition in the industry for his fine skills. Over time his skills have grown and he has been awarded several times for his mastery, earning him respect among his clients and peers.
Meeting Ram and hearing him speak about his experiences left me in no doubt that this man is clearly passionate about what he is doing and one can see it in his craft. He describes bartending as a skill refined through age, saying that the simplest cocktails made by the hands of someone with experience can taste totally different from what an amateur can concoct out of the same ingredients. Like the saying goes, “With age, does come wisdom and with age, does come skill.” Then Ram offers me something I just can’t refuse. So, we decide on an old fashioned whiskey based drink that exudes both simplicity and sophistication. He took out a bottle of bourbon from the cabinet above and started preparing the ingredients swiftly, using precise measurements from what I could observe; the slightest of movements calculated but calm, honed with repeated and dedicated practice. 

The result was an amber delight that looked spectacular with a solid piece of ice floating on top of a beautiful whiskey glass. The final test was to see if the drink tasted as good as it looked. The first sip hinted at notes of the orange zest followed by the taste of sweet caramel and a kick of earthy notes. As the ice slowly started melting, the taste of the drink diluted to become more subtle and opened up the condensed sweet and citrus notes. He was right on how skill clearly defined results. In my eyes, his skills were immaculate and his claim impeccable. For me the meaning of old fashioned was redefined that day.

While I slowly sipped on my old fashioned drink, he talked about his wish to create drinks infused with herbs rather than using artificial flavoring. He loves the idea of experimenting with natural ingredients to see how compatible they are with spirits and prefers natural garnishes on his creations. According to him, his clients praise his efforts to create something more natural, trusting him on his ingenuity to produce something exceptional. Ram has created several drinks which might seem unorthodox, but I am of the view that you can't make assumptions before trying his concoctions first hand. He definitely appreciates the freedom his customers allow him when they ask him to make them a special cocktail. They quite often order several drinks after the first one. “They must enjoy the drink or they are simply inebriated,” jokes Ram.
Our conversation then led us on to talk about the Nepali liquor industry where I got the chance to ask him about his personal favorite. He says, “I am certainly proud of how the industry has produced several exquisite liquors in the last few years, but for me, Khukuri rum will always be an all time favorite. The new line of Khukuri white rum that was added recently helped me augment my arsenal”. 

Ram then offers to give me a tour of the hotel property and we walk out of the club heading towards the popular Garden which seems to be hosting a lavish wedding. This fabulous garden was designed by the famous late Desmond Doig and has won countless awards over the years. We maneuver past several of the guests and come across the Aviary Bar. 
The Aviary Bar is built around the surrounding trees perfectly blending in with the sprawling garden. The bark of a tree cleverly conceals the bar table adding to the allure of the place that seems part of nature. “The Aviary Bar will feature some of my new drinks in the coming months,” informs Ram proudly. At the east end of the Aviary Bar, we see the new Belvedere Banquet Hall which to me looks like a giant glass house. The slanted roof and transparent panels make it a unique structure, ideal for hosting weddings and other social functions. With the end of the tour, I bid farewell to Ram and thank him for hosting me at the remarkable Malla Hotel.