Ara (drink)

Ara, or Arag, (Tibetan and Dzongkha: ཨ་རག་; Wylie: a-rag; "alcohol, liquor") is a traditional alcoholic beverage consumed in Bhutan. Ara is made from native high-altitude tolerant barley, rice, maize, millet, or wheat, and may be either fermented or distilled. The beverage is usually a clear, creamy, or white color.[1]


Ara is most commonly made from rice or maize at private homes or farms. Ara may be either fermented or distilled,[2] and in Bhutan is only legally produced and consumed privately. Ara production is unregulated in both method and quality, and its sale is prohibited in Bhutan. Previously, private individuals sold ara through shopkeepers despite the prohibition and faced a harsh government crackdown. However, because Ara returns far more profit than other forms of maize, many Bhutanese farmers have pressed for legal reform.[3] The Bhutanese government, meanwhile, is intent on discouraging excessive alcohol consumption, abuse, and associated diseases through taxation and regulation.[4][5]

Ara is also produced for religious purposes, especially in eastern Bhutan, where it serves as a Lhasoel offering on certain auspicious days.[6][7] Ara is also believed to chemically ward off snakes, and is sometimes carried by children for protection.[8]

Through government efforts to reduce ara production and consumption in Lhuntse District, eastern Bhutan, locals conceded something should be done to curb the distinctly eastern Bhutanese tradition of heavy drinking. The government's strategy is to reduce ara production and consumption gradually until it is eliminated. Alcoholism and ara production have been notable topics of political discussion Bhutan, especially at the local level.[9]


Ara is usually consumed hot. It may be served neat, with smooth additives like butter and poached egg, or with chunky additives like scrambled egg and rice.[2]

See also


  1. "Merak and Sakteng - The Land of Brokpas". Wind Horse Tours online. Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
  2. Jones, Noa (2011-06-02). "Making Moonshine: How to Make Bhutanese Rice Wine". Tricycle online. Retrieved 2019-11-24.
  3. Wangdi, Tempa (2011-01-27). "Ara Production and Sale Should Be Legalized, Farmers Say". Bhutan Observer online. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
  4. Namgyal, Gyembo (2011-03-15). "Reduce Alcohol Abuse, Lyonchhen Urges Local Leaders". Bhutan Observer online. Archived from the original on 2012-04-03. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
  5. Namgyal, Gyembo (2011-07-18). "Alcohol Price Hike Doesn't Quite Discourage Drinking". Bhutan Observer online. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
  6. Namgyal, Gyembo (2010-01-19). "It is Lhasoel Time in the East". Bhutan Observer online. Archived from the original on 2011-01-20. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
  7. Frank Rennie, Robin Mason (ed.) (2008). Bhutan: Ways of Knowing. IAP. p. 113. ISBN 978-16-07528-24-1. Retrieved 24 November 2019. {{cite book}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  8. Dema, Tashi (2007-06-04). "Trongsa: Slithering with Snakes". Kuensel online. Archived from the original on 2012-04-02. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
  9. Wangchuck, Jigme (2011-09-05). "Ara Faces Banishment in Lhuentse". Bhutan Observer online. Archived from the original on 2011-09-07. Retrieved 2011-09-08.
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