Best of Indian Summer Drinks
Summer is something that I dreaded the most when I was shifting back from Bangalore to Gurgaon. But at the same time, I was looking forward to the wide variety of food and drink that you can enjoy in various seasons of Delhi. In a never changing weather like Bangalore, the food that you consume also remains more or less the same throughout the year, but in a place like Delhi the food that you consume also changes with the weather. In summers you have the cool Indian summer drinks and lot of liquid-based food, in winter it is the dry fruits and ghee based heavy food. And during rains, it is the fried Pakoras with piping hot tea.
I discovered or rather rediscovered the wonders of the cool Indian summer drinks. There are Sharbats, juices, Thandai and other lemon and fruit-based drinks. Listed in an alphabetic order, here is an attempt to go down the memory lane, remembering the summers gone by with the Indian summer drinks:
This is the typical Indian summer drink made from Mangoes, usually from the slightly raw ones with the green cover. You boil the green mangoes, then add sugar and jeera (cumin seeds) to the boiled pulp, add the appropriate quantity of water, chill and serve with ice. The king of fruits does give you a drink that you would cherish for a long time. There are off-the-shelf versions available that you can simply add to water and have. Traditional Indian restaurants like Haldirams and Bikanerwalas offer this as a drink on their menu. But nothing beats the one you make for yourself after creating a mess with your hands and your clothes.
This is a drink that I don’t remember from my childhood. But this summers I enjoyed it the most. I am sure you can make it out of fresh Amlas (Indian Gooseberry), but the one I use is available as an Amla extract. You get it from the market, just add some salt and optionally some Heeng or Asafoetida, chat masala, black pepper powder and you have a refreshing summer drink ready. Which not only helps to manage the summer heat but also keeps your body healthy and immune.
The Bael is a fruit hard on the outside and is pulpy inside with Orangish Yellow color. You have to break it open and then scoop out the messy pulp in a container. You can add a whole lot of water to bring it to a drinkable consistency and add sugar to taste before you drink. One can also try adding a bit of lemon or some other fruit juices like orange or litchi. I prefer it with a dash of a citrus fruit. If you want to serve it to guests and want to make it look more presentable, you can churn it in a blender for few minutes.
In all probability the fruit will be too big for you to consume in one go, so you can preserve it in the deep freezer, take out some and have it anytime. It has an amazingly cool effect and you would be able to feel your body heat cooling down. No wonder it is offered to Lord Shiva on Shivaratri.
Jaljeera – Popular among Indian Summer Drinks
It’s a traditional North Indian drink primarily consumed during summers. On the roads, you would see a lot of street vendors selling it. You can spot them through their trademark red cloth covered Matkas (clay pots), with mint leaves and lemons decorating the pushcart. You can have it with plain water or with soda, with salt and masala added to taste. For preparing it at home, Jaljeera powder is readily available at grocery stores, you can add lemon juice with water or soda, top it up with some mint leaves and ice and you have a refreshing drink ready. You can also add ginger for the flavor.
Khus Khus drink
This dark green colored drink is made out of Khus Khus or poppy seeds, though I could never make out how it gets the green color. Like other fruit drinks, this is also available in concentrate form in bottles, from various brands. You can just add water and ice and it is ready to drink. The taste is sweet, and I like it all by itself and have never tried adding anything else to it.
This can easily be called the national drink of Punjab made from curd. Not sure if this is a reality, but people across the country think that whole of Punjab uses washing machines to make Lassis. But underlying thought is the assumption that so much Lassi is consumed that a mere blender would not be enough and you need a blender of the size of a washing machine. You can make it again salted or sweet. The salted variety can be further flavored with coriander leaves, mint leaves, Heeng (asafoetida), ginger etc. The sweet variety can be flavored with various essences or with real fruits like Mango or Banana.
Chhaachh (Buttermilk) is the diluted variety of Lassi which can be enjoyed along with the meals and provides a good digestion. To have the south Indian variety, buttermilk, add a Tadka of rai (mustard seeds) and add some red or green chilies, ginger, and asafoetida.
Rose Drink or Rooh Afza
This is a traditional old drink; I can remember its TV ads from my childhood. It is Rose flavored and bright pink colored concentrate, just add some water and ice and go for it anytime. It is my favorite additive to flavor the cold milk on hot summer nights. You can also try it with fresh Water Melon juice with a bit of lemon, another refreshing drink in your hands.
This is an Indian summer drink that traditionally belongs to Bihar and around. This being readily available in NCR and other parts of the country is a symbol of a kind of globalization within India, where we are getting to taste the flavors of our own diverse country. Sattu is available in primarily two varieties Chana and Jaun i.e. black gram or maize. There are other varieties also, but I have not experimented with them. This is available as a powder in the grocery stores, though I am told you can make it at home as well from the whole grains. For the convenience pick up the powder and mix it with water. You can make it either with salt and lemon or with sugar. I make it with Gur (jaggery) and it tastes yummy and gives an instant cooling impact.
Sharbats and Juices
There are all kinds of concentrate Sharbats and canned juices available off the shelf. The widely available flavors are orange, pineapple, apple, lemon, litchi, and mango. But with India going global, you have flavors like cranberry, blueberry, kiwi etc are also gaining popularity.
One of the flavors that I particularly relish is Lemon Barley.
Shikanji – common Indian Summer Drinks
This is the common lemon drink, variants being salted, sweet, salt and sweet. You can have it with plain water or soda. Add the flavors as you like masala, jeera, ginger, mint, coriander or anything that catches your imagination. It provides you with all the necessary salts that you lose with sweat during summers. Modinagar, a town that lies on way to Meerut from Delhi is famous for its Masala Shikanji. If you ever travel on that road, you must try this out.
This is the roadside variety of Shikanji, made from soda which comes in a bottle which is locked using a glass marble also called Bunta and hence the name. It is ubiquitously available on the roads. Earlier they used to serve it in glasses, now they give you the disposable paper glasses with a plastic lid and that’s the only change that this drink has seen over the ages.
This is the most energy giving drink, primarily made from almonds, other fruit seeds, and spices. You can make it at home and it is also readily available off the shelf. Add a couple of spoons to a glass of either water or milk and relish the rich taste. I am yet to taste it this summer.
It is not one of the traditional Indian summer drinks, but I find them the best option to have in a modern day coffee shop. My favorite remains the traditional Lemon, but the other fruit varieties also sound exciting. You can very easily make Ice tea at home, just put less of tea and add the right flavor.
Ganne Ka Ras or Sugarcane Juice
Plain Ganne ka Ras is a popular summer drink, but with salt, lime juice and or with Adrak (Ginger) freshly crushed Sugarcane Juice not just cools but also greatly re-energize the consumer in summers.
Try these Indian Summer Drinks out sometime…and if there are any more drinks that I do not know of, please let me know…:-)
Tell me which are your favorite Indian Summer Drinks?
Recommend you to read following Places to visit in India.