It’s that time of the year when our body craves some flavourful hydration and all we want to do is down cold drinks by the gallon. But this summer, try stirring up some traditional Indian chillers and street drinks instead of guzzling the bottled beverages available in the market.
Made from seasonal fruits, herbs and spices, traditional coolers are the perfect way to beat the heat on sizzling summer days. Every region in India has its own versions, each perfected by years of experience and passing time. Moreover, each of them has a story of its own, a tale of centuries-old culture and cherished memories
So here are 18 delicious street drinks that define Indian summer. Trust us, you will love rediscovering these traditional thirst-quenchers!
1. Aam Panna
One of the perks of living in a tropical nation like India is the opportunity to indulge in mango-based summer drinks, of which the flavour-packed aam panna undoubtedly has the widest appeal. The drink that tastes of nostalgia, the enticing sweet-sour-spicy flavours of fresh kairi (raw mango) panna is especially popular in North Western India.
2. Nannari sherbet
Used in Ayurveda since time immemorial, nannari (also called ananthamool) is an extremely effective natural coolant that is definitely a heatstroke’s worst nightmare. A crowd favourite to beat the scorching summer heat in southern India, the refreshingly zesty drink tastes best served with a dash of lime and tons of crushed ice.
3. Jal Jeera/ Shikanji
Summertimes are synonymous with the incredibly refreshing jal jeera (also called shikanji in some places), a lemonade given a flavourful twist by simple spices like roasted cumin, pepper and black salt. It is especially popular in north India where one can often spot handcarts with giant clay matkas on the streets, selling chilled jal jeera garnished with mint leaves and boondi.
4. Bel Sherbet
A seasonal summer fruit filled with nutritional goodness, Bel (Wood Apple) (also known as Bellada Hannu in Kannada and Maredu in Telegu) is said to cure everything from heatstroke and upset tummy to dehydration and diabetes. Once you’ve broken through its woody outer shell, soak the pulp in water, and add jaggery and lemon juice to create a simple but potent cooler.
A much-loved summer drink in Maharashtra and Gujarat, Piyush is a delectably creamy concoction made by combining shrikhand, buttermilk, nutmeg, saffron and an assortment of dry fruits in the right quantity. Interestingly, the drink’s name literally means ‘amrit’ (or the drink of the Gods) and is a tribute to its soothing, nectar-like taste.
6. Sambharam/ Neer Mor
A summer favourite savoured across south India, sambaaram (also called neer mor) is nothing but delicious spicy buttermilk made from curd, green chillies, ginger and yoghurt. Every southern state has its very own version of this summer staple that is believed to have digestive, probiotic, hydrating and reviving properties.
Who doesn’t love this hearty Punjabi summer cooler? Often touted as the oldest smoothie in the world, a sip of luscious lassi (often served with a dollop of decadent malai) cascading down your parched throat can instantly lift your mood and provide relief from the sultry heat. Interestingly, Odisha has its own unique version of the lassi – the Oriya lassi also has grated coconut, rabdi, cherries and myriad nuts!
8. Taal sherbet/Nongu sherbet
Called Taal in Bengal, Targola in Maharashtra and Nongu in Tamil Nadu, ice apple is the juicy fruit of the palmyra tree and can be used to make a thrist-quencher that will wow you with its abundance of tender flavours. Super healthy and tasty for a creation so simple, this is one traditional cooler you simply should not miss!
9. Phalsa sherbet
Nothing short of spectacular, phalsa sherbet is a healthy chiller that you can slurp on all summer long. For the uninitiated, phalsa (Grewia asiatica) is a blueberry sized fruit with a deliciously tart flavour that is great for digestion and dehydration. The tiny tangy delight is also a low glycemic index fruit and can thus be enjoyed by diabetics too.
10. Mango Mastaani
Pune’s very own culinary creation, Mango Mastaani is a luscious street drink that will remind you that mango is indeed the true king of the fruit realm. It is basically a velvety mango milkshake topped with chunks of fresh fruit, crunchy nuts, succulent cherries and whipped cream. And yes, the drink is named after Mastaani, the beautiful princess of Bundelkhand who stole the mighty Peshwa Bajirao’s heart.
11. Chandan Sherbet
Sandalwood is renown for its cooling properties. Little wonder why chandan sherbet is such a great summer cooler. Infused with kewra extract and rose (or mogra petals), this drink doesn’t just have unique flavours, it also has a stunning colour and heady aroma. Who knew something this beautiful could be this healthy for you?
12. Jil Jil Jigarthanda
As far as names of drinks go, very few can match up to the curiosity Madurai’s iconic Jil Jil Jigarthanda evokes. Made by blending chilled milk, kadal paasi (edible sea algae), nannari syrup, almond resin, some basundi and dollops of ice cream, this delightful drink does what its name implies cool the heart on hot summer days!
A cooling drink made to delight the senses, Thandaai is a tantalizing version of milk energized with almonds, fennel seeds, watermelon seed, saffron and fragrant spices. Traditionally associated with festivals like Mahashivratri and Holi, this decadent drink is a soothing refresher in the season of soaring temperatures.
14. Ragi Ambali
A glass of ragi (finger millet) ambali, also known as ragi jaava, is a popular solution in Karnataka to beat the searing summer heat sans the calories, this traditional beverage is packed with umpteen health benefits and can deliver an instant energy boost. Interestingly, in the north, the filling sherbet made from sattu (roasted and powdered chickpeas) is perhaps ragi ambali’s best counterpart.
15. Kokum Sherbet
Summers on the Konkan coast are heralded with copious quantities of this classic cooler made of amsul or kokum, a sweet and sour fruit that grows nowhere else in the world. Its gorgeous red colour just adds to the appeal of this unusual drink which is an amazing appetizer. Kokum can also be consumed as sol kadi, a mellow coconut milk-based drink that is just perfect to balance the fireworks of a rich, spicy meal.
16. Gondhoraj Ghol
Bengal’s very own version of buttermilk, Gondhoraj Ghol is a refreshing marriage of curd, sugar, black salt, iced water, and the pulpy juice of the state’s highly prized Gondhoraj lime. This oblong-shaped wondrous citrus has a very subtle aroma and an unusual flavour (similar to the kaffir lime) that sends most Bengalis into paroxysms of joy.
A much-savoured household drink in south India, Panakam’s age-old recipe is a confluence of the sweetness of jaggery, the uplifting fragrance of cardamom, and the sharp heat of pepper and ginger. With a great balance of essential electrolytes, this traditional drink is so refreshing that you can gulp down a glass and still be asking for more.
18. Imli ka Amlana
A little-known drink from the Marwar region of Rajasthan, Imli ka Amlana is a lip-smacking combination of tangy tamarind, black salt, roasted spices and mint leaves in chilled water. Sweet, sour and spicy at the same time, it is an absolutely delicious way to cool off during a sweltering summer. Oh, and its great for the health too!
(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)