Ice-cold lemonade, or buttermilk with a touch of jeera; freshly squeezed juice, or perhaps a glass of sugary Glucon-D–these are probably your usual suspects to combat the sweltering heat. But unbeknownst to many, India boasts a diverse (and colourful) selection of refreshing summer drinks. From Uttaranchal to Udupi, these regional choices that champion seasonal ingredients make for unconventional additions to your summer arsenal. And we give you the recipes too!
One wouldn’t think kokum and coconut make a lovely couple, but this spicy Konkan gem defies instinct. A glass of brilliant pink, the coconut milk provides a sweet yet subtle base for the sour hit of the kokum fruit (Garcinia indica), known locally as ‘aamsol’. While kokum’s cooling properties are well known, it’s also used in treating dehydration, heart ailments and cholesterol. Expect Marathi grandmothers to hand you a cup or two after a heavy meal!
Recipe: Soak the dried fruit in a cup of hot water for a few hours to extract the juice and colour. Grind a cup of grated coconut with a little water in a mixer, and then squeeze the ‘milk’ out of the paste. Add water again and repeat the process until all the coconut milk is extracted. In a mortar and pestle, grind together green chillies, coriander leaves, cumin seeds, a clove or two of garlic and a dash of rock salt. Finally, stir the kokum concentrate, spice mixture and coconut milk in a bowl for the finished drink, and garnish with mint. Let the solkadhi sit for an hour or two in the fridge to let the spices seep in, and serve chilled.
A summer staple in every Bengali household, ‘pora’ literally translates to ‘burnt’. Much like the process of making baingan ka bharta, fresh green mangoes are roasted on an open flame, their skins intact for added flavour. While preserves, squashes and pre-made aam pora mixes can be found in your local store, nothing quite replicates the tart intensity of the original.
Recipe: Grab a few firm and fleshy raw mangoes, and pierce the skin to scour them. Roast the fruit until the skin is charred and the inside is soft and pulpy. Then, gently squeeze the pulp out into a blender and add sugar and enough water to make a paste. Blend until smooth. Depending on how thin you like your drink, mix the purée with cold water, and add black salt and cumin to taste. Top off with ice cubes and garnish with mint.
The recipe for this iconic drink from Odisha is as funky as the fruit’s heady aroma. The star ingredient is wood apple (Aegle marmelos; local: ‘bael’), coming from a tree sacred across India. While the traditionally thick and peppery New Year recipe from Odisha is given below, you can skip out on the dairy for a much lighter option that’s just as divine.
P.S. If you’re worried about a sugary overload, don’t be—bael juice is naturally bittersweet.
Recipe: Break open the bael fruit and scoop out the pulp. In a bowl, add water and mash the pulp by hand. Strain out the juice from this mixture and set aside. In a separate bowl, mash together ripe mango pulp, grated coconut, soft chhena (milk curds), yoghurt, sugar, a pinch of green cardamom powder, and pepper to taste. Add a little water to smooth the mixture, and combine with the bael juice until well incorporated. Chill, and stir before serving.
At first glance, buransh will look like any other mocktail laced with strawberry and rose. But make no mistake, this magenta concoction comes all the way from Uttarakhand. Made from the petals of the rhododendron flower, the Garhwali and Kumaoni people have perfected its use in this deliciously addictive sweet-and-sour drink. It is often served to travellers in hotels to combat mountain sickness, and has an effect similar to gooseberry—water tastes sweet after a mouthful of buransh!
Recipe: You might be hard pressed to find edible rhododendron species in the city, so stock up on some squash. Mix one part of the squash with two to three parts chilled water or soda, add a squeeze of lime and garnish with mint.
Nobody knows how this drink entered Tamil Nadu—was it through the Mughals, or the Muslim settlers from Hyderabad? Nevertheless, the quirky jigarthanda is a common sight on the streets of Madurai. A more drinkable cousin of the northern falooda, a core ingredient here is the earthy nannari (sarsaparilla) syrup–known for ages to have detoxifying and anti-inflammatory properties. Cloyingly sweet but addictive, the drink definitely lives up to its name and cools the heart through a despotic summer.
Recipe: Soak a cup of badam pisin (almond gum) in water overnight, until it has grown in size and is soft to touch. If unavailable, you can substitute it with soaking agar agar or gelatin, but the flavour may slightly change. Chop it up into small pieces and set aside. Heat a pot of milk and reduce to half the original quantity and until it is brownish in colour. Set aside to cool. If short on time, you can replace this with a cup of rabri or malai. In a tall glass, add one part badam pisin, two parts sarsaparilla syrup, a touch of cream, the reduced milk, chilled milk to fill the glass, and sugar to taste. Stir well until combined, top off with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, and enjoy.
With a little bit of sleuthing, it becomes obvious that India’s cultural diversity has led to a motley crew of summer drinks—the list in its entirety is far greater than our featured five. Sip on our chosen few for now, but make sure to keep your eyes peeled while travelling!