Cool Beverages for Sweaty Summers

Indian summers are often long, dreary, sweaty and scorching. They make one feel jaded every now and then. Cool, refreshing drinks help us to get temporary reprieve f r o m the unabated summer heat of a long, long day.

It doesn’t deserve a mention that as your body perspires more in summers, you need more fluid to keep you hydrated, and thus summer coolers are not only refreshing and rejuvenating but also play a necessary role during summers to keep you healthy. 

By taking inspiration f r o m the world renowned British poet PB Shelley’s immortal lines, we can say that if summer comes can summer coolers be far behind? No wonder, India has so many indigenous cooling beverages for as we know necessity is the mother of invention and innovation.

Having a predominant summer season, it is natural for India to have a long tradition of summer beverages. Some of the well-known traditional Indian summer cooler beverages include thandai, lassi, aam panna, jal jeera, shikanjvi among others. They are mostly had in Indian homes, especially during summers, and also in streets of India.

Thandai, which is a mixture of almonds, fennel seeds,watermelon kernel, rose petals, pepper,vetiver seeds, cardamom, saffr-on, milk and sugar, is more famous in North India, especially in Varanasi, than in other parts of the country. The delightful drink is often associated with the Maha Shivaratri and Holi festival. There are different varieties of thandai but the most common and popular are perhaps the badam (almond) thandai and bhaang (cannabis) thandai.

Lassi is famous across India, but is being partaken mostly in north India.  The drink hardly needs any introduction. Mango lassi is one of the delightful variants of lassi.

After a tiring day amidst summer heat, a glass of chilled aaam panna, made with unripe green mangoes, can bring one a sense of refreshing bliss. This drink is immensely popular in the summers of north and north western India. It also has usage in other parts of the country.

And jal jeera and shikanjvi sellers with their handcarts and huge clay pots are a regular sight in the streets of north India during summers. Shikanjvi has simple ingredients like lemon juice, black salt, roasted cumin powder and sugar with mint leaves for garnishing but the drink, if made well, can prove that simple things in life can be priceless. Jal jeera is a salty beverage while shikanjvi is sweet, but both can give a momentary ethereal feel.

Bel sherbet or a beverage f r o m wood apple juice with jaggery and lemon juice is not only rejuvenating in summers but can also be a healthy beverage in general. Besides hydrating, the beverage can protect you f r o m sun strokes and cure running stomach. One can find lots and lots of wood apple juice vendors in the often unbearable Delhi summers. 

Then of course, coconut water and sugarcane juice are also important beverages to make your summer a bit cool and refreshing. 

Another such a drink which is popular in Kerala is sambharam or neer mor. It comes across as a spicy buttermilk comprising curd, green chillies, ginger, cumin seeds powder and yoghurt. The beverage is endowed with digestive and hydrating properties. However, this drink’s appeal is not limited to Kerala alone. It is consumed all over India, especially during summers, with every region of India having its own variant. In north India, it is known as chaas.

Besides these relatively popular beverages, there are many lesser known or region specific summer drinks in India, which need to attain pan-India popularity by the efforts of our food service and food retail industry.

Solkadhi is another delectable drink. This beverage, whose important ingredients are kokum and coconut milk, is abundantly consumed in Goa and Maharashtra's coastal region.  However, its popularity has sadly not reached other parts of India, which it richly deserves. The drink can not only relax the body and mind but has anti-oxidant characteristics. It can easily balance a rich, spicy meal.

If Maharasthra and Goa have their solkadhi, the south India has its nannari sherbet. 

This refreshing cool summer beverage with out-of-the-world flavour has nannari or sarasaparilla roots and citric acid as its chief ingredient. And of course, water, sugar and lemon juice. Nannari is an effective and natural coolant. Addition of crushed ice will add to the delight of the drink.

Take the case of taal sherbet or nongu sherbet. Ice apple is called taal in Bengal and nongu in Tamil Nadu. This wonder drink which has infusion of milk is expected to impress you with its flavours and health quotient and can make you wait for the summers again.

Phalsa sherbet is another uncommon but spectacularly delightful beverage for the summers. Phalsa or Grewia asiatica has a wonderful tart flavour. Its size is similar to that of blueberry. Phalsa facilitates digestion and prevents dehydration.

The ancient city of Madurai is not only famous for its temples but also for its Jigarthanda, which are offered at the roadside stalls through the city. The essential ingredients of this delectable beverage include milk, almond gum, sarsaparilla root syrup, and sugar. This concoction is garnished with ice-cream. The drink can give one a cool refreshing retreat of delightful moments f r o m the scorching heat.

Piyush is a popular summer beverage in Maharashtra and Gujarat, but it is not known much outside these states. It is a heavenly creamy beverage made with the combination of shrikhand (a popular sweet in Maharashtra and Gujarat), buttermilk, nutmeg, dry fruits and saffron in right quantities. The drink’s literal meaning is amrit or the drink of the Gods, and after drinking piyush with its nectar like taste one may realise why it is so named.

There are many more indigenous beverages in India whose taste can easily induce you to chuck that branded bottle of mundane carbonated beverage. Many of these drinks deserve nationwide popularity and in this regard our food service and food retail industry can play a significant role. 

Now is the right time for big, established branded players to explore India's indigenous summer beverages market in a big way. It is about time we have chilled sugarcane juice or piyush or taal sherbet packaged in bottles flooding the market. The idea is to amalgamate tradition with innovation. These exercises are expected to assume quick nationwide popularity. Similarly, packaged coconut water or wood apple juice or packaged solkadhi by branded players for example are expected to have immense market appeal.

Some of these very Indian drinks can also be creatively explored by our bartenders to create fascinating mocktails or even innovative cocktails, wherever feasible.

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