Can’t take the heat? NIRMALA THOMAS has a tray of drinks to douse the summer fire.
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Russell Baker once quipped, “Ah, summer! What power you have to make us suffer and like it.” And so it is for all who weather summer in the tropics, enduring the sweltering heat, the humidity and the dust storms.
There’s nothing better to help a hot day fly by than a cold, refreshing drink. Whether it is the humble nimbu paani, the flavoured lassi, the invigorating aam ka panha, the exotic badaam milk or the Connaught Place cold coffee – one sip and we’re chillin’.
Tropical drinks help to cool the summer heat. Fruit and vegetable juices are delicious on their own, but can also be flavoured with herbs and spices to make refreshing and unusual drinks. The possibilities for mixed drinks are endless, limited only by individual tastes.
There are local favourites, too. Lassi is a traditional Punjabi beverage, made by blending yoghurt with water, salt and spices until it is frothy. Traditional lassi is sometimes flavoured with roasted ground cumin. Lassis are enjoyed chilled as a hot-weather refreshment. With a little turmeric powder mixed in, it is also used as a folk remedy for gastroenteritis.
Sweet lassi is a more recent invention, flavoured with sugar, rosewater, mango, strawberry or any other fruit juice. Saffron lassis, which are particularly rich, are a speciality of Jodhpur.
Raw mangoes are used to make aam ka panha, a favourite beverage in Maharashtra. Bombayites love to slurp their favourite gola (flavoured ice popsicles) sold along the beaches, or sip Badshah’s famous falooda.
Falooda is an adaptation of the Persian dessert faloodeh and was perhaps brought in to India by Muslim travellers and merchants. Bombay’s falooda and Kashmir’s babri-beol use sabza (basil seeds). This is added to cooling drinks made with milk and sugar. Originally flavoured with rose syrup, now we have kesar, mango, chocolate and fig falooda too.
North India’s answer to falooda is shikanjvi. This is lime juice into which salt, sugar and powdered cumin are added.
In Kerala, tender coconut water is blended with its creamy flesh and flavoured with some cardamom powder to make a very cooling drink. Tender coconut water is the best bet for a hot summer. According to Ayurveda the liquid from tender coconut (90 per cent is water) is cooling and has immense healing properties.
Andhraites prepare paanakam, a festive sweet drink and a summer cooler made with jaggery and flavoured with dry ginger, cardamom and pepper.
Along the Konkan coast, kokum (Garcinia indica, a member of the mangosteen family) is used to prepare a delicious squash. Apart from having cooling properties, kokum is also a digestive and has anti-cholesterol properties.
Summertime punches made with summer’s bounty of fresh local fruit are great for big parties. Perfectly refreshing most punches can be kept in the fridge for at least a week and are a delicious alternative to iced tea.
The word punch is a loanword from Hindi. The original drink was named panch, as it was made from five different ingredients: Arrack, sugar, lemon, water, and tea or spices. This name was adopted by the sailors of the British East India Company and brought back to England, and then introduced into other European countries.
Planter’s Punch is a rum-based cocktail. Recipes vary, containing some combination of lemon juice, pineapple juice, lime juice, orange juice, grenadine, soda water, curaçao, Angostura bitters, and cayenne pepper.
Sharbat is an Urdu word for a popular drink in India as well as the Middle East, prepared from fruits or flower petals. Some of the most commonly used sharbat ingredients are rose, saffron, mango, grapes, orange, mint, khas, lemon, rhododendron and bel. It was popularised by the Mughal rulers, one of whom, it is said, sent for frequent loads of ice from the Himalayas to make cool refreshing sharbats.
Sharbats have medicinal properties too and are part of the Ayurvedic and Unani system of medicine. They enrich our blood with enzymes, minerals and vitamins.
Khas sharbat relieves acidity, purifies the blood and provides immediate relief in cases of heat stroke. It also has diuretic properties. Rose sharbat has anti-acidic, anti-flatulent and anti-oxidant properties. It also has blood purifying properties. Lemon and orange sharbats are a great source of vitamin C
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