And the options are endless. India has an amazing variety of traditional drinks, that are appropriate in terms of health, nutrition, ecology, season and of course cost. However we are in danger of losing this diversity with the propensity we are developing toward aerated drinks. Not only do housewives prefer the convenience of the fizzy sugar loaded drinks to serve their guests (SHUDDER!), but our traditional beverages seem to be acquiring a status of old-fashioned and boring. A sad turn of events when we still follow the other traditions of Indian Cuisine which subscribe to the philosophy of a seasonal diet food that give importance to seasonal ingredients —tender tamarind leaves, gongura leaves, kokum and tamarind, lighter masalas and desserts based on cooling fruits like tender coconut and litchis in the summer and in keeping with this general philosophy a cornucopia of specific drinks to combat the vagaries of the summer months.
Think back and you will surely remember some of the delicious cooling drinks our grandmothers served us. I remember the drinks my grandmother always had waiting for me in the summer, when I came home from school, melon juices; chilled ruby red watermelon full of chunks of the juicy fruit, velvety chilled Sugar melon juice that slid down the throat, milkshakes flavored with fruits or Rooh Afza, tangy Aam
Panna made of sour green mangoes and in the years when our Coconut tree yielded fruit we would OD on tender coconut water and gorge on the silky flesh and a collection of squashes that would rival any “golawalla’s” lineup of jewel colored bottles; Lemon, Malta Orange, bel (wood-apple), Amla, Jamoon, and even Sandalwood have been trapped into bottles full of savor over the years because of their extremely beneficial effect on the body in hot weather. They maintain the digestive tract, tone up the system and keep it cool.
Much later in life, I discovered the delicious coolers of regional Indian Communities, like the time a friend brought me a bottle of tangy, purple concentrate that made a delicious drink. “It’s Kokum squash” she said. Kokum! Now I have often picked Kokkum out of my dal and discarded it but I never thought it could make a drink! KOKUM is a sour fruit that has no English name, because it is native to India, in fact even in India it is relatively unknown outside the Konkan region and parts of Gujarat - which is surprising, because it makes extremely cooling drink that is popularly served to combat heaty foods in the cuisines of South and West India. Besides Kokum squash it is also used to make Sol Kadhi in which it I soaked in warm water, he resulting liquor of which is mixed with coconut milk and drunk with heaty dishes.
At my first holi after I married, I discovered a savory, punchy drink called Kanji. Kanji is a traditional north Indian drink made from black carrots and mustard powder, a dark ruby almost magenta in color it is sold from huge glass flasks and ‘matkas’ in seaon but it is also made at home the process of making Kanji takes about three weeks. It has an overall cooling effect on the body and refreshes the mind due to the use of mustard. Another traditional drink popular in the north and especially in Punjab and Hryana is ‘Sattoo’ (powdered barley) that is served chilled sweetend with a sugar syrup. It is valued for the cooling effect it has on the body and its ability as a thirst quencher.
750 g sugar
100 gms fresh mogra blossoms
4 c fruit
Black Grape squash (time: 20 minutes Makes: 500 gms. approx. Shelflife: 6 months or more)