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Traditional beverage flavours of India – The diversities
Friday, 31 July, 2020, 12 : 00 PM [IST]
Mehul Vora
Nowadays, the growing awareness regarding health, change in eating habits, the wider global exposure and growing time poverty have propelled people to prefer healthy packaged traditional drinks rather than soft drinks as packaged drinks are convenient.

Rising number of health-conscious consumers like teenagers and young adults consider packaged juices or drinks healthier option. India has been home to many flavours some of the most popular ones are thandai, Rooh Afza, jaljeera and kokum.

Being India’s traditional drinks they are freshly available at local joints and street stalls and are popular in the Indian market in packages so much that consumers have become habitual purchasers of these drinks. In order to kindle the consumers’ interest and their changing tastes the providers can repackage and reintroduce traditional drinks and its varieties in the market.

Overview of Indian Flavours

Panakam is a simple south Indian drink that smells and tastes divinely. It is served as prasadam in temples and in traditional south Indian weddings. Panakam also known as Panaka or Panagam; means a sweet drink in Sanskrit. This drink is made by melting with jaggery in water and flavouring it with dry ginger, green cardamom, crushed peppercorns or cooking camphor, and basil leaves. Panakam gives you an instant sweet and tangy boost by rejuvenating body.

Shikanji (lemon water)
Shikanji or nimbu paani is India’s cultural gem. It is hand-blended lemonade of north India flavoured with ginger juice, cumin, ice, salt, black salt and sugar. The street sellers serve shikanji with a fresh squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of fresh mint leaves. Interestingly, the Indori shikanji is made of milk and dry fruits with just a hint of tanginess from the mattha (buttermilk) and has a dewy sweetness to it. The refreshing and quintessentially Indian shikanji has millions of cherished memories and a centuries-old culture behind it.

Coconut water
Coconut water has long been a popular drink across coastal India. It is fresh and is usually available in the coconut nut or bottled. Pure coconut water can only be obtained by removing it from a green coconut. It is a natural energy drink with a sweet, slightly salty, and slightly metallic taste. It instantly hydrates the body and helps beat summer heat.

Ganga Jamuna
Ganga Jamuna juice is a unique and very popular juice blend in north India. It’s a combination of fresh orange and mosambi juice. Mosambi also known as sweet lime and orange juice is quite a pair.

Kala Khatta
This dark purple, sweet tangy sherbet is made from the fruit of the blackberry (jamun) bush. In India, street sellers generously pour this syrup over ice lollies or golas that are crushed ice granules closely pressed together on a wooden stick. Kala Khatta specifies the taste and colour of the syrup, which is (kaala) black in colour and (khatta) sour in taste.

The herb 'Sarasaparilla', better known as 'Nannari' is a wonder herb due to its cooling medicinal property. Our ancestors used to drink a mixture of extracts from 'Nannari' roots, adding a tint of lime juice and palm sugar (panamkalkandam) during summer. Through steam distillation, the extract is prepared from its roots then it is mixed with citric acid, water and sugar, in certain proportions, to constitute the 'Nannari' concentrate or syrup.

Jal Jeera
Jal Jeera literally translates to 'water' (Jal) and 'cumin' (jeera) in Hindi. It is believed that the drink was created by a group of people living on the banks of river Ganga. The beverage is spiced with a combination of roasted cumin powder, ginger powder, herbs like coriander and mint, garam masala, chilli powder, pepper and black salt. Street sellers serve this drink garnished with mint, coriander leaves, boondi and masala.

Rooh Afza
The ruby red syrup Rooh Afza is said to have first arrived to the Indian subcontinent with the Mughals though introduced at the time of the British Colonial Rule. In 1907, Unani herbal doctor Hakim Abdul Majeed, the founder of the medical shop Hamdard Dawakhana in Delhi selected herbs and syrups and created Rooh Afza to counter heat strokes and dehydration. Portulaca seeds, chicory, grapes, coriander, and other assorted herbs with sweet odour infused flowers concocts the infamous rose drink, found in traditional mixtures, called Sharbat Rooh Afza.

Kokam is a dark purple coloured fruit from the Western Ghats of India. It has been a part of the country’s history for centuries. This beautiful fruit has a botanical name Garcinia Indica. The sherbet is made by soaking the dried fruit, mashing and then adding sugar syrup, black salt and roasted cumin powder in it. It’s a sweet and tangy delicious summer drink and so is liked by many.

Aam Panna is a drink made of green mango/unripe mango pulp. The yellowish-green summer drink has a tangy, sweet taste with hints of cardamom, cumin & black salt. A historical account states that Aam Panna originated from the state of Maharashtra. Another account states it to be an innovative drink of Shah Jahan and Jahangir’s time.

Thandai literally means coolant or cold in Hindi. It’s a delicious drink of north India made with almonds, fennel seeds, rose petals, melon seeds, cardamom, saffron, milk, and sugar. The variations of Thandai can differentiate based on personal preferences and regional areas. Banaras that is now Varanasi is called the hub for thandai because Banarasis have passion for milk-based drinks and thandai is said to be their specialty.

(The author is culinary historian. He can be contacted at
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