It's not just India's food that offers a wealth of delicious flavours to explore – the drinks of the country are equally varied and delightful. Let's look at some of the beverages enjoyed in this diverse and exciting nation:
Lassi (yoghurt drink)
A dairy-based drink made with buttermilk, milk, yoghurt, or even paneer (Indian cottage cheese). This is chilled or whipped up with ice, and perhaps diluted with water depending on the thickness. The Lassi can be served sweet or salty, or flavoured with ingredients such as mango, cardamom or rosewater. A creamy and refreshing drink, Lassi is the perfect accompaniment to an Indian lunch.
Ganne Ka Ras (sugarcane juice)
The sugarcane juice-wallah can be seen on streets throughout India, especially the South. A major crop in India, sugarcane is a thick bamboo-like cane whose sticky core is refined to give us the sugar we buy in packets. Pressed between heavy rollers, the cane releases a milky, sticky green juice which is mixed with lime and ginger then poured over ice. Spicy, tangy and the perfect drink in hot weather.
Nimbu Pani (lemonade)
Sweet, tangy and the ideal antidote to a baking hot Indian day, Nimbu Pani is a simple and delicious drink. Fresh lemon or lime juice is mixed with water or fizzy soda water, with sugar if you need to soften the sharpness. It packs a powerful dose of vitamin C and can be combined with a pinch of cumin, cardamom or chaat masala spice mix for an extra twist.
Sattu (chickpea/barley water)
The ingenious use of pulses in Indian cookery knows no bounds. Sattu is a flour made from roasted chickpeas, sometimes mixed with roasted barley or millet. This cheap staple is extremely versatile and nutritious, packed with fibre, iron, magnesium and manganese. Mixed with cold water, mint, lime juice and a little chopped onion for a savoury undertone, Sattu is an excellent cooling drink.
Thandai (almond milkshake)
This luxurious drink is associated with special occasions like Holi and Mahashivratri festivals. It is made by boiling full cream milk with saffron and sugar to make a sweet frothy drink. To this a powder made from green cardamoms, rose petals, cinnamon and black peppercorns is added, along with a paste of ground almonds, cashew nut, pistachio, melon seeds and poppy seeds. The drink is then served chilled, sometimes with a pinch of spicy masala powder.
Falooda (rose-flavoured milk drink)
This stunning pink drink is halfway between a beverage and a dessert. To make Falooda, sweet basil seeds are soaked in water so they swell up into little dark pearls. These are topped with ultra-fine vermicelli noodles and a shot of sweet rose syrup, then topped up with sweetened milk. Ice cream and tapioca pearls are sometimes added, and the drink is garnished with chopped pistachio and rose petals.
Like most Indian cuisine, these drinks make use of local foods and are best served fresh. They are all tasty ways to cool down on a hot day and use spicy flavours such as cumin, cardamom and ginger to add a certain kick. Why not try one yourself at one of London’s top Indian brasseries?