20 Desi Summer Coolers to Beat the Heat!

I’m gonna try to list out alternatives to fizzy “soft drinks” this summer!

After all, India has such an amazing variety of beverages to offer, you have no reason to glug down a soft drink or that beer down your throat…

So here goes – a list of non-aerated, refreshing summer coolers…

Photo by Albert (via Flickr) 
Photo Credits: Albert Fernando

  1. Nimbu Paani
    Water + freshly squeezed lime + sugar/salt to taste.

  2. Nariyal Paani / Thenge Neeru
    Pure unadulterated tender coconut. Tastes best with malai…
    Scrape it off of the coconut you’re sippin’ from!
  3. Kokam Sharbat

    Somebody help me with what kokum is called in English. I don’t know. Just add it to water and add salt/sugar to taste. One of my favourites! More info on Wikipedia

  4. Amla Sharbat / Nellika / Gooseberry juice The richest source of Vitamin C, amla tastes great with water too! Recipe here >> 
  5. Jaljeera
    Jeera powder + salt to taste + Water.
    The ultimate appetizer!
  6. Masala doodh
    Milk + masala (saffron, rock salt, etc.) Try the Everest Masala. Nice.
  7. Chaas / ‘Kutchi beer’
    That’s buttermilk for the non-desis. Add jeera/salt to taste.
  8. Lassi
    The sweeter alternative to chaas, and with more umm, butter? I don’t know how lassi is made but it’s yum. Think sweet liquid yoghurt. There’s also flavoured variants.
  9. Doodh / Cold Milk
    Doodh hai good for every season, piyo doodh for healthy reason. Remember that cool song? It’s the Indian equivalent for the Got Milk?campaign. Drink milk. Milk good.
  10. Theine Elaner Tender coconut with a hint of honey. Bliss. 
  11. Roohafza / Rasna OK I’m getting into brands now, but these are still the local alternatives to Minute Maid (whose new nimbu paani is excellent too)!
  12. Neera The most common drink on an average Mumbai railway platform, neera is a natural, energizing coconut drink. I don’t see those stalls anymore though 😦 
  13. Fresh Juice / Phalanso Ras Got fruit, will juice. All it takes is patience and a mixer or a walk to your local juice center. If you’re in Mumbai, I recommend (a) Health Juice Center at King’s Circle, Matunga and (b) Annapurna at Ranade Road. In Bangalore, I’d go for Juice Junction or Mr.Orange. In Goa, have it anywhere! 
  14. Nannari Sharbat / Sarsaparilla
    I’ve only had it at 1 place in Bangalore – Muthu’s. Nannari Sharbat I’m told, comes from the roots of a tree. That makes it a ayurvedic medicine (for God alone knows what, but I think it’s for the soul)
    Wikipedia / Recipe
  15. Piyush
    To the best of my knowledge, this is made from a combination of butter milk and shrikhand, a yoghurt-like sweet. A common drink and delicacy in Mumbai, and best served at 
    Prakash Upahar Kendra & Aaswad Restaurant in Dadar, Mumbai.
  16. Chai
    Chai is perhaps the most common drink in all of India.
    That’s tea with added milk and sugar. Variants include chai adraki
    (+ ginger), suleimani chai (- milk, + lemon, + spices), masala chai
    (+ spices) and tons of regional specialities.
  17. Kaapi
    Filter coffee for the Indian soul. ‘Nuff said. Served hot, but gets you going!
  18. Aampanna / kairiche panhe Raw mango juice with elaichi/saffron. You’ll love it!
    Wikipedia / Recipe 
  19. Chuski / GolaBeat The Heat

    Crushed ice laced with flavored syrup – this one’s the only non-natural one to make it to the list, but there’s tons of places which do natural (including some milk / Milkmaid based ones!)

  20. Water / Paani / Neer
    Almost forgot my most favorite summer drink of them all 🙂 Ice-cold water. Available anywhere, anytime. Even for free, offered courteously by most restaurants even if you won’t order a thing!

Besides all these fab coolers, there’s always fruit juices and local specialities like sugar cane juice – but I won’t get into details of those.


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