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Whether you need a refreshing drink to cool you in the heat or a hot beverage to warm your tired body, these Indian drinks promise to quench your thirst, energize your mind, and nourish your body, no matter where your travels in India take you.
1 – Tea
Chai is arguably the most well-known Indian beverage, revitalized in coffee chains across the world in recent times. Chai refers to sweet, milky Indian tea to which sometimes whole spices are added, making it masala chai.
Tea estates abound in the country, and tea is commonly drunk both in the morning and afternoon along with a snack. There are also tea stalls all over the country that are always packed, making chai as much a social activity as a popular beverage of Indian street food.
2 – Filter Coffee
Filter coffee is to South India what the cappuccino is to Italy. Filter coffee is made by pouring boiling water over ground coffee in a traditional Indian filter. The coffee then drips down to create the coffee that is added to boiled milk.
Filter coffee is traditionally consumed hot, in stainless steel tumblers, usually once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. Chicory is commonly added, which gives it a richer taste.
3 – Badam Milk
Badam milk is an Indian beverage that is found all across the country. It can be enjoyed hot or cold. Badam milk is milk that has been infused with badam, or “almonds,” along with saffron, cardamom, and sugar. Sometimes other nuts and spices can also be added.
Badam milk usually has slices or chunks of almonds in it, which helps give it a delicious texture and taste. Badam milk is not only great tasting but also considered a healthy drink, as it is packed with nutrients.
4 – Sapota Milkshake
Sapota, or chikku, as it is often called, is an Indian fruit that is sweet and pulpy and is grown in many parts of the subcontinent. Sapota is usually grown between July and November and again from February to March.
One of the most popular byproducts of sapota is sapota milkshake. The flesh of the sapota fruit is mixed with milk and sugar or other sweeteners like honey or jaggery, then blended with ice to make a refreshing sapota milkshake. Sapota milkshake can be enjoyed with some ice and any sweetener of your choice.
5 – Rose Milk
Rose milk is one of India’s most iconic drinks. It is delicious and refreshing, and it helps beat the Indian heat, making it a popular choice during the summer months served cold.
Rose milk is made with cold milk that is blended with rose syrup, rose water, sugar, and basil seeds. For many Indians, nothing keeps you as hydrated and refreshed as rose milk on a searing hot summer’s day. Rose milk is often garnished with rose petals.
6 – Lassi
Lassi is arguably the most well-known Indian drink after chai. Lassi is essentially flavored buttermilk, which is a drink made from yogurt.
The beverage is made by beating yogurt with water until a thick liquid is formed. Traditionally, sweet and salt lassi were the two most common types of lassi available, with sweet lassi consisting of sugar and sometimes nuts for texture, while salt lassi is made with salt and sometimes spices like cumin powder and mint leaves or curry leaves.
Nowadays, the mango lassi is widely available all over the world. It consists of buttermilk blended with mango chunks and sugar, resulting in one of the most refreshing and tropical drinks you can try in India.
7 – Mosambi Juice
Mosambi is an Indian citrus fruit, also known as “sweet lime.” It is sweet and citrusy with less acidity than other citrus fruits. While the flesh of the fruit can be eaten, it is better known and consumed for its juice.
Mosambi juice is great for cooling down the body in the summer and is easily available in stores, from street stalls, at restaurants, and of course, made at home.
Sugar, ice, and water are most commonly mixed with the mosambi juice, giving it a sweet and refreshing flavor, but sometimes it can also be spiced with some chat masala and salt.
8 – Paneer Soda
A lesser-known Indian beverage is paneer soda, with no connection to paneer, an Indian cottage cheese. Paneer also means “rose water” in Tamil, and paneer soda is another popular go-to to keep cool during the hot summer months.
Paneer soda is made with rose water or rose essence, sugar, water, and club soda. The sweetness of the rose water is offset by the effervescence of the soda, making paneer soda a delightfully refreshing drink.
9 – Coconut Water
A common sight across the subcontinent is streetside coconut vendors selling coconut water from their stalls. Coconut trees are plentiful in India; hence coconut water is a natural way to keep cool and stay hydrated.
Vendors usually sell the whole ripened coconut, with the top of the coconut sliced off and a straw placed inside, giving you access to the sweet coconut water inside.
Perfectly ripened coconuts not only have sweet coconut water to enjoy, but once the water has been drunk, the coconut can then be cut in half so that you can eat the sweet flesh inside.
10 – Jigarthanda
This is easily one of India’s most unique drinks that originated in Madurai, a city in Tamil Nadu. Jigar means “heart,” and thanda means “cool,” hence jigarthanda means cooling or soothing for the heart.
The beverage is made with milk, reduced milk, nannari syrup, badam pisin, and ice cream. Nannari syrup is made from the nannari root, which is a herb also known as Sarasaparilla. It is considered a wonder herb in Ayurveda and used for its medicinal and healing properties.
Badam pisin is an almond gum that is naturally occurring in the almond tree, making this not only a thick and delicious beverage but a nourishing one, too.
11 – Rooh Afza
This vibrant, ruby-red drink was created as a way to beat the summer heat in Delhi when temperatures soared above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rooh Afza is a syrup concentrate made from fruits, flowers, and herbs, and is extremely sweet and refreshing. The drink is made by adding the Roof Afza syrup to water or milk and is best enjoyed cold. Rooh Afza is also used as a flavoring on ice cream, milkshakes, and Indian desserts like Falooda, and kulfi.
12 – Jal Jeera
Jal jeera is another iconic Indian drink that is spicy, tangy, and refreshing, with jal meaning “water” and jeera meaning “cumin.”
Jal jeera is a refreshing drink that hydrates the body and also aids in digestion, consisting of water mixed with cumin powder, black pepper, black salt, and mint.
There are a number of variations to jal jeera, which can include a whole host of other spices, herbs, and seasonings, including amchur (dry mango powder), fennel seeds, and asafetida, among others.
Jal jeera has plenty of kick to it because of some of the spices used and is particularly great to drink after a heavy meal.
13 – Aam Panna
When it is mango season in India, we use it for everything, from spicy pickles and delicious lassi to salty mango fruit and the delicious Aam Panna.
With aam meaning “mango,” and panna referring to a “tangy drink,” Aam Panna is made from unripe mangoes, spices, sugar, and water, resulting in a sweet, tangy, and refreshing beverage.
Sweeteners like sugar, sugarcane juice, or jaggery can be used in it, and commonly cumin powder, mint leaves, and black salt are added to give each gulp an extra kick.
14 – Thandai
Thandai literally means “cooling” in Hindi, and this drink is another refreshing beverage that is enjoyed during the festival season, especially during Holi, to keep you hydrated and nourished.
Thandai is made with whole milk, sugar, cardamom, saffron, peppercorns, almonds, poppy seeds, rose water, and fennel seeds. Thandai is bursting with flavor and is best enjoyed cold.
For an adult-only version of this drink, you can make Bhang Thandai, which is made from the leaves of the cannabis plant.
15 – Nimbu Pani
Nimbu pani is essentially Indian-style lemonade made with small Indian lemons that are not as tart and have a thinner skin. Nimbu pani is made with a lot of lemon juice, water, salt, and sugar.
Interestingly, this Indian lemonade is usually salty, or sweet and salty, not sweet like lemonades more popular in other parts of the world. Nimbu pani is another delicious way to cool down during the Indian summer.
A popular variation of nimbu pani is a drink known as lime salt soda, which sees salt and club soda added to a traditional nimbu pani.
16 – Feni
Feni is an Indian liquor originating from the Indian state of Goa. Feni is most commonly made from cashew apples and coconut, but today a wide range of flavors exist.
Feni is a tropical liquor that is quintessentially Goanese and is considered a part of the region’s culture, with many people calling for it to be recognized as a “heritage drink.” Feni is a thrice-distilled cashew apple juice and has a high alcohol content. It can be drunk neat, on the rocks, or with mixers.
17 – Aarack
Aarack or Arak is a distilled alcoholic drink made from fermented coconut sugar or sugarcane. Originally aarack was made from fermented rice and although it originated in India was popular throughout South East Asia.
There are two common types of aarack. The first is a clear, distilled aarack that is most prevalent in India. The other is a darker aarack, similar in taste to Cognac, which is popular in Sri Lanka and is called Ceylon Aarack.
Aarack is similar to moonshine. Although bottles are sold in stores in parts of the country, homemade aarack, while popular, is not always easily available.
18 – Panakam
Panakam is a sweet drink that is popular in South India and often offered in Hindu temples as a blessing. This drink is also served at weddings and other functions and festivities as a welcome drink.
Panakam means “sweet drink” and is made with water, jaggery, crushed cardamom, and ground black pepper. There are, however, many variations of this drink, which use other ingredients like tulsi (a type of basil), dry ginger powder, fresh ginger, honey, and lemon juice, among others. Panakam keeps the body hydrated and also helps in digestion.
19 – Chaas
Chaas is a drink that is enjoyed throughout the country. It goes by many names, including moru, ghol, majjiga, and taak, to name a few.
Chaas, meaning “buttermilk” in English, is made with diluted yogurt, as with other buttermilks, but the Indian version is thinner and uses different kinds of seasonings.
Chaas is essentially made by liquifying yogurt and then further diluting it with water. Then spices and herbs like salt, chaat masala, cumin powder, ginger powder, pepper, mint, and cilantro are added.
Basic chaas is made from just yogurt, water, and salt all the other flavors can be added according to personal preference. Chaas is an uber-popular summer drink that is enjoyed either alone or as an accompaniment to a hearty meal.
20 – Ragi Malt
Most kids in India grow up drinking ragi malt, which is a tasty, healthy, wholesome breakfast that can keep you full all day long.
Ragi malt is a type of porridge made from ragi flour, a finger millet popular in India. There are two main types of ragi malt; sweet and savory. Sweet ragi is made by adding ragi flour to milk, with sugar or jaggery, cardamom, and nuts like almonds, and can be consumed both hot and cold.
The savory version of ragi malt is made by adding ragi flour to either water or buttermilk and spiced with salt, pepper, cumin, and some tempering. Ragi malt is often given to babies as it is easier to digest then other foods, besides being packed with nutrients.
Indian Drinks Summary
The drinks of India bring so many wonderful flavor combinations to the rim of the glass, while having a number of different benefits.
From herbal teas that warm the stomach and aid in many bodily functions to thirst-quenching, fruit-filled icy beverages to cool the body under the scorching Indian heat, there are plenty of delicious, refreshing, and nourishing beverages to try throughout the country.
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Contributor: Nandhini Parthib is an Indian content writer, deeply passionate about Indian culture, travel, and cuisine, who is keen to share more about India through her writing.