Nov 29, 2018 | 8 Mins
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In a diverse country like India, there will always be something new, unheard or unique you will come across. Every region and every regional community has its own set of dishes or drinks that change with time. Accommodating seasonal fruits and vegetables into their daily diet in different ways requires a certain creativity that Indians are well-known for.
The beginning, accompaniment and end of almost every meal in India is a beverage. It can be something as simple as buttermilk or coconut water or filter coffee that can be had throughout the year or something like Aam Panna that is specific to summer in India. We have curated a list of unique regional drinks found in India that you must try while visiting the state or city depending on the season.
Often found in most Koli homes, Jambul is a home-brewed, purple-hued drink made from the black plums (jamun) or zamla, as its called in the Konkan region. Today, the concoction is available in markets but there is a certain authenticity that comes from having it with a homemade Koli meal served at the home of a local fisherfolk family. The fruit is not indigenous to India but was introduced by the Portuguese. The drink is a storehouse of vitamin C and helps the body tackle various ailments and diseases. You can even let the pulp ferment to make it slightly alcoholic (like your own version of homemade wine).
The Koli family in Versova serves the fermented version of Jambul which is different and delicious. While booking their meal at authenticook.com, make sure to add in a request for Jambul :)
Handia in Bihar, Chattisgarh and West Bengal (or Chuak in Tripura) is a rice beer that is generally served on special occasions and festivals. It is made with ranu tablets comprising of 26 herbs added to boiled rice and left to ferment for a week. This is what you will consider as desi daaru (country liquor) and is enjoyed during summers! The name comes from the term ‘Handi’ which is a large-mouthed mud vessel with a narrow neck that plays a crucial role in Indian regional cooking. It is offered to deities as well as the elders of the family.
It is a common drink found on the streets of Madurai, Tamil Nadu. The city is known for its temples and eclectic food choices such as rabbit biryani and butterfish curry. But the best way to wash it down is with a cooling glass of Jil Jil Jigarthanda. It is basically chilled milk mixed with sugar, almond gum, China grass, sarsaparilla syrup, resin and basundi. It’s effect? Exactly what the name suggests - cools you down from head to toe to tackle the heat.
This one’s from Odisha. Jal jeera and nimbu paani are welcome drinks that commonly get served to guests; here’s something unique to offer. Hailing from the Koraput villages situated in South Odisha, Mandia Pej is a drink enjoyed with the tribal people. It is basically a soup made by adding ragi powder to the stale water of boiled rice and allowing it to ferment so that it is fit for consumption.
Panakam is what you get when you combine jaggery, dry ginger and coconut water to create the perfect coolant for summers. It is extremely popular during festivals like Ram Navami and Narasimha Jayanti. Instead of chugging down fizzy and aerated drinks, enjoy a glass of Panakam - the antioxidants in dry ginger aid in digestion while the coconut water cools down your body.
Home chef Rumya's homemade Panakam. Check out details regarding her Tamil Brahmin meal experience in Worli, Mumbai here
Bael is known by various names - Wood Apple, Japanese Bitter Orange, Bengal Quince and Golden Apple. The juice obtained from the ripe fruit makes for a delicious summer drink when mixed with water, sugar (or jaggery), cardamom powder, cumin powder and a pinch of salt to alleviate the flavour. From controlling diabetes to rejuvenating your skin, Bael Pana comes with many benefits.
Buransh is a drink commonly had in the hilly regions of Uttarakhand and is made with local flowers names Burans (kind of Rhododendron). These bell-shaped flowers provide a natural sweetness to the drink, requiring no sugar at all. Consuming it in the form of a drink or squash is a recent phenomenon. Burans have always been used in food in Nepal, Uttarakhand and Bhutan but in the form of chutneys, pickles and fritters. Having it as a drink provides the body with much-needed immunity to stay fit when the weather changes.
Ever had a cup of tea that’s pink in colour and slightly salty? Noon Chai is a popular beverage consumed in Kashmir and enjoyed with a choice of flatbreads such as Sheermal, Lavasa, Bakarkhani (know more about these flatbreads here). It also goes by the name ‘Sheer Chai’ in Afghanistan but requires an acquired taste and is not everyone’s cup of tea (literally). The drink is made with milk, salt and baking soda (lends the drink its pink colour) in a samovar, a Russian container used for heating water. When winter sets in Jammu & Kashmir and parts of Himachal Pradesh, the locals drink Noon Chai 2-3 times a day to keep themselves warm.
Home chef Renu's Noon Chai. Check out all details regarding her Kashmiri Pandit home dining experience at NIBM Road, Pune here
In English, you know it as Butter Tea but for the people of Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, it is Po Cha. It is basically made with loose black tea leaves, salt, water and yak butter. The leaves are first brewed in water for 10-12 hours and then mixed with the yak butter. In these parts of Northeast India and across borders, Po Cha (or Butter Tea) can be had as a morning cup of tea and even served to guests when they come home. The tradition is that the drink is meant to be enjoyed in separate sips and after every sip, the host tops up your cup with some more tea so that it is never empty.
Home chef Esha's Po Cha (Butter Tea). To know more about her Tibetan meal in Versova in Mumbai, check out authenticook.com
It’s potent, royal and a guarded secret. Originating from Rajasthan, Kesar Kasturi is an alcoholic drink originally made with a multitude of different spices! As the name suggests, the main constituent of the drink is saffron (kesar) which also lends the drink its rich golden colour. It is basically the Rajasthani version of a local wine which hasn’t received as much recognition as it should. Only seven royal families are believed to know the recipe and although it is commercially available today, not everyone gets to enjoy this drink.