indian drinks

10 Indian Drinks You Need To Try At Least Once

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Nicole
December 1, 2021
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Indian cuisine is known for being spicy and full of flavor. But while sampling the tasty food, you should also make sure you try out some of the traditional beverages on offer in the country.

What’s India’s national drink?

Tea is sometimes considered to be the country’s national drink and it can be consumed in different ways.

However, there are lots of other drinks that are very popular in the country. From refreshing drinks to coconut-based drinks, and drinks consumed specifically during festivals, here’s a rundown of some of the most delicious Indian beverages and how they’re made. 

Top 10 Indian Drinks To Try 

Masala Chai 

10 Indian Drinks You Need To Try At Least Once

Instead of having tea with milk, enjoy masala chai. This is a spicy drink, with “masala” meaning “spice mixture.” It’s a blend of tea and spices as it’s made with black tea, whole milk, spices, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, cloves, black pepper, nutmeg, and ginger.

Masala chai is made by brewing black tea with sugar, milk, and spices. In some variations of this beverage, you can add aromatic herbs like holy basil or mint.

This type of spicy tea goes back all the way to around 5,000 or 9,000 years ago (there are debates as to when it actually came about). Interestingly, there are also debates regarding where it originated. Some people say it originated in India, whereas others name Thailand as its place of origin. 

The name “masala chai” has become “chai” over the years, which occurred when the tea became popular in America. However, the milk that’s used in masala chai in India is whole milk. In other parts of the world, this milk can be replaced for soy, skim, or other non-dairy options.

In America, you can even get a frozen chai, which is made with vanilla ice cream.

Lassi

10 Indian Drinks You Need To Try At Least Once

This Indian drink is popular because it’s got a yogurt base, but it can be sweet or savory. The sweet variation contains sugar, fruits such as strawberry, and cardamom. By comparison, the savory type is made with mint, salt, and cumin.

However, the ingredients used in a lassi will vary depending on the region in which it’s produced. 

Sometimes lassi is referred to as an ancient smoothie because the idea for it dates all the way back to sometime around 1000 BC, and it has its origins in Punjab, India. Traditionally, it was made with pure spices or fruits.

Another reason why this drink is so popular is because it complements spicy dishes by balancing out their heat with refreshing yogurt. Lassi is made by blending yogurt or curd with water or milk, spices or herbs, and sugar or salt, depending on whether you’re in the mood for a sweet or savory beverage. 

Paneer Soda 

10 Indian Drinks You Need To Try At Least Once

Paneer soda is a delicious and refreshing beverage that’s usually sold by street vendors. It is essentially rose water and originates from south India. “Paneer” can be roughly translated as sweet. 

This soda is a simple beverage to prepare. Simply mix together rose water, soda or sparkling water, and sugar. Because it’s so refreshing, it’s commonly enjoyed in summer and can also be added to alcoholic drinks.

You can make this soda yourself at home really easily. Let water and sugar boil on the stove, and allow it to boil for a few minutes. Then let it cool. Add rose essence and stir it well. Once it’s cool, put it in the fridge.

When you’re ready to serve it, add three tablespoons of this mixture over a few ice cubes in a glass before pouring chilled plain soda over it. 

Toddy

10 Indian Drinks You Need To Try At Least Once

A toddy is really just a name for coconut wine. It’s an alcoholic drink because the sap extracted from a coconut tree gets fermented overnight. Alternatively, the sap can be enjoyed fresh, and in this state it’s called a neera. 

Toddy is a milky, sweet, bubbly alcoholic beverage that’s a good source of vitamins, sugars, proteins, and amino acids. 

This Indian drink is enjoyed in Kerala and other parts of southern India where you’ll find lots of toddy shops.

Interestingly, coconut wine is also found in other countries. In the Philippines, it’s known as a tuba. It’s also consumed in various parts of South America, Africa, and the Caribbean – basically, wherever you can find lots of palm trees you’ll also find coconut wine! 

Aam Panna 

10 Indian Drinks You Need To Try At Least Once

This is another beverage you’ll want to enjoy on a hot day. Consumed in northern India, this drink is delicious because it contains mangos. But, instead of ripe mangos, this recipe contains green ones called kairi. The mangos are cooked, then beaten with salt, jeera (which is cumin powder), and pepper. It’s garnished with mint leaves.

This sweet and delicious beverage can be traced back to ancient Ayurvedic literature and in writings of Kālidāsa, a classical Sanskrit author who’s considered to be the greatest dramatist and playwright of ancient India. 

Even though it’s a northern Indian drink, you can find it across the country. However, aam panna varies depending on the region. For example, eastern parts of India will roast green mangoes on an open fire before they’re pulped whereas north India uses kesar in aam panna recipes. Kesar is saffron. 

It’s crucial to choose the right mango for the aam panna to be delicious. It should be light yellow and just on the cusp of becoming ripe.

Nimbu Pani 

10 Indian Drinks You Need To Try At Least Once

This is an Indian lemonade that’s bright and fresh. You can find it everywhere in North India. While it’s ideal for cooling you down during the soaring temperatures, it contains fresh lime, sugar, water, salt and chaat masala, a spice blend to give it a touch of spiciness.

Chaat masala usually contains ingredients like dried pomegranate seeds, black salt, and dried mango powder.

There are many regional variations of nimbu pani. In Delhi, for example, it’s made with lemon-infused soda, whereas in Kolkata, it’s a fresh lime soda that comes with mint, seltzer, and lime syrup. 

You can turn your nimbu pani into a cocktail easily – just add one shot of gin or vodka to your glass. 

South Indian Coffee 

10 Indian Drinks You Need To Try At Least Once

This is a filter coffee that makes use of two filters. The first one has a perforated bottom that holds the ground coffee and the second one is used to drip the brewed coffee. This filtration technique is used because it gives the coffee a rich taste. It’s then given a dash of hot milk. 

Traditionally, South Indian coffee is served in a tumbler with a saucer known as a davara. 

While coffee started to become popular in India sometime around the 17th century, around the 19th century South Indians started brewing coffee with milk before sweetening it with jaggery (cane sugar) or honey. It started to become a household item, even though coffee was still quite rare in the northern parts of the country. 

There’s an interesting story about how coffee came about in India. It’s said that in the 17th century a Muslim saint from Chikmagalur called Baba Budan smuggled coffee beans from present-day Yemen when returning from a pilgrimage. He then planted these stolen beans in the Chandragiri Hills of Chikmagular and they flourished. 

Chaach 

10 Indian Drinks You Need To Try At Least Once

Chaach, which is known as a buttermilk beverage, is a sour, creamy drink that’s made with natural yogurt or curd and water. It, along with chasse and mattha, are common names for Indian buttermilk that’s considered to be a traditional drink. 

Although chaach doesn’t contain any butter, it does contain spices such as pepper, cumin powder, ginger, curry leaves, green chilies, and coriander leaves. 

Since it contains yogurt, it’s a wonderful beverage to enjoy after a very spicy meal. Along with lassi, chaach is a beverage that’s enjoyed in the northern parts of India.

Buttermilk can be traced back in India to the time of Lord Krishna, around the year 3000 BC. Historical records from this era show the development of a dairy system was taking place in ancient India, where both ghee and buttermilk were widely available and consumed.

Kokum Sherbet

10 Indian Drinks You Need To Try At Least Once

This is a refreshing Indian sherbert that contains semi-dried kokum, which is a tropical summer fruit with a tangy flavor. 

This fruit is mixed in half a cup of water before being strained. The kokum is then blended in a mixer with half of the kokum water until it has a coarse texture. This is then combined with sugar and cooked in a pan for a few minutes.

The rest of the previous water mixture is then added to it, and it’s strained again. Cumin powder is added to the drink. When it’s served, two tablespoons of it are put into a glass and ¾ cups of chilled water are poured over it. 

This simple yet refreshing traditional drink is indigenous to the Western Ghats in India, but it’s been part of the country’s culture for centuries. Farmers harvest kokum throughout the western coastal regions of the country and during the fruit season of March, April, and May you can find locals selling this fruit in Goa.

While you won’t find fresh kokum in other parts of the country, you will find powdered or syrup kokum so that you can make the sherbet yourself. 

Kokum is an ingredient that’s always been part of India’s traditional medicine, and it’s used to protect the liver from alcohol intoxication.

Thandai

10 Indian Drinks You Need To Try At Least Once

Thandai is a refreshing cool drink that’s traditionally enjoyed during the Indian festival called Holi. This festival is a celebration of the end of winter and arrival of spring.

Sometimes thandai can be mixed with bhang, which is a hallucinogen. Thandai is a beverage that goes all the way back to 1000 BC, so it’s one of the oldest drinks in India.

Thandai is a healthy beverage that contains ingredients such as fennel seeds, rose petals, almonds, cashews, poppy seeds, melon seeds, and saffron.

The nuts and seeds are added to milk and boiled, then the saffron is added. When it boils, sugar is added and dissolved. Then, the dried rose petals, green cardamom, cinnamon, and black peppercorns are ground into a paste that’s added to the milk. Afterwards, powdered masala can also be added.  

Related Questions 

Is coffee popular in India?

Although coffee used to be traditionally dominant in the southern part of the country, since the early 2000s it has become more popular in India. This is said to be as a result of a cafe culture boom that’s thought to be aligned with the growth of India’s tech sectors.

What soft drinks sell the most in India? 

Some of the most popular soft drinks in India include Sprite, Thums Up, and Pepsi. Another one is Mazaa, which is a Coca-Cola fruit beverage from India that’s marketed in a variety of regions, such as Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. 

Conclusion 

While you might say “tea” when you think of what people drink in India, tea is only one type of popular beverage to enjoy.

There are many other traditional Indian beverages that you should sample when you visit India. In this article, we’ve featured some traditional hot and cold drinks to savor when exploring the country, as well as their historical and cultural significance.

Sources:

Nicole

Nicole Dowdy is an avid foodie and successful restaurateur. [He/she] has dedicated nearly all her life to learning popular recipes from across the globe as well as developing new ones. Using Food Migration, Nicole Dowdy shares the very best recipes for just about every home cook looking to try something new in the kitchen. Pro chefs can also learn a few tricks on the website.Looking to improve your kitchen? You will also find awesome and high-quality kitchen utensil recommendations as well as buying guides on this website.