When the sun is harsh and the weather is unbearably hot and humid, when the soaring mercury creates havoc in your otherwise ‘cool’ life, and when drinking litres of water won’t quench your thirst, it's summer time for sure. But, when the sweat makes you feel miserable and when you feel tempted to uncork those colourful, flavoured, carbonated beverage bottles, please stop! They cannot compete with the traditional summer coolers in terms of flavour and even health benefits.
Though sugarcane juice, coconut water, falooda with sabja seeds, gola (ice lollies) are available at every nook and corner in our part of the world, making coolers at home is no big deal. This summer, keep yourself well hydrated by sipping some the best desi summer coolers that are easy to make at home.
Shikanji: A lemonade flavoured drink with roasted cumin powder and black salt tastes much better than the regular nimbu paani and is an instant energy booster. Just mix some lemon juice with sugar and water solution (or syrup), add cumin powder, black salt or table salt and some chilled water.
Bael sherbet: The fruit known as wood apple, stone apple or Bengal quince is used to make sherbet as well as preserves. Very popular in northern part of India, bael sherbet is a boon for those who suffer from digestive disorders. It purifies blood, boosts immunity (being rich in vitamin C) and health of the liver and kidneys. Crack open the ripe fruit and collect the pulp in a large bowl. Mash the pulp with your fingers, add chilled water and sugar or jaggery and mix well. Strain and season it with table salt or black salt, cracked pepper etc.
Jaljeera and khus sherbat. Photos: Alka Keswani
Jaljeera: Mint not only has a refreshing flavour, but is also packed with antioxidants, and helps relieve indigestion and rehydrate dull and dry skin. Make a paste out of mint leaves, and mix some of this with chilled water, lemon juice, black salt, pepper and roasted cumin powder and enjoy a glass full of bliss.
Khus sherbet: One of the most traditional summer coolers, Khus sherbet is made by mixing khus extract with sugar syrup and chilled water. You can add lemon juice, salt etc to jazz it up. Khus extract is made from the roots/grass of Vetiver and all you need is to clean, rinse and soak the vetiver grass (dried grass is easily available) in some water (preferably in an earthen pot). Strain and boil the extract with sugar and water (1:1 ratio) till the solution is syrupy. Strain, cool and store in a bottle. You can easily get khus syrup in markets, which usually comes with added green colour.
Kokum sherbet: An excellent summer drink that keeps acidity at bay, Kokum sherbet is made using kokum (Garcinia Indica) syrup. Just soak the Kokum fruit/rinds/petals in some water and squeeze. Strain and boil the extract with sugar (1:1 sugar and water ratio) till the sugar melts. Use 2-3 tsp of this concentrate along with some salt and pepper for seasoning and add chilled water. You can also make kokum concentrate by mixing fresh kokum fruits with double the quantity of sugar and keeping it in sunlight for a week or till the sugar melts.
Kokum sherbat & thandai. Photos: Alka Keswani
Milkrose: When you want your kids to have their daily quota of milk, but they refuse to drink it hot, just chill. Add 2-3 tsp of rose syrup or roohafza to a glass full of chilled milk and let the kids enjoy this ‘pink’ milk.
Chaach: Just whisk some dahi with ice cubes, a pinch of salt, black salt and cracked black pepper till frothy. Add water, mix well and pour in glasses. Garnish with some roasted cumin powder and fresh mint leaves.
Lassi: Freshly churned lassi, sweet or savoury, unflavoured or fruit flavoured, is healthy and yummy in each and every avatar.
Aam panna: The best thing about summer is the bounty of mangoes. Roasted or boiled raw mango, pulped and mixed with water, black salt, cumin powder and sugar or jaggery is a sheer bliss in a glass! So summery, yet so soothing.
Thandai: A drink made usually during festivals like Holi using almonds, melon seeds, milk, poppy seeds et al, thandai can be refreshing when the temperatures soar.