Mumbai food: Street goti soda makes an entry into bar menus

Once an elite mixer for the British, and then a street staple in north India, the codd-necked goti soda (or banta) quietly makes an entry into bar menus

Food historian Pushpesh Pant’s voice softens when he remembers the goti soda. “I am 70 years old. Sixty-five years ago, in Mukteshwar, Nainital — where I grew up — goti soda was available only at a British club.”

Pics/Sameer Markande

The water carbonator machine was imported from Germany and used to replace tonic water. At the same, says Pant, the machines were available only in army camps and sophisticated clubs. The British used it as a disinfectant to purify the water, and keep malaria – whose cause was then unknown – at bay. It was the Anglo Indians who later tried it with nimboo pani and shikanji.

After the British left India, the drink made it to the streets and soon enough, became banta, or Delhi’s ‘local drink’ — a favourite thirst squencher available at colleges, hostels and students. “In the pre-refrigeration days, the dark green bottle helped keep the drink cool,” says Pant.

When Pepsi and Coca Cola entered the market in the 1980s, goti soda became uncool. In the 2000s, it achieved retro status. “Now, people want crown bottles,” Pant adds.

“When I was a teacher in the ’60s, goti soda was not seen on college campuses. But, in the mid-70s, when my son went to college, it became a cult since youngsters were rediscovering it. Today, I call it reverse snobbery,” says Pant. The students around Purani Dilli were the kids who grew up on the banta in boarding schools. “Thus, there is a cultural and anthropological history connected to the banta,” he reminiscences.

Today, chances are that you will find the bottle as often in bars as on the streets of Mumbai (where it was once pushed out by the Duke factory). Bartenders are using banta’s crispy freshness to create their interpretations of the good old goti soda.

Kala Khatta banta
When Impresario owner Riyaaz Amlani wanted to introduce nostalgic flavours to his cocktails, he turned to goti sodas. “Kala khatta, masala thums up and jal jeera go well with cocktails and the idea stemmed from wanting to serve fizzy cocktails. Goti soda has a crispy freshness,” he says. Our favourite is the Kala Khatta masala, with the bubbles adding an extra zing.

Pic/Ajinkya Sawant

Himalayan Buransh
Dishkiyaoon’s bar menu took owner Gaurav Dabrai to a farm in Chamoli, Uttarakhand, where rhondenderon flowers bloom. “It is a friend’s farm and they are making a syrup for us which we are using as our banta flavour. We’ll also recommend the tangy King Lemon soda. For this, we got the lemons from Uttarakhand,” he adds. The flowery syrup has a grassy flavour with a mildy sweet aftertaste. With vodka, it would do wonders.

Pic/Sameer Markande
Pic/Sameer Markande

Kala Jamun Banta
Arjun Chaudhary, assistant restaurant Manager, Farzi Café, Kamala Mills, remembers fishing into his pocket for the Rs 5 that a goti soda cost on the streets of Delhi. “All our drinks are Indianised — from the Margherita chuski to bantas, which transform into rum and vodka cocktails. The kala jamun banta is an acquired taste due to the grainy fruit, but is a great change from the regular masala and shikanji flavours.”

Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

Rose Banta
Panneer is soda with a rose essence. At Bombay Canteen, they’ll serve you a gin and tonic version. “For the summer menu, we used some laws of physics and filled goti soda bottles with the right amount of pressure using carbonated machines,” says chef and co-founder Yash Bhanage. Apart from the vodka-infused nimboo soda, shinkanji with black salt, cumin and lemon, there’s also the rose which is a cooling option in the punishing May heat.

Mango banta
For SodaBottleOpenerWala, the bottle holds great value. Banking on the nostalgia that the goti soda comes with, the BKC joint has created the Rustombantawala, a raw and ripe mango masala soda with vodka. The soda is not the banta soda and the goti is missing. But, points for creating the mood, with a twist, of course.

Origin of the bottle
Soda dispensers originated in the West with the idea that people would come to the dispenser. “The problem arose with the need to transport it,” food writer Vikram Doctor explains.

“How do you put soda in a bottle? Even in Archies comics, the characters went to Poptates, which had a soda fountain. In the 1850s, Hiram Codd created the codd-neck bottle, a self-sealing solution. Due to difficulty in cleaning, these bottles always have plain soda. However, at one point, Sosyo was in these bottles,” he adds.

Bottling it up...

Step 1
The bartender mixes the flavours/syrups and alcohol and pours it into a bottle

Step 2
The carbonator machine has three nozzles which can fill three bottles at a time

Step 3
The flap is shut and the bartender spins the bottles by rotating the handle on the side to add carbon dioxide at a pressure of 80psi into the bottles. The knob is shut after four minutes

Step 4
The bottles are brought in upright position, and chilled for two hours

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