Glug your way through India
From Tamil Nadu's masala-maarke buttermilk to Maharashtra's sol kadi, a beverage brand is bringing nutritious drinks from across the country in a bottle.
Growing up in a Chitrapur Saraswat community enclave in Grant Road, this writer has fond memories of drinking panakam, a sweetish-spicy summer coolant prepared annually during Ramnavami celebrations. Made with jaggery, pepper, dry ginger, lemon juice and water, the drink, popular in parts of South India, is known to have restorative properties. There is no boiling involved and the batch only gets better as it ages. Our grouse, however, was: why wait a year for this soulful thirst quencher? We never got around to finding the answer.
Now, a regional beverage venture by Septagon Hospitality has cut short our waiting time. Missus Sippi offers signature beverages from across India that are hard to find outside of home (Rs 60 to Rs 150). From Tamil Nadu and Kerala to Bihar and West Bengal, the menu covers a gamut of states.
Our drinks arrived on a warm October day, in sturdy 300 ml glass bottles with neat labels and instructions that the bottles need to be shaken before consumption. According to the makers, the naturally occurring acids in the juices can increase the shelf life for a short duration under refrigeration, but they recommend you consume it immediately.
Sol kadi is made with kokum, spices and coconut milk
Given the heat, we started with Kerala's Kulukki (means "shaken" in Malayalam) sherbet made with lemon, green chillies and basil seeds (sabja). A lot like nimbu paani, it is a refreshing coolant. It has a spice element due to the chillies, but the basil seeds help balance the sting. From familiar territory, we moved to tetuler shorbot from West Bengal. A sweet and sour tamarind drink, this one has anti-inflammatory properties, and is rich in fibre. According to Ayurveda, tamarind helps cure gastric problems. You can get to the benefits only if you can get past the sourness. If you, like us, don't mind a tarty drink, it can be a welcome change from the ubiquitous sweetened offerings in the market.
Talking about gut goodness, Sattu ka paani, too, falls in the acquired taste league. Considered a staple in Bihar and Jharkhand, sattu was once labelled the poor man's protein and is now a global superfood. It is a mixture of a variety of pulses, millets and cereals like horsegram, barley and maize. The easiest way to consume it as a sweet or savoury sherbet. This one, though, is puzzlingly neutral in flavour. But what it lacks in taste, it makes up in nutrition. For something more delicious, we suggest the saunf ka paani (Gujarat) and kala khatta (Maharashtra). The former is made using fennel seeds and keeps the body hydrated. Make sure you take a whiff before you sip, for it has a relaxing scent and will remind you of how fresh and vibrant fennel can be. Although we've had kala khatta on numerous occasions, this deep purple potion hits the spot. The jamun element is particularly pronounced. Last, we come to the good ol' panakam. Unlike fizzy drinks that taste best when chilled, panakam is refreshing even at room temperature. We find it slightly lacking in spice, but it's a sincere attempt at recreating a simple recipe with complex flavours.
Panakam is a summer drink made of jaggery and lime juice, flavoured with cardamom and pepper
Missus Sippi is a concept that draws your attention to regional gems that can be glugged.
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