The 10 most traditional drinks in India

cups with jaljeera indian beverage made with cumin and lime

Anyone who thinks that India’s drinks are all about Lassi and Masala Chai is wrong. The Asian country has an amazing list of typical drinks, as varied and unique as its traditions.

As you can imagine, most Indian beverages are rich in spices and known to increase immunity and fight indigestion. Most are super refreshing, which helps to withstand the summer heat, a time when the country’s temperatures can exceed 40ºC.

List: 10 typical Indian drinks

Discover the main drinks that you can’t miss while exploring India’s mysteries and traditions.

Masala Chai

a cup with masala chai and spices
Masala Chai | © JulijaDmitrijeva

The tradition of drinking milk with black tea was an English influence, but the highlight of the masala chai is the super characteristic spice touch of Indian cuisine (Masala in Hindi means “spice mixture”).

This hot drink is made with black tea, whole milk, sugar and spices (which may vary by region) such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, ginger, black pepper and nutmeg.

a cup with masala chai and spices
Homemade Indian Masala Chai
The masala chai is much more than a drink. It is the welcome symbol in every house in India and a break for the daily rush.
Read Recipe

Filter coffee (Kaapi)

A traditional drink from southern India is Filter coffee, also called Filter Kaapi, Madras Coffee among others. The coffee is filtered very slowly through a specific filter made of stainless steel, then it is mixed with hot milk and sugar.

A curiosity is that chicory can be mixed with coffee powder before filtering to enhance the aroma and flavour of the drink.

indian filter coffee or filter kaapi in the dabarah
Filter Kaapi | © Food’n Road

Lassi

A very famous Indian drink is Lassi, which originated in Punjab, a state in the north of the country. The base of Lassi is yoghurt and there are sweet versions (made with water, sugar, cardamom and fruits such as mango and strawberry) and savoury versions (made with salt, cumin and mint), and the ingredients vary according to the region.

Lassi is a great “tranquiliser” for spicy Indian food, as casein, a protein found in milk, binds to capsaicin, a compound responsible for the burning of peppers.

Read also: The golden temple of the Sikhs in Amritsar, capital of Punjab

cup with lassi a traditional indian drink made with yoghurt
Lassi | © Canva Pro

Masala Chaas

As in Lassi, the base of Masala Chaas is yoghurt, but Chaas has a more liquid consistency and a more spicy flavour. In addition to the whole yoghurt, Masala Chaas, also called spiced buttermilk, takes water and various spices such as powdered cumin, salt, pepper and ginger (some recipes also use coriander leaves and mint).

Masala Chaas is very popular in the summer, especially in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, located in western India.

a cup with masala chaas also known as spiced buttermilk
Masala Chaas | © Food’n Road

Paneer Soda

Hold on! Paneer Soda has nothing to do with paneer cheese. Panneer means rose water in Tamil, one of the many languages ​​spoken in south India where this drink is most common. The Paneer Soda is very easy to prepare, just mix water (or essence) of roses, sugar and soda (or sparkling water).

The end result is a super refreshing soda, typically sold by street vendors.

Toddy

Toddy, also known as palm wine or coconut wine, is an alcoholic beverage resulting from the fermentation of sap extracted from palm trees, such as coconut. The sap can also be consumed fresh, in this case, it is called Neera and has high nutritional value and vitamin content.

Toddy is widely consumed in the state of Kerala (southern India), being found in “Toddy shops”, small traditional family restaurants that sell good and cheap food (there are more than 3,500 establishments throughout the state).

Curiosity: Coconut wine is also consumed in other countries of the world, such as in the Philippines, where it is called Tuba.

toddy shop kerala
Toddy Shop in Kerala | © Food’n Road

Aam Panna

Aam means “mango” in Hindi. Unlike most juices and drinks that use ripe mangoes, Aam Panna uses green mangoes, also called fresh ‘Kairi’. The mangoes are cooked and then beaten, adding salt, pepper, jeera (cumin powder) and mint leaves to decorate.

Typical in northern India, the Aam Panna drink is widely consumed in the summer as a refreshment and to replace the electrolytes lost in perspiration due to the heat.

glass with aam panna an Indian drink made with green mangoes
Aam Panna | © Arundhati Sathe

Nimbu Pani

Also known as Shikanji, Nimbu Pani consists of lemonade “turbinated” with sugar, coarse salt and jeera (powdered cumin). 

This intriguing drink, which mixes sweet and salty, is also widely consumed in the summer for being very refreshing and is commonly sold by street vendors.

nimbu pani typical drink from India sold by street vendors
Nimbu Pani | © Mlenny

Jaljeera

In Hindi, Jal means “water” and Jeera, “cumin”. The drink consists of lemonade with the addition of cumin seeds and Jaljeera powder, a mixture of spices that takes many ingredients such as roasted cumin powder, mint leaves, coriander leaves, ginger, pepper, black salt, powdered fruits (ex: dehydrated green mango) or even tamarind water to give a slightly tangy flavour.

Jaljeera originated in northern India and, like Nimbu Pani, is widely consumed during the summer. It can be consumed either before a meal (to whet your appetite) or after it, as cumin helps digestion.

Read also: The best spice blends in the world

cups with jaljeera indian beverage made with cumin and lime
Jaljeera | © Mukesh-Kumar

Thandai

Thandai is a very popular drink, traditionally served at the Holi Festival, the festival of colours that celebrates the arrival of spring, and during the Mahashivratri (a festival that honours God Shiva).

In Hindi, Thandai means “refreshing” or “something that cools”. In addition to milk and sugar, Thandai takes several ingredients such as almonds, cardamom, rose water, saffron, pepper, fennel and watermelon seeds.

Curiosity: Bhang Thandai is served at the Holi Festival, which in addition to the ingredients mentioned above also takes a paste made of cannabis (the flowers and leaves of the plant are crushed in the pestle and added to the drink).

thandai is a typical indian drink
Thandai | © Ajaykampani

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