12 Most Popular Indian Drinks

India’s formidably hot summers (March, April, and May) inspire many favorite drinks formulated to cool the mind and body. Here are some of the most popular drinks in India.

Non-Alcoholic Drinks

    • Masala Chai: Black tea. Indians cringe when they hear chai called “chai tea” because chai is the word for tea, thus essentially calling it tea tea. Masala chai is a highly spiced, hot, black tea most often flavored with cardamom, ground ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves in varying proportions. It is often sweetened with local sugar or syrup and made creamy with either buffalo or whole cow’s milk. Besides being drunk throughout the day, chai is also often served after a meal as a digestive. Everyday chai is just tea, milk and possibly sugar.
    • Lassi/Chaach: Lassi is a beloved yogurt drink throughout India and can be sweet or savory. Originally from Punjab, this is a drink to help one cope with the summer heat. 
    • Lemonade/Shikanje/Neebu Pani: Essentially lemonade, shikanje is made from a mixture of lemon, sugar, water, and a touch of salt to hydrate the body. To make a watermelon shikanje see My India’s recipe.
    • Thandai: A cold drink made from dried seeds, cardamon, saffron, almonds, and milk that is essential during the festival of  Holi (Halla Mahalla), with a little cannabis (bhang) to help the celebration along.
    • Sol Kadi: Along India’s western coast, the states of Maharashtra and Goa love this creamy coconut drink. It has hints of kokum and a lovely pink hue.
    • Jal Jeera: Another heat buster, jal jeera can be found in bottles, or Indian cooks make it at home. Black pepper, mint, cumin, black salt, ginger, and cumin flavor up this cooler.
    • Kokum Sharbat/Sherbert: Very sweet and quenching, this beverage is a favorite in the large western state of Maharashtra. Made from a non-alcoholic kokum cordial, or squash.
    • Aam Panna: A tangy drink made from raw mangoes, sugar, salt, and mint. Aam panna is another lovely way to combat the Indian summer heat.

Alcoholic Drinks 

    • Fenny: The local drink of Goa, fenny is either made from coconut or the fruit of the cashew tree, called a cashew apple. 
    • Mahua: Prepared from the flowers of the mahua tree, this fruit wine is made by tribal villagers in the central state of Chhattisgarh. The oil from the seeds is believed to cure many ailments.
    • Toddy/Tadi/Kallu: Toddy is wine drunk in Kerala, Madhyra Pradesh, and Andra Pradesh and is made from palm, date, or coconut palms.
    • Kosna/Chuak, Chhang/Sonti: A traditional rice beer enjoyed in Assam, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkand in eastern India.