Summer is synonymous with tall glasses of refreshing, iced libations. This is what happens when a few countries put an unusual spin on summer coolers
Aloe Vera Sharbat, Dhaka, Bangladesh
While it may look and feel like something straight out of a science fiction flick, this Dhakai aloe vera sharbat knows how to take the edge of the unrelenting heat unleashed by the Buriganga River, during summer. Served up straight from a squeezed stalk of aloe vera, the sap-like juice is mixed with soaked sabja (basil seeds)—that are coolants by themselves—along with a syrup made from jaggery and stirred till the mixture starts resembling liquid egg white. But look past its slimy, gloopy countenance and you will find that this detoxifying, immunity-building drink glides down your throat and almost instantly acts like balm for your insides, leaving a delicately vegetal taste at the back of your throat.
Iced Cà Phê ChÔn, Hanoi, Vietnam
They say that the best things in life are the hardest to attain. And a glass of iced cà phê chn sure makes it to the exclusive list. A delicacy in Hanoi, this Vietnamese-style cold coffee is made with coffee berries eaten, digested and then excreted by a special kind of weasel, found only in this part of the world. Specially trained hunters find the excrement-ensconced berries in the forests and collect them for processing. The berries are then cleaned, roasted to form beans, ground, decocted with hot water and then poured over condensed milk and ice resulting in a robust flavoured—slightly chocolate-y—cold coffee.
Halo-Halo, Manila, the Philippines
Luridly coloured and always served up in a tall glass, so that all of its rather strangely composed layers can easily be identified, halo-halo (literally meaning ‘mix-mix’) is the Philippines’ drinkable national pastime on a hot summer’s day. And it is so good that they simply couldn’t help naming it twice! Available on almost every street corner in Manila, halo-halo is made up of finely shaved ice, interspersed with pieces of the caramel custard-esque leche flan, candied tender-coconut and jackfruit, evaporated milk and both red and white garbanzo beans in a sugar syrup and topped with a scoop of purple ube (yam) ice-cream, which combine to make it bizarrely unusual and criminally refreshing.
Doodh Cola, Kolkata, India
Taste this and you’ll wonder “why wasn’t it invented earlier?” As its name suggests, doodh cola is simply a mixture of equal parts of fizzy cola, milk and crushed ice, to which a little sugar is added before it is given a whirl in the blender. Served up in one-litre plastic jugs and poured out into earthen kullads, doodh cola, the canny invention of Balwant Singh in the early 1980s, was served at his eponymous Kolkata dhaba-style eating house. And while this is THE place to try out this unique spin on cola and milk, there are others who have cottoned on to the idea with their own versions, none as good though.
Iced Karkade, Cairo, Egypt
Known multifariously as hibiscus, shoe-flower, rosella in Australia, jaswand in India and karkade in Arabic, this bright-red flower lends itself superbly to an ultra-refreshing drink. Sold in the streets of Cairo by vendors dispensing the drink from large silver pots, with equally large spouts, karkade and summer are an unavoidable twosome. Dried petals of the flower are first steeped in warm water to release their flavour and colour. The liquid is then strained and mixed with iced water to which sugar and lemon juice are added for a refreshingly tart finish. Sometimes, fresh mint leaves are also added as garnish. But that’s not all, studies have proved that this drink lowers blood pressure in people with Type 2 diabetes, making it a health tonic as well. Tchin Tchin!