Summer slurp

Anjali Jhangiani
Friday, 30 March 2018

Here’s how bars in the city are giving Aam Panna, the traditional Indian summer beverage, a tipsy twist

The Indian summer is relentless. Thankfully, we have refreshing concoctions to help us get through it year after year. As the winter fades away and the temperatures start rising swiftly to uncomfortable degrees, the markets fill with mangoes — yet unripe and green, but filled with tangy goodness.

Gulp down one glassful and you’ll be refreshed and ready to get through your day. Not only does this beverage quench your thirst while tasting absolutely yummy, it also prevents excessive loss of essential minerals from the body that you usually sweat out, helps with stomach-related ailments which increase as it gets hotter, and improves cholesterol levels. Now bars in the city have taken this ‘wonder drink’ to a whole new level by infusing it with alcohol.

The Coconut Tree is offering a special Aam Panna this time of the year. Bartender Satish Yadav tells us why they decided to include the seasonal drink on their summer menu. “Considering its popularity in summer, we didn’t think of any reason why it shouldn’t be on the menu. Plus, we wanted to add a tangy twist to the seasonal menu at The Coconut Tree. Aam Panna felt like the best option to give guests a summer treat,” he says.

Though his concoction involves some measurement of rum, he has focused on not making the beverage too different from the original, traditional recipe. How does he make it we ask. “Keeping the original taste, I wanted to add a tangy twist to this drink. So I add some white rum, mint leaves, and lime to the homemade Aam Panna. Then I mix it along with some curry leaves and then serve it with soda or Sprite,” he shares. The delightful drink comes in a mason jar garnished with a slice of lime.

“Pune city sees a very hot and dry climate in summers. So your body is not only dehydrated but also needs some drink to feel cool and refreshed. Aam Panna also has some healthy values as raw mangoes help ease digestion in summers,” says Yadav.

At Mr Rabbit’s Bar & Burrow, Baner, the Aam Panna cocktail is on the special spring-summer specials menu. The head bartender Shoaib Akhter believes that though most people like to stick to their favourite drink at the bars they frequent, there are some who are curious to try new concoctions. “We have to work according to changing trends and tastes. In winter, we added rum and hot chocolate that worked very well in the cold season. When it comes to this sweltering heat, people want something that’s seasonal and current and what better than Aam Panna to satisfy that craving,” he says, adding, “It’s ideal for this season because it’s loaded with essential vitamins and minerals that are good for the body and keep your body cool and energetic during the summer heat.”

Instead of using the shortcut of using an instant mix or a crush, they prefer to make their own Aam Panna from scratch. “We are also going to be infusing it over four days with vodka. This homemade infusion can then be added to different cocktails. The longer you keep the infusion, the more potent it becomes. It can also work as a shot,” says Akhter who adds this infusion to a variety of specials he concocts for his guests. 

But the “khatta-meetha” Aam Panna cocktail, which pairs well with pub grub, includes gin and lime in addition to the traditionally-made raw mango drink. “As a bartender, the key to mixing alcohol with this, or any other beverage, is to get the proportions right. It should be well balanced so that the guest can taste all the flavours. Then if someone wants the drink stronger, we can always add more alcohol,” he says.

Teetotalers also have a surprise in store. “My colleague is also doing a mocktail with blueberry and Aam Panna which will be quite interesting. We are working on more flavour combinations too,” shares Akhter.

The Lord of the Drinks Kalyani Nagar has an Aam Panna flavoured drink on their menu all-year round. If you’re one of the ‘rebels without a cause’, you can feel triumphant sipping on this summery potation on a cold winter evening too. Kunal Bansal, director at Lord of the Drinks, says, “We put it on the menu because Aam Panna is one drink that instantly transports you to your childhood — to a time in the summer vacations when you just come back home after playing an intense game of gully cricket to be welcomed by your mother with a chilled glass of freshly brewed Aam Panna. We wanted to remind our patrons of that feeling, while also giving them a pleasant high.”

Served stylishly in a cocktail glass, garnished with curry leaves, the beverage is called Vodka Curry Aam Panna. “The main twist to the classic Aam Panna comes from the curry leaf infused vodka. The infusion is freshly done in-house. We also use homemade bitters to further enhance the flavours,” says Bansal, adding, “It is very refreshing, easy on the palate and it is one of those very few desi drinks that are the right balance between fruit and spice.

To make this drink even more mouth-puckering, a generous amount of vodka is added. “We use vodka that is infused with curry leaves in-house. We use bitters to balance the flavours of alcohol and raw mango,” says Bansal.

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