From aam panna to goti soda - popular Indian drinks you can find in the UAE

Many beverages are packed with herbs, condiments and nutrients. Here's what they are and where to find them in the UAE

Goti soda bottles are sealed using a marble lodged in the bottle's narrow neck. Photo: Wikipedia
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As Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani aims to revive Campa Cola — a brand that became a household name when Coca-Cola was banned during India's 1975 Emergency — The National looks at five other popular beverages from the country, and where you can sample them in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Aam panna

There are few fruits as polarising in India as the mango, dubbed the “king of fruits”. Every region has a variant that locals swear is the best — from Alphonso (Maharashtra), Langra (Uttar Pradesh) and Pairi (Gujarat), to Totapuri (Karnataka) and Safeda (Andhra Pradesh). The country is, however, united in its love for aam panna.

The summertime drink is made from raw, unripe mangoes and gets its name from “aam”, the Hindi word for “mango”, and the Sanskrit word “paaniya”, which translates to “drink”.

The beverage is characterised by a tart flavour, accompanied by spices and condiments such as black or pink salt, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin seeds, black pepper and fennel. The Maharashtra version of aam panna involves substantial use of sugar or jaggery, while in East India, it is often roasted and pulped.

A glass typically contains 100 calories, and the drink is flush with nutrients such as vitamins A, B1, B2, C, plus folate, pectin and choline, and minerals such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron and calcium.

Aam panna has long been a part of Indian culture thanks to its cooling and electrolyte-supplementing properties, and has been celebrated in Ayurvedic literature, Mughal texts such as Ain-e-Akbari and Baburnama, all the way back to the poet Kalidasa’s writing in the fifth century.

Try it at: Filli or Punjab Highway Restaurant in Abu Dhabi; Sthan or Via Delhi in Dubai.


Jaljeera translates to cumin (jeera) water (jal) and it is popular in northern and western India as an antidote to the region’s scorching summers. In addition to being sought for its rehydrating and energising properties, the drink is known for its cheap ingredients.

The tangy drink often doubles as a non-alcoholic aperitif served before meals to awaken the taste buds and whet one’s appetite.

While the base ingredients are water and cumin powder, which give it a nutty and earthy flavour, it also typically packs in the sharp sourness of lemons, tempered by a combination of salt, pepper, chilli, ginger and mint. Some recipes call for the zest of mango or other citrus fruits.

Much like the aam panna, Ayurvedic literature is filled with mentions of jaljeera, extolling its digestive and cooling virtues. Cumin is considered a medicinal ingredient and one of nature’s best digestives due to the rich array of nutrients it packs: iron, manganese, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, potassium and plenty of vitamins. One glass of jaljeera is about 20 calories, making it a great choice for those counting theirs.

Try it at: Salam Bombay or Tandoori Corner in Abu Dhabi; Urban Tadka or 25 Degrees North in Dubai.


A beverage widely consumed in South India, panakam is popular not just for its sweet and mildly tangy flavour profile, but equally for being a quintessential part of Ramanavami celebrations in India. While most Hindu festivals are celebrated with rich delicacies redolent with sugar and ghee, the food traditions around the birth of Rama are austere in comparison, with panakam, watery buttermilk and moong salad being part of the ritualistic offerings.

Panakam derives its name from Sanskrit, and translates to “sweet drink”. Its main ingredient is jaggery, with hints of lime or tamarind to cut through the syrupy thickness, and it is mildly spiced with cardamom, although you can also use ginger and peppercorns.

Unusually, panakam is a popular hot drink (as actress-turned-food writer Madhur Jaffrey recommends in her 1998 book World Vegetarian) as it is an iced summer cooler. Panakam is also served during wedding celebrations and to mark the end of Navaratri.

Recipe: While panakam is hard to find in UAE restaurants, it's easy enough to make at home. Simply dissolve three spoons of jaggery in two cups of water, strain it, then add the juice of half a lemon, salt and cardamom powder to taste.

Goti soda

If chaat and momos dominate most Indian street food lists, goti soda tops the country’s street drinks. The beverage enjoyed cult-like status in the 19th and 20th centuries, so much so that, at the peak of its popularity, Mumbai (then Bombay) was home to 150 soda factories, with the industry largely dominated by the Parsi community.

The drink takes its name from the marble (goti or goli) sealing the mouth of the kitschy bottle that was patented for fizzy drinks by Hiram Codd n 1872. These bottles are filled upside down, with the pressure from the carbonated liquid creating a natural seal with the marble in the bottle’s narrow mouth.

Guzzling the lemon or orange-flavoured drink served in distinctly recognisable Codd-neck and thick glass bottles was a rite of passage for generations of Indians. Although its popularity has watered down since then, goti soda is still a staple of local street vendors and is known as banta or goli soda in the north, paneer soda in the south, and potash jol in the east.

The drink itself is a simple combination of crushed ice, soda and lime juice with a healthy sprinkling of chaat masala for flavour. Close cousins of goti soda are sparkling or still shikanji (the desi version of lemonade) and masala soda, which is essentially regular soda with a lime-masala punch.

Try it at: While marbled goti soda bottles are hard to come by in the UAE, shikanji and masala soda are available at Peppermill in Abu Dhabi, as well as Khau Galli and Once Upon a Bite in Dubai.

Noon chai

Among the icy drinks that are practically a survival tool in India’s sweltering summers, Kashmir’s noon chai stands out as a piping hot staple, given the northern state’s cold climes. “Noon” means “salt” in Kashmiri, which is what distinguishes this briny milk tea from its sweet siblings in the annals of India’s favourite traditional beverage.

Salt, though, is not noon chai’s only peculiar ingredient. Typically, the concoction is made by brewing green tea in baking soda for an hour, creating an auburn-coloured extract called tueth. The extract is then diluted with water and mixed with salted milk, which gives it a light pink hue instead of the carob-green typically associated with steeped tea.

Noon chai is traditionally served in brass flasks with a chamber for a lump of burning coal to keep the tea hot.

Try it at: Mynt Indian Cuisine or Naan House in Abu Dhabi; Truck Adda or Karak Time in Dubai.

Updated: March 28, 2023, 4:19 PM