Paneer Soda, The Drink You Might Get Sprinkled With At Indian Weddings

When thinking of Indian culture, your favorite spicy dishes and cups of earthy tea may be among the first things to come to mind. And, while you may have debated traveling to India just to try the authentic masala chai alone, several other traditional beverages are worth hopping on a plane for, such as refreshing mango lassis to spicy jaljeera. However, there may be no drink better enjoyed on a hot summer day than the beloved rose-flavored paneer soda.

When you first hear the name paneer soda, you may conjure images of a creamy, dairy-rich beverage. We're sorry to disappoint the cheese lovers out there, but this South Indian soda comes without any salty cheese infusion. Instead, this drink doled out by street vendors is a simple four-ingredient experience that will likely soon be your favorite sweet and bubbly treat.

History of paneer soda

Tamil is one of the oldest languages in the world and is spoken on the Southern tip of the subcontinent. In this language, the word panneer, written பன்னீர், can be translated to mean rose water. It is in this region of the country that paneer soda is most commonly enjoyed and can often be found being handed out by street vendors on the side of the road, although it also makes an appearance at more celebratory occasions in the nation.

It's extremely common to see paneer soda being used in Indian wedding ceremonies. However, rather than simply drinking it, it is often sprayed at wedding attendees as a way to welcome them to the event. It may also be used for other celebrations and rituals, such as puja.

With such a light and floral flavor, it's no wonder paneer soda is often a drink of choice for enjoying while at temples or spending a day on a busy South Indian street. And with such a simple ingredient list, you likely won't have to go to India to try this drink out for yourself.

Ingredients in paneer soda

The four essential ingredients used to concoct paneer soda include water, carbonated water, sugar, and either rose water or syrup. There are subtle differences between using club soda versus other types of sparkling water. However, any type of unflavored carbonated water will do when making this drink.

The rose flavoring is typically made from a flavored syrup that is made of sugar, palm candy, and water, with a few drops of rose essence or rose water. Since rose essence is more concentrated, it takes slightly less product to create an adequate flavor than water. However, either work for a great floral infusion.

One great benefit of this soda is that it works as an antacid and helps one's digestion (via Sharmis Passions). So, if you're looking to enjoy this sparkly, refreshing beverage in the evenings and want to experience this piece of South Indian culture, it may be worth whipping up your own paneer soda at home.

How paneer soda is made and where to get it

The first part of this recipe is the most time-consuming: making the homemade syrup. This step requires the sugar to be fully dissolved into boiling water on the stove. The mixture then gets cooled down, and the rose essence or rose water can be added in. This fragrant syrup is then ready to be stored and chilled until you're ready to make the drink. When making the soda, a couple of tablespoons of the syrup can be poured into a glass with ice. Then, the carbonated water can be added in and stirred until the syrup is fully dissolved in the drink. 

Aside from being sold by street vendors, you can find paneer soda in convenience and grocery stores across the country in its packaged form. Brands such as Dailee and Kalimark can be purchased and sipped straight from the bottle.