Nimbu Pani Is The Ultimate Thirst-Quenching Drink You Need To Know

If you're looking for a refreshing way to defeat the brutal summer heat, make a batch of the beloved South Asian drink nimbu pani. Translated from the Hindi as "lemon (or lime) water," this concoction is much more sophisticated and delectable than the name implies. In essence, nimbu pani is a blend of citrus juice, spices, salt, water, and optional sugar.

Variations of nimbu pani are sold everywhere from Nepal to Bangladesh in restaurants and market stalls. It takes the form of a bottled, lemony fizzy drink called Banta in Delhi. Restaurants in Kolkata serve the lime juice syrup, mint, and soda water separately for people to mix together. For the home cook, nimbu pani has many upsides beyond being a reliable thirst quencher: it's healthier than sweet tea, for example, containing less sugar and more vitamin C-packed fruit juice and restorative minerals. In addition, nimbu pani is not only simple to make, but the basic recipe allows for virtually endless variation and invention — starting with the star of the show.

How to make nimbu pani

You can use lemons or limes indiscriminately when making nimbu pani. Indians do not differentiate between the two, and the word "nimbu" can mean either one. Young, green lemons are often used in cooking because of their sourness — prized both as a balance to spicy heat and as a digestive aid. The second-most important nimbu pani ingredient is a minerally and slightly sulfurous volcanic rock salt called kala namak, or black salt. It's easy to find in specialty grocery stores and should absolutely be included in your nimbu pani recipe, with the admonishment that a little goes a long way! If black salt isn't to your taste, Himalayan or sea salt will be a fine substitute. Conversely, if you're already a fan of Indian food, black salt pairs beautifully with the earthy flavor of ground roasted cumin seed. What else should go in your batch of nimbu pani? Ice cubes and perhaps a little sugar, with mint leaves to garnish.

You can assemble your nimbu pani one of two ways: toss peeled slices of limes or lemons into a blender along with the other ingredients until it's frothy; or juice the fruit and combine it with the rest of the ingredients in a bowl or pitcher. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved, and pour over ice. If you'd like some fizz, add soda water. The only thing left to do is cool down in style by drinking a tall glass.

Variations on a good thing

We've only described the most basic nimbu pani recipe, but when making it you're only limited by your imagination. Here are a few variations you might want to adopt: If you're into fresh mint, crush a handful of leaves in a mortar and pestle along with the sugar, then add it to the citrus juice. Spice lovers can make a mix of sugar, black salt, ground coriander, ground roasted cumin powder, and a pinch of assertively-flavored chaat masala to their lemon juice, making a savory drink. For a tropical touch, juice your limes into coconut water mixed with fresh ginger juice and powdered sugar.

When you're done, you'll have a drink that has no competition from the usual sugary refreshment offerings like soft drinks and lemon or limeades. Nimbu pani is ready to be your new go-to summer thirst quencher loaded not only with vitamins and minerals, but an incandescent blend of sour, salty, and sweet that will cure any overheated attitude.