Look to India and Brazil for lemon/lime thirst quenchers this summer

By Evan Kleiman

Relief from India’s scorching heat can often be found in a glass of spiced limeade called Nimbu pani. Photo by Shutterstock.

As temperatures start to rise, it’s time to focus on a couple of sweet-tart drinks that we can lean on as summer approaches. It makes sense to look at countries that deal with more brutal heat and humidity than we do, and have a need for rehydrating and replenishing. Both of these drinks can be made with either lemons or limes. I think limes are actually better.

I love how each of these drinks reflects the culinary culture. Nimbu pani uses a collection of optional spices and a funky black salt called kala namak (you can use regular salt) and is balanced between sweet and sour, depending on personal taste. Some folks prefer it nearly unsweetened. 

Brazilian lemonade (made from limes) has creamy luxuriousness from the sweetened condensed milk used in the drink. The stability of the condensed milk ensures that it won’t curdle with the addition of citrus. For the Swiss or Suiça style, the entire lime is used including the peel so the flavor is strong with a hint of bitterness. The hint for ensuring using whole limes doesn’t result in a drink that’s too bitter is to not blend the ingredients for more than 10 to 15 seconds. The longer you blend, the more bitter it will be. 

For me, Nimbu pani, also known as Shikanji, is an everyday quaff while Brazilian lemonade is almost dessert-like. But oh so refreshing! And as a bonus, both beverages turn into spectacular cocktails with the addition of spirits, gin for the Nimbu pani, and cachaça for the Brazilian lemonade.

Nimbu pani is wonderful served so that people can individualize it. Set out a pitcher of fresh lime juice, ice cubes, water, sparkling water and little bowls of chaat masala, ground cumin, simple syrup or sugar and black or regular salt. But you can also make pitchers of it, making the drink not too sweet, then offering additional sugar and lime wedges on the side so that people can adjust to their liking.

Brazilian lemonade

Tart, sweet and creamy, Brazilian lemonade is the perfect summertime treat. Photo by Shutterstock.

To make the drink, cut the tops and bottoms off the limes and discard, then cut the limes in quarters, put in a blender with water and pulse to blend. Strain mixture and return lime water to blender. Add sweetened condensed milk and additional sugar if desired and blend again. Serve immediately or store in the fridge. Blend with ice when ready to serve.