The only thing better than a good recipe? When something is so easy to do that you don’t even need one. Welcome to As simple as that, a column in which we explain the process of preparing food and drinks that we can prepare with our eyes closed.
When I grew up, I spent the summer with my grandparents in Lahore, Pakistan. The days were always hot and humid, but that never stopped my brothers or me from playing on my Nani’s rooftop terrace or lawn from morning to evening. Every few hours we heard her silky smooth voice float out of the open kitchen windows and call us back into the house for a cold drink. Sometimes the drink was the choice Nimbu Pani;; other times it was frothy mango lassi. But whenever we saw three metal cups lined up in a row on the counter, each with beads of condensation running down, we knew it was doodh soda.
Doodh soda is one of those combinations that sounds wrong until you try. A mixture of lemon-lime soda (like 7-Up or Sprite) and milk, creamy, sweet, slightly bubbly and strongly thirst-quenching. I like to think of it as the naughty Punjabi cousin Persian Doogh (which is made with yogurt and club soda). I was four or five years old when I first tried it, so I didn’t need any particular conviction. Milk? Well. 7 to? Even better. Mix the two and now let’s talk.
The drink is a staple food in the Punjab provinces of Pakistan and India. In Lahore, dairies and street cart vendors sell it at any time of the day during the hot months. Its popularity skyrockets especially in the month of Ramadan, as Sprite and 7-Up are broadcasting doodh-soda commercials on television as it feels like every hour. Many iftar tables in the home have a large pitcher of doodh soda, with grandmothers often praising the “relaxing” properties of the drink before giving you a glass. The two main ingredients of the drink are loved separately for their supposed medicinal properties. So it makes sense that when combined, they turn into an almost super drink.
Lemonades, especially lemon-lime sodas, are often prescribed by Punjabi grandmothers as home remedies for gastrointestinal complaints. For my nani, gas meant normal sprite, nausea sprite with a little salt and upset stomach flat sprite. I often jokingly asked her if she was secretly paid by soda companies; She would reply that soda was the way her mother’s mother had relieved her stomach ache since “angraaizon ka zamana,” which means roughly since the days of British colonial rule.
Milk is another sublime drink in many South Asian households. It is considered to be the be-all and end-all for healthy development and well-being from infancy to late adulthood. Even suggesting yogurt or cheese as a substitute for your daily glass of milk is almost sacrilegious because, as my mother likes to say, “Nothing can replace the benefits of a glass of milk!”
So it’s easy to see why doodh soda is so popular in Ramadan. Fasting more than 16-18 hours a day puts a strain on the body and whether you believe the folklore and medical claims behind the drink, it is undoubtedly delicious. After just a few sips, it’s easy to forget that you haven’t eaten or drunk anything all day. Your thirst will disappear, the creaminess will satiate you and the sudden surge of sugar will wake you up.
To do this, fill a glass with about ⅓ of the way crushed ice, Add milk until the glass ⅔ is full, and finally add 7-Up or Sprite to fill the glass to the brim. To make a jug, the basic ratio is two parts milk to one part soda. If I feel like it, I like to add freshly grated lemon and lime peel. If you want to make it more bubbly and less creamy, you can switch the milk and soda ratio to 1: 1. There is no wrong way to go about it, and you will find that you can add as much of each component as it suits your own taste buds. As a grandmother’s cherished drink, doodh soda will nourish you in any form.
Haneen J. Iqbal is a freelance writer based in Toronto.