If you go to the Bhaskarettante Kada (Brother Bhaskar’s shop) Sarbath shop in Kozhikode, you can order one thing three ways – Milk, Soda or Water Sarbath. That’s it. That’s what they make. And, they’ve been making it very successfully for over six decades.
Also known as South India Soda the Malayalam names are paal sarbath for milk, soda sarbath for one with sparkling water and just sarbath for one with water. In some shops you can also find a masala sarbath – one with a spice mixture masala. The Paal Sarbath in particular, is like the equivalent of a tasty North American Root Beer Float.
To make Milk, Soda or Water Sarbath you need sarsaparilla (aka Nannari) syrup (made with jaggery) and a mixture of milk and egg white stirred over a pile of ice.
The Bhaskarettante Kada shop we visited was just down Kannur Road from Kumari Banana Chips and The Paragon Restaurant. It’s easy to find because there’s always a line up. We watched the owner, set up tall clear glasses and chip ice from a big block into them. He followed that with about half a glass of sarasparilla syrup. Then he’d add the milk and egg mixture or soda depending on his customer’s wishes.
It was a hot, hot day. The creamy brown drink loaded with that freshly chipped ice looked so cool and refreshing. Yet, that wonderfully cool ice came from an unknown source so it posed a problem for our Western tummies. Our guide, Bibin Baby, happily taste-tested for us. His smile and thumbs up made us quite envious.
Many Indian Grocers will have bottles of prepared Nannari Syrup. We’ve included a recipe to make your own in case you can’t find one.