If your spiritual life seems dry, 
try these refreshing drinks from Lord Krsna's cuisine.

Browse through the beverage section of almost any American cookbook, small or encyclopedic, and you'll notice that caffeinated and alcoholic drinks predominate iced teas and coffees, punches and liqueurs. In Lord Krsna's cuisine, although there's a surprisingly large and satisfying selection of beverages (like the panis, chays, sharbarts, lassis, and dudhs pictured below), the drinks are healthful and don't contain alcohol or caffeine.

Nimbu pani, for example, a drink many people in India take six times a day, is the juice of fresh lemons mixed with water and sweetened. Besides refreshing and cooling us, this simple drink offers other surprising benefits. The distinguished naturalist Maude Grieve, in her classic A Modern Herbal, states, "It is probable that the lemon is the most valuable of all fruit for preserving health." Richard Grossman, contributing editor for Health, writes, "Lemon juice may well be the most antiseptic juice known to man. . . ." It calms the nerves and contains a broad spectrum of nutrients that have eradicated scurvy and are diuretic and diaphoretic. Lemons have been used to prevent and treat colds, the flu, malaria, sore throats, and laryngitis.

Other fruits, like peaches, pears, apples, pineapples, and of course the king of fruits, mangoes, make ambrosial beverages. Mangoes offer solace from the summer heat, especially in India, where the heat is intense and the mangoes are memorably sweet and succulent. Some say the appreciation Indians have for mangoes and mango drinks rivals the appreciation the French have for wine and the Germans have for beer. The home of more than one thousand varieties of mangoes, India produces sixty-five percent of the world's mango crop.

Another uncomplicated drink, and a favorite of India, is lassi (made from yogurt or buttermilk). Like nimbu pani and phal ka ras (fruit drinks), lassi is a cooling refresher that offers surprising health benefits. At Nebraska University and Lincoln University, researchers have found evidence that yogurt helps check the growth of cancer cells. In addition, as Dr. M. P. Varshney writes, "Consumption of yogurt is found to reduce the level of cholesterol." Taken regularly, yogurt "helps restore the 'flora' in the intestines to a normal state by not only protecting useful bacteria, but also by developing fresh healthy ones." There is also evidence that the regular intake of yogurt increases longevity.

Dudh (milk) is described by Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, as "the most wonderful of all foods," because it nourishes the cerebral tissues that enable one to understand spiritual knowledge. In addition, milk enhances our material well-being, since it contains high-quality protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and calcium.

Drinking doesn't have to mean taking intoxicants, stimulants, or chemically flavored and colored carbonated junk. It can and should mean taking pure water, natural fruit juices, herb and spice teas, and milk and milk products. All these. Lord Krsna states, "increase the duration of life, purify one's existence, and give strength, health, happiness, and satisfaction" (Bg. 17.8).

(Recipes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, by Adi-raja dasa)

Salty Yogurt or Buttermilk Drink

(Namkin lassi)

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Servings: 4-6

½ teaspoon cumin seeds, roasted and ground
3 cups plain yogurt or cultured buttermilk 
2 cups water
2 tablespoons lemon juice 
1 teaspoon salt crushed ice (optional)

Reserve a pinch of the ground cumin and mix all the other ingredients together with a whisk or electric blender. Pour the mixture into a glass (with or without crushed ice). Garnish with the pinch of ground cumin. Offer to Krsna and serve chilled or at room temperature.

A tasty variation for namkin lassi is made by adding 1 ounce of fresh mint leaves. Put several mint leaves aside for the garnish. Mix all the other ingredients (except the ice) in an electric blender until the mint leaves are chopped fine. This should take about 30 seconds. Then add the ice and blend again until the beverage becomes frothy. Pour the mint lassi into a glass, garnish with mint leaves, and offer to Krsna.

To make plain lassi, combine the yogurt or buttermilk, the cumin, and the water. Beat it to a smooth consistency with a whisk or electric blender. Pour the lassi into a glass filled with crushed ice and offer to Krsna.

Sweet Yogurt or Buttermilk Drink

(Mithi lassi)

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Servings: 4-6

3 cups plain yogurt or cultured buttermilk
2 cups ice water
5 tablespoons sugar or 4 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon rose water 
2 pinches ground cardamom seeds 
crushed ice (optional)

Mix all the ingredients together with a whisk or an electric blender until the surface of the lassi becomes frothy. Offer to Krsna chilled, either by adding crushed ice or refrigerating.

As an alternative to rose water and cardamom, try 2 tablespoons of lime or lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of flavored syrup, or 2 ounces of crushed red berries, ripe banana, or ripe mango.

Rose-flavored Cold Drink

(Gulab sharbet)

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Servings: 4-6

1 ¼ pounds sugar 
2 cups water
1 tablespoon rose water 
1 teaspoon red food coloring 
iced water and crushed ice 
mint leaves

Make a syrup by cooking the sugar and water in a saucepan over a gentle flame until the sugar dissolves. Cool. Then add the rose water and food coloring. Just before offering to Krsna, put 2 tablespoons of the syrup into a glass and fill it up with ice water and crushed ice. The amount of syrup can be increased or decreased according to taste.

Cumin and Tamarind Drink

(Jeera pani)

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Servings: 4-6

6 ounces tamarind, broken into small pieces 
1 ½ cups water 
3 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated fine
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground 
½ teaspoon garam masala
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 pinch salt
3 ½ cups ice water
crushed ice
mint leaves
slices of lemon

Boil the tamarind in the water for 15 minutes. Then extract as much juice and pulp from it as possible by forcing it through a strainer several times if necessary. Add water, ginger, cumin, garam masala, brown sugar, and salt to the tamarind juice, mix well, and let stand for 15 minutes. Then filter it through a piece of cheesecloth. Chill. Just before offering to Krsna, dilute with the ice water, put crushed ice into a glass, and garnish with mint leaves and a slice of lemon.

Anise Milk With Raisins and Pistachios


Preparation time: 25 minutes

Servings: 4-6

4 ounces raisins
2 tablespoons anise seeds
1 ½ cups water
1 ounce pistachio nuts
2 cups whole milk
½ teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
5 tablespoons sugar or 4 tablespoons honey

1. Cover the raisins with warm water and soak them for 10 minutes. In a saucepan, boil the anise seeds in the 1 ½ cups of water for 5 minutes. Lower the flame and simmer for 10 minutes more.

2. Blend the pistachio nuts, drained raisins, ground cardamom, and milk in an electric blender and set aside. Strain the anise water and stir the sugar into it. Then add it to the milk mixture, stir well, and chill. Garnish a glass of thandai with a sprig of mint leaves and offer it to Krsna.