Nimbu Pani Gin Fizz

Nimbu Pani Gin Fizz garnished with edible flowers

Nimbu Pani Gin Fizz garnished with edible flowers

I don’t drink much gin, but I love how it tastes in this Nimbu Pani Gin Fizz. I took flavors of my childhood in India and turned them into an adult drink, one that I hope Indians and non-Indians alike will enjoy. Nimbu pani itself can be an acquired taste for non-Indians, with its salty and smokey flavors, but it is much easier to get to know when you add ginger beer & gin.

I imagine this drink to be something the grown-ups might have had, when they were serving nimbu pani to us kids in India. In fact if you lined up all my Indian aunties and asked them to order one drink at the bar, it would be a Gin & Tonic 🙂 It’s one of those leftover legacies of the British Raj. All of a sudden, gin has had a popular, artisanal revival, and no one thinks Gin & Tonics are just what the aunties drink.

No matter how trendy it is, I still can’t get myself to have drinks with tonic water. Tonic water has left a bitter taste in my mouth & mind – it reminds me of the identical flavor of heaps of quinine tablets I had to swallow. As a kid growing up in India, quinine tablets were essential, especially after I almost died of malaria. So no tonic for me, but I was able to find a different way to drink gin.

Indian Summers is a new show about the British Empire in India, starting on PBS Masterpiece on Sunday, September 27th at 9pm. I don’t think it’s “the new Downton Abbey,” but I do think it’s going to be big, with multiple series. I’ve previewed the first season and the actors and the filming locations in Penang, Malaysia are wonderful. I especially loved seeing some of the old desi actors I grew up watching, alongside aspiring new talent.

The flaws I found in the show are purely cosmetic. Having been to Shimla twice in summer, and speaking multiple Indian languages myself, I had minor issues with the topography and linguistics. Shimla is not actually so tropical, and some pronunciations were off, from characters who should have known better. Besides that though, the first series is beautiful and I think, much needed in America.

I am thrilled to see something so mainstream about where I come from. There just aren’t shows about India on American television. Maybe I’ll have to do less explaining to Americans about our cultural nuances, why there are so many British influences on Indian culture, and vice versa. The show’s focus on racism at all levels, especially Ango-Indians and prejudices against people of mixed heritage, was refreshing. When you learn the history of a culture, you can appreciate it better. I hope Indian Summers will help the average American relate to the average Indian, a little bit more.

To celebrate Indian Summers on Masterpiece, I developed a new recipe for an Anglo-Indian drink: the Nimbu Pani Gin Fizz, AKA “The Indian Summer.” Find my cocktail recipe along with a little drink history published at local PBS station’s website, KCTS serving Seattle and Vancouver.