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What is Sharbat?

Sharbat is an aromatic syrup that is diluted with water and served over ice

Sharbat is a cooler beverage served during hot summers in India. Sharbat is derived from Arabic word 'Sharbah', meaning 'a drink'. Another variant variant of 'Sharbah' is 'Sharaab', the country liquor. According to Babarnama, Babur loved Sharbat . Babar introduced Sharbat to India. Sharbat remained a popular beverage of all the Moghul emperors. Jahangir loved Falooda Sharbat.

Sharbat is a syrup made from fruits and/or extracts of flowers and herbs. The syrup is diluted with water and served with ice. Some of the Sharbat may not be diluted in water, for Falooda rose syrup is diluted in evaporated milk. The Sharbat may be used to pour over desserts.

In the olden days, the sugar cane juice was boiled and reduced to make cane syrup. The essence called 'Arak' of flowers was added to cane syrup. Choice for flower essence were: Gulab (Rose), Saffron, Gurhal (Hibiscus) , Khus (Vetiver Grass), Kewra (screw-pine). You can make 'simple syrup' by cooking water and sugar, then add the essence. In United States, you can use corn syrup.
You will notice lime juice in most of the recipes. It has two functions: converts table sugar to simple sugar preventing crystallization, and helps extract the color and flavors from fruits/flowers.

The syrup is diluted in water, milk, or evaporated milk. The Basil seeds (Tukmaria seeds, also known as Subza seeds, or seeds of Holy Tulsi) may be presoaked in water and added to any of the diluted syrups for added character. It is almost a must for rose syrup as demonstrated in Falooda Recipe.

In the restaurants, a combination of syrups is used. For example Rose, Khus, and Kewra may  be added together to Rabri (Evaporated milk). Rose will be the primary fragrance, Kewra will make it seem sweeter, Khus will make the fragrance linger longer.

The first commercial success of Sharbat was 'Sharbat Rooh Afza' manufactured by 'Hamdard Laboratories'.

Up to 1950s, Sharbat were the preferred beverage for poor and rich, and then came the Coca Cola, rest is history.

The Sherbet sold in United States is a frozen cooler, it is not a Sharbat.


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