Back to contents

Indian-Inspired Cocktails

Jun/03/2023 / by Maureen Petrosky

Perfect for summer, these four South Asian favorites are refreshing and fun

Summer sipping should include chilled cocktails that are just as exciting to look as they are to drink. Here’s our lineup of cool and refreshing cocktails to include in your summer drink arsenal this season. From spritzy to sophisticated we’ve got you covered. Clink!

Bollywood Bellini- Inspired by a cocktail on Dishoom’s menu in London, this simple bubbly cocktail is perfect for any happy hour. 

How to make it: Infuse store-bought rose syrup with cardamom by heating it for a few minutes then chill. In a Champagne flute add 1 ounce of syrup and top with chilled Champagne or Prosecco. Add a washed fresh rose petal for garnish.

Peppermint Nimbu Pani- This refreshing sip is a mash up of a Mojito and a Margarita. You can use either fresh lemons or limes to make your Nimbu Pani. 

How to make it: Into a pitcher squeeze 2 to 3 lemons (no seeds). Add to that a handful of fresh mint and use a long wooden spoon or muddler to press the leaves into the juice and release all of their flavors and aromas. Add 2 to 3 T of sugar (to taste for your preferred level of sweetness), ¼ tsp black salt, and an ⅛ of a tsp of each salt and chaat masala. Add in 1 1/2 cups of water (you can use sparkling if you want it to be spritzy) and 1 1/2 cups of light rum (you can adjust this ratio to make your drink stronger or lighter on the alcohol content). Whisk until everything is dissolved and chill before serving. Serve with a sprig of fresh mint.

Frozen Indian G&T- There are several outstanding gins made in India. They all include the standard juniper berry botanical but it is the other locally sourced ingredients that make for a unique gin and tonic. Brands like Hapusa, Terai, and Jaisalmer have cult followings and understandably so. Botanicals like darjeeling green tea, vetiver, lemongrass, cubeb pepper, and coriander, all take these gins from typical to exceptional. 

How to make it: Break out your blender, and add 1 cup Indian gin, 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice, 3 cups tonic water and 2 cups ice to your blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy this slushy G&T with a lime wheel or wedge and some friends.

Spiked Mango Lassi- This summer, take your favorite lassi and make the adult version. You can take your go-to combination of pureed mango, yogurt, simple syrup, cardamom, and saffron, and spike it. 

How to make it: Add 2 ounces of your preferred spirit like vodka (for a neutral addition), bourbon (for a sweet caramel layer), rum (coconut for an extra hint of summer or dark rum for a richer, bolder effect) to 4 ounces of your mango lassi for a perfect brunch or mid-day drink.

Dosa Deluge

Often called an Indian crepe, this age-old South Asian favorite is heating up

If you’re looking for an Indian food rooted in history, the crispy dosa, made from fermented urad dal and rice batter, stretches back to the 5th century AD. With origins in South India, the dosa is now gaining popularity worldwide. The dosa’s unique flavor and versatility—it can be paired with just about any combination of flavors to make it the perfect breakfast, lunch, or dinner—is lending itself to opportunities for restaurateurs and franchisees. 

In Boston, a second Madras Dosa Co. location recently opened in Harvard Square with franchisees betting students, tourists, and residents will want the chance to make their own dosas. Much like the first location in Seaport, Madras Dosa gives restaurant-goers the chance to customize their dosas with plenty of veg, fruits, meats, cheese, and sauce options. “We just felt Harvard was the right location because it’s always bustling like [the Seaport location]  with students and tourists,” the company said in a statement. “Also, when we were in college, dosa was a staple for most South Indians. So we thought, ‘Why not at Harvard?’”

The Madras Dosa Co. has plans well beyond Boston, however, with its sights seton expanding Madras Dosa nationally, bringing the franchise into airports throughout the U.S.

The Spirit of SONA 

Maneesh K. Goyal shares what was behind the vision, collaboration, and burgeoning of one of the most prolific Indian restaurants in New York City.

SONA restaurant in New York has become one of the top spots offering Indian specialties from many regions in India. But realizing the dream of SONA was a journey and a labor of love. Maneesh K. Goyal’s vision of opening the next great restaurant in the city matched well with that of Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who wanted to bring the beloved food of her roots to the New York restaurant scene. The name—SONA—suggested by Nick Jonas stuck, and the restaurant since then has become the perfect venue for the insatiable host to present the flavors of India with a New York approach. 

Maneesh K. Goyal, founder and partner at SONA and SONA Home, spoke to SEEMA about his collaboration with Priyanka Chopra Jonas and gave a sneak peek into the restaurant and all that it has to offer.

Why was the wait so long to open something that you always dreamed about?

As life happens, I got busy with my own career. Previously, I wanted to run an event marketing firm. In some ways, it’s very connected to hospitality, because I was entertaining and creating experiences, but on a much more macro scale. So I got busy with that, and 10 years later, I said, “Wow, this has been great, but there are other things I want to do, too.” The idea has been long in my heart and in my dreams, but it took a while for me to find the right time in my life to make it happen.

How did you connect with Priyanka Chopra Jonas and collaborate on SONA? 

It was all really around the friendship that I developed with Anjula (Anjula Acharia) who is a force in her own right. I had told Anjula that I was thinking about this restaurant and I had this dream. Then it was at her suggestion and her strategic thinking to say, you’ve got an idea, and Priyanka is really rooting herself in America much more. Let me try to see if I can connect all these dots. So, it was her role as her manager and my friend where she stepped up and said, let me see if I can make something happen. So Anjula really masterminded the whole thing and then in doing so, I got to know Priyanka. The three of us became a real team and really built something very special.

How did you all decide on the name?

It’s so interesting. We really struggled with a name. We wanted a name that was certainly Indian in its core, but beyond that was more evocative. We didn’t necessarily have a shortlist of other names. Priyanka was very specific. She wanted customers like her husband, Nick, and his brother. So we were all at a tasting at my apartment, we were kind of brainstorming names. And then it was actually Nick Jonas. He’s a very wonderfully quiet person and he just quietly whispered, ‘What about Sona?’ And we look at him with ‘How did you even know that word?’ But we all said hold on. That’s a great idea. I think that is easy to spell, easy to say and it’s evocative.

What are the most important ingredients for a successful restaurant?

First and foremost, the food has to be center stage because no matter how good the design, music, even the staff is, the food is the most critical. I’m so proud for our food to be recognized in the 2022 Michelin Guide. The second thing is the staff and especially the training of the staff. Ultimately, dining out is an experience and the experience is really crafted by those who you interact with. The staff is very important and the training and culture that you build within a restaurant. I think the third is something that’s a bit harder to pinpoint. I would call it the spirit of the restaurant. This comes from the leadership, the chef, and the ownership team; it’s really the way in which people communicate. The spirit of a place really does carry through to the guest. So I would say that the spirit of the restaurant is critical and it’s something to keep your eyes very closely on.

Can you offer an example of a SONA twist on an Indian classic?

The avocado papdi chaat. It is essentially our take on guacamole with cumin-infused crackers and our masala guacamole. So that’s something that I’m very proud of and it’s a twist. And then our Hyderabadi chicken biryani. It comes wrapped in a leaf and it is so tender, fragrant and steaming hot. 

What is SONA’s Drag Brunch? 

I’m a big believer in the notion that restaurants are meant to be hospitable and to be welcoming. I’m a very proud member of the gay community; I’ve been living my life with authenticity for many decades now. It occurred to me that there aren’t a lot of gay restaurants out there. It’s not necessarily an industry that a lot of gay people have gravitated toward. So I stand apart in New York. There aren’t any others that are run by gay people that I know of anyway. So, I feel like I have an obligation to open the doors and say come on in. Anyone, whoever you are, come on in. So the drag brunch is really nothing more than make believe. It’s really fun, energetic and smile inducing. That’s the reason we started drag brunch in the spring of last year. Now we have taken a very specific turn and have really leaned into making it a family friendly drag brunch. So we have a lot of kids and families, but then we also have regular New Yorkers who are coming in for a delicious brunch, and they get the extra benefit of being entertained.

What would you order at SONA?

We have really taken a very New York-approach to the flavors of India. So, one thing that’s essentially New York, of course, is the New York slice or the New York pizza. I’m very proud of our pizzas. They’re so delicious. The truffle malai mushroom pizza is so savory and with a light crisp crust. Then you can’t go to a New York City restaurant without having some of the great meats and proteins and our tamarind lamb chops and our Kolkata lamb biryani is spectacular. Then our take on butter chicken which is a Burrata butter chicken. It is really special. And then I’m a huge fan of sarson ka saag, really beautifully blended mustard greens with corn roti. So these are just some of my favorites but the menu is very desirable.

Any plans of opening another restaurant, perhaps on the west coast?

There’s definitely ambition. We don’t know exactly which cities and markets we will end up in but we feel that this is a concept that is not only strong, but is ready to hit the road. So to that extent, absolutely. There’s a lot more to come. It’s definitely going to be under the SONA brand umbrella and that’s a trend that we’re very focused, committed and proud of. 

Heads Up

SONA’s dress code is business casual—they ask guests to refrain from wearing athletic wear, loungewear, and swimwear. For dinner service, they ask that guests dining in the restaurant be a minimum of 10 years of age. SONA is unable to accommodate strollers, high chairs, or a children’s menu.