The Rooh Afza Renaissance
The Rooh Afza Renaissance

The ubiquitous, cooling drink known for its permanent spot on the iftar spread is also indelibly linked with the history of Partition.

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In summertime in Old Delhi’s Matia Mahal — the lane opposite Jama Masjid famous for its kebabs, nihari, and korma — tiny stalls jut out from the gaps between restaurants. Bright signboards announce what they sell: Sharbat-e-Mohabbat, which translates to “sharbat of love.” At Amir Malik’s shop, of YouTube fame, a glass costs less than a dollar. To make the sharbat, Malik places slabs of ice in a large vessel, pours in milk, deftly slices watermelon into the mix, and finally adds the ingredient that gives the sharbat its bubblegum-pink color: Rooh Afza.

Rooh Afza, the ruby-red, fruity bottled concentrate, is also called “Mashroob-e-Mashriq” (the Summer Drink of the East) and forms the basis for drinks ranging from a summer cordial with ice water — and sometimes a squeeze of lemon — to creamy, milky blends, both iced and warm. 

Sharbat-e-Mohabbat. (Shirin Mehrotra)

Sharbat-e-Mohabbat. (Shirin Mehrotra)

In South Asian homes, Rooh Afza — Persian for “soothing the soul”— finds a special place on the iftar menu during Ramadan. During Sikh festivals, “it’s added t

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