April 30, 2021
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.