Sipping History At Kolkata's Sharbat Shops
Image Credit: Satwik Paul/Glasses of mango syrup and khus juice offer respite from the onset of summer

AS FEBRUARY blends into March, the temperature inches steadily upwards until summer feels very nearly present. At times like these, Kolkata’s myriad sharbat shops do brisk business, serving up both glasses of refreshing beverages and a rich history. Here’s a visual trail that takes in the most prominent.

   Image credits: Satwik Paul/ A couple enjoys lassi at a sharbat shop in Kolkata

Paramount Cold Drinks & Syrups | Where: College Square | Established: 1918

When Nihar Ranjan Majumdar founded Paramount, the idea was to create a safe haven for freedom fighters: they could meet at the small shop, ostensibly to sip sharbat, but really to discuss their plans for revolution. A list of its famous patrons reads like a who’s who of Indian history. By the time India’s independence was won, Paramount had become a fixture in the hearts and routines of Kolkata residents. Today, its signature daab sharbat, coco malai, passionfruit, grape crush and mango juices continue to enjoy an ardent and loyal following.

Phone Number: 9674215355

USP Dishes: Daab sharbat, coco malai

Available cuisines: Bengali

Type: Veg

Meals served: Breakfast, Lunch, snacks

Timings: 12.00 pm - 9 pm

Address: 1, 1, Bankim Chatterjee St, B. C. Street, College Square, Kolkata, West Bengal 700073

Cost for two: Rs. 250 (Budget)

Adi Kapila Ashram (Hrishi Babur Dokan) | Where: Sreemani Market area, Vivekananda Road | Established: 1907

Its environs are as famous as its drinks: Adi Kapila Ashram is located close to the birthplace of Swami Vivekananda. The noted actor Gurudas Bandopadhyay was a frequent visitor, as were other illustrious Bengali personalities. What draws patrons here? AKA’s kesar malai sharbat, followed by the rose malai and chocolate malai variants, as well as ripe mango when the fruit is in season. The founder was Hrishikesh Srimany, whose descendants Pranabendu and Dibyendu now run the establishment. (The former oversees the original store, with the latter looking after a newer outlet.) As for what makes their kesar malai sharbat so iconic, Pranabendu replies: “Curd, sugar syrup, kesar, khirer malai, salt — and heart”.

Phone Number: 9123772140

USP Dishes: Malai sharbat, rose sharbat

Available cuisines: Bengali

Type: Veg

Meals served: Breakfast, Lunch, snacks

Timings: 1:30 pm - 10 pm

Address: 204/2, Bidhan Sarani Rd, Simla, Machuabazar, Kolkata, West Bengal 700006

Cost for two: Rs. 150 (Budget)

                       Image credits: Satwik Paul/Adi Kapila Ashram's signature drink

Balwant Singh's Eating House | Where: Harish Mukherjee Road | Established: 1926

Whether it’s their doodh cola, kesar/strawberry lassi, or thandai, locals can’t seem to get enough of the beverages at Balwant Singh's.

Phone Number: 9903975361

USP Dishes: Hot kesar chai, doodh cola

Available cuisines: North Indian, South Indian

Type: Veg

Meals served: Breakfast, Lunch, snacks

Timings: 24 hours

Address: 10/B, Harish Mukherjee Rd, Bhowanipore, Kolkata, West Bengal 700025

Cost for two: Rs. 500 (Budget)

Sip & Drink | Where: Esplanade | Established: c. early 1980s

In business for over four decades now, Sip & Drink at Esplanade Junction sees people queuing up for tall glasses of mango and dahi lassi. The owner Abhishek says, in between blending a fresh batch of sharbat, that he sells nearly 3,000 drinks a day. For those who prefer a lighter beverage, Abhishek also whips up sweet lime, pomegranate and grape juice.

USP Dishes: Mango lassi, dahi lassi

Available cuisines: Indian

Type: Veg

Meals served: Breakfast, Lunch, snacks

Timings: 8 am - 10 am

Address: 8, Esplanade East, Maidan, Esplanade, Chowringhee North, Bow Barracks, Kolkata, West Bengal 700069

Cost for two: Rs. 100 (Budget) 

Phone Number: 9038587368

Shiv Assram | Where: Bidhan Sarani | Established: 1978

Don’t be fooled by its unassuming exterior: Shiv Assram is popular among the younger crowd courtesy its proximity to several schools and colleges in the area. The kids (and adults) love to hop over for cooling glasses of kesar thandai, kesar badam, kesar pista and pineapple syrup (sharbats).

Phone Number: N.A

USP Dishes: Green mango lassi, thandai

Available cuisines: Indian

Type: Veg

Meals served: Breakfast, Lunch, snacks

Timings: 12 pm - 10 pm

Address: Hedua Park, 168, Bidhan Sarani Rd, Manicktala, Hedua, Kolkata, West Bengal 700006

Cost for two: Rs. 100 (Budget)

                    Image credits: Satwik Paul/The façade of Shiv Assram

Honorary mentions: 

  • Ralli's Chowringhee at Esplanade, for rose syrup and milk khus
  • Tushar Lassi Centre at Shyam Bazar, for mango and chocolate lassi