Bottled Nostalgia: Tracing The Legacy Of India's Most Famous Cold Drink Houses

Quench your thirst for nostalgia with Homegrown's curated journey.
Quench your thirst for nostalgia with Homegrown's curated journey.L: Medium, R: Justdial

As the legend goes, the first Parsi to ever step foot in Ahmednagar back in 1900s lugged a soft-drink carbonator tied to his mule, bringing effervescence to colonial India. Ever since then, hole-in-the-wall eateries and cold drink houses have been inseparable from our street culture, offering a range of homegrown alternatives to packaged soda. From the overindulgent mastani popular in Pune to the satisfying pop of a banta, Homegrown has compiled 5 iconic refreshment spots that are emblematic of this centuries-old tradition, alarmingly close to fizzling out.

I. Meher Cold Drink House, Mumbai

Inhabiting a bow-shaped storefront, this vintage establishment with chequered tiles and shelves lined with glass bottles, was first opened in 1939. Originally selling landmark beverages like Rogers, Duke's and Gujarat's swadeshi Sosyo, now the buttermilk set overnight with a rich layer of cream on top is what they are best known for in the city.

Pro Tip: You should try their strawberry yogurt during season time i.e. either October-November or March-April.

Find them on the map here.

II. Bhavani Cold Drinks House, Gadag

Set up in 1980, Bhavani is one of the most underrated gems in Gadag, hometown of Bharat Ratna singer Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. With taupe walls adorned in more than 500 pictures of freedom fighters and political leaders, this refreshment spot caters to the students of local colleges, who can be found guzzling down Karnataka's own soft drink brand Hana with flavours like Ginger Special and Fizz Kokum.

You can access their location here.

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III. Ardeshir & Sons, Pune

In one of the cul-de-sacs of Sharbatwalla Chowk at Pune's Camp area is a decrepit yellow building from where Ardeshir Khodadad Irani launched an eponymous raspberry drink that preceded the multinational giant Coca Cola by more than two years. Passed down for generations as the ideal accompaniment to wash down spicy meals from family run Irani cafés, Ardeshir's now dabbles in flavours like Ice Cream Soda and Jeera Masala.

You can find the original store here.

The fading essence of a bygone street culture.
The fading essence of a bygone street culture.L: Reddit, R: Sahapedia

IV. Imperial Cold Drink House, Kolhapur

From its humble beginnings as Laxmanrao Gavali's ice cream parlour for WWII soldiers and Polish expats in Kolhapur to the timeless reputation it enjoys today, Imperial Cold Drink House remains a fixture for its fruit jelly and non-alcoholic Coffee Beer. Gavali has adorned the walls with sepia-toned photographs depicting the royalty of both Kolhapur and England. An exceedingly narrow staircase, requiring sideways ascension due to its constrained width, leads to seating arrangements on the upper floor.

You can visit the place here.

An ode to the past, before the effervescence fades away.
An ode to the past, before the effervescence fades away.L: The Print, R: Quint

V. Gandhi Cold Drinks, Ahmedabad

En route to Bhadra Fort, lies the Gandhi Cold Drink House, one of the finest joints where you can relish a glass of falooda. Concocted from vermicelli, basil seeds and flavoured milk, this invigorating delight achieves peak flavour when garnished with a dollop of ice-cream. Don't second guess yourself and simply order the Royal Falooda or the Deluxe Mix. This venue consistently draws a throng of patrons, an enviable oasis with its marble walls and diner-style seating, amid the sweltering hubbub of Ahmedabad.

You can learn more about this place here.