New Delhi: Surprises never cease, says Surinder Mohan Malhotra, who has been in the food and beverages sector for 35 years. Time was when people would not dream of ordering melon juice at a restaurant, but now it`s part of the exotic summer menu almost everywhere.Be it pomegranate sangria or pudina chhaas or melon juice, experimental drinks that are high on the health quotient and contain fruit and vegetable extracts have become a rage.
"I have been in this industry for 35 years and I have seen preferences change drastically. With time, people have become conscious about their health. They insist that drinks be made without artificial syrups," Malhotra, chef at Omnia restaurant in Saket, told IANS.
"Fresh fruit and vegetable drinks are the flavour of the season. Watermelon, melon and kiwis are doing great. Green leafy vegetables like mint gel well with drinks and add a refreshing flavour to it," he said.
The price of mocktails ranges from Rs.180-300 and goes up till Rs.550 plus taxes for cocktails.
Just a few summers back, one had to choose from limited options like aam panna, shikanji, fresh lime water, lassi or iced tea. But now more and more summer coolers and smoothies are joining the list.
Sahil Arora, executive chef at Marriott, Gurgaon, believes the health factor is mainly responsible for bringing in the change.
"I have lived a life so close to these changes in the past 13 years - at first, there was a phase when people were not conscious and particular about their health or taste. They used to follow what was in vogue that time," said Arora.
"Then came the body building phase when guys would drink as much protein and fats as possible to pump up their bodies; so did the women. But now the mantra is to stay in shape. People are so specific and clear about their needs. They are very particular about their health, and if they have to compromise a little on their taste over a healthy drink, they don`t mind," he added.
But what kind of drinks are preferred? Soda-based ones or smoothies extracted from fresh fruits and vegetables?
"Drinks made with fresh watermelon, orange and guava are favoured more above the others," said Gagan Kapoor, owner of Buzz in MGF mall, Saket. "The intake of drinks simply doubles if you compare it season-wise. Refreshing, light drinks are what people prefer now and they are healthy."
There is still a section in society which sticks to the traditional summer coolers and that is the reason aam panna and sweet lime have not been dropped from the menus.
"People have become more adventurous and experimental with their taste and for them ingredients play a big role now. I have been in this profession for 10 years and there are people who are still rigid," Shamsul Wahid, executive chef at Smoke House Delhi, told reporters.
"Drinks like aam panna and nimbu pani have been there for long and they are still hot sellers. People who belong to the old school of thought are rigid and do not want to experiment and prefer to stick to their usual taste. But the youngsters and middle-aged customers are very experimental," Wahid added.