One of the sweetest and safest beverages you can get is tender coconut water. You can almost always find it in any beach or other tourist destinations in the south. In summer Mar-Jul, you can get fresh sugarcane juice in many places and even a lot of fresh fruit juice varieties. Be careful as fresh juice may contain many germs besides unhygienic ice. The juice vendors do not always clean their equipment properly and do not wash the fruits either.
India is famous for its Alphonso variety of mangoes, generally regarded as the King of Mangoes among connoisseurs. So do try the Alphonso mango-flavoured beverage Maaza bottled by Coca-Cola or Slice bottled by PepsiCo, both of which contain about 15% Alphonso mango pulp. Both of these brands will sure provide some needed refreshment during India's scorching hot summer. Both cost about â¹30-50 for a 600 ml bottle.
As for bottled water, make sure that the cap's seal has not been broken, otherwise, it is a tell tale sign of tampering or that unscrupulous vendors reuse old bottles and fill them with tap water, which is generally unsafe for foreign tourists to drink without prior boiling. Bottled water brands like Aquafina by PepsiCo and Kinley by Coca-Cola are widely available. Local brands like Bisleri are also acceptable and perfectly safe. Tastes may vary due to the individual brands' mineral contents.
Drinking alcohol can either be frowned upon or openly accepted, depending on the region and religion of the area within which you are drinking. For example, Goa, Punjab, and Pondicherry tend to be more free-wheeling and have low taxes on alcohol, while a few southern areas like Chennai are less tolerant of alcohol, and may even charge excessive taxes on it. Some states such as Gujarat are legally "dry" and alcohol cannot be bought openly there, although there is a substantial bootlegging industry.
Favorite Indian tipples include beer, notably the ubiquitous Kingfisher a decent lager, and rum, particularly Old Monk. Prices vary by state, especially for hard liquor, but you can expect to pay â¹50-100 for a large bottle of beer and anywhere between â¹170-250 for a 750 ml bottle of Old Monk.
Indian wines, long a bit of a joke, have improved remarkably in recent years and there's a booming wine industry in the hills of Maharashtra. The good stuff is not particularly cheap expect to pay around â¹500 a bottle and selections are mostly limited to white wines, but look out for labels by Chateau Indage (http://www.indagegroup.com/) or 'Sula (http://sulawines.com).
Illegal moonshine, called tharra when made from sugar cane and toddy when made from coconuts, is widely available in some states. It's cheap and strong, but very dangerous as quality control is nonexistent, and best avoided entirely. In the former Portugese colony of Goa you can obtain an extremely pungent liquor called fenny or feni, typically made from cashew fruits or coconuts.
Cannabis in its many forms — especially ganja weed and charas hash — is widely available throughout India, but they are all illegal in the vast majority of the country, and the letter of the law states that simple possession may mean years in jail.
However, in some states notably Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Orissa the one legal and socially accepted way to consume cannabis is as bhang, a low-grade preparation sold at government-licensed shops that is not only smoked, but also made into cookies, chocolate and the infamous bhang lassi, a herb-laced version of the normally innocuous yogurt drink. Bhang lassi is usually available at varying strengths, so use caution if opting for the stronger versions. It's also occasionally sold as "special lassi", but is usually easily spotted by the â¹30-50 price tag several times higher than the non-special kinds. An important point to bear in mind is that the effects of "Bhang" are slow and heighten when consumed with something sweet. Also, first time users may want to wait a while before consuming too much in an effort to judge their tolerance.
Everywhere you can get tea chai in most North Indian languages of one variety or another. Most common is the "railway tea" type: cheap â¹2-5, sweet and uniquely refreshing once you get the taste for it. It's made by brewing up tea leaves, milk, and sugar altogether in a pot and keeping it hot until it's all sold. Masala chai will also have spices added to the mix, such as cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper. For some people, that takes some getting used to.
While Masala chai is popular in Northern and Central India, it must be noted that people in Eastern India West Bengal and Assam generally consume tea without spices, the English way. This is also the part of India where most tea is grown.
In South India, coffee especially sweet "filter coffee" replaces tea as a standard beverage.