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Sharbat Rooh Afza

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Sharbat Rooh Afza

What to serve at a summer barbeque? Beer. Mint Juleps. Mojitos. Sharbat Rooh Afza. Oh yes, it's time to try the summer drink of the East. After all, "Poets have sung its praise. Medical scientists laud its therapeutic values. And the common man loves its refreshing goodness." Or so the manufacturer would have you believe.

Sharbat Rooh Afza

Sharbat or charbat is the name applied to a variety of sweet soft drinks flavored with fruit juice or floral extracts, popular in the Middle East/India/Pakistan. Sharbat Rooh Afza is the bestselling product of Hamdard Dawakhana (Wakf) Laboratories, a company that is officially owned by g-d and is otherwise in the business of selling herbal medicines. Created in 1907, the origin of the name "Rooh Afza" is now unclear: it was both the name of a late 19th century Indian newspaper and a fictional princess from a 13th century text. According to the company, Rooh creator Hakeem Ustad Hasan Khan is now over a hundred years old and still kicking in Karachi, a testament to the beverage's health benefits. For a fascinating history (including excerpts from poetry composed in its honor!), visit the Hamdard website.

Sharbat Rooh Afza Label

Rooh's colorful cartoon label warns that drinkers of the garishly bright magenta syrup "won't be able to forget the taste and the joy in a hurry." True enough. As with all soft drinks, it's primarily water and sugar. Things get crazy with the addition of pineapple juice, coriander extract, spinach juice, orange juice, rose extract, sandalwood essence, and many other herbal items. Servings of the drink are called "doses" of 50 ml. It is reputed to be, in no particular order: a nutrient (ahem, sugar), a source of electrolytes, beneficial for the heart, liver, and kidneys (as documented by medical studies), a cure for indigestion, nausea, and diarrhea (not so documented), a hydrant (well, duh), and a delicious, soothing refreshment.

Sweet, Viscous Sharbat Rooh Afza

The viscous concentrate smells like a melted cherry lollipop while in the bottle, then like soap or perfume when mixed in a solution. With water or seltzer, a rose flavor dominates and it is sickeningly sweet. For an American palate, it's very intense. A blend with vodka and soda will cut the sweetness and made for a unique cocktail that's not altogether unpleasant. Rooh aficionados have the right idea when they mix the syrup with milk, creating a sort of Indian egg cream. It can also be mixed with custard or puddings, and we look forward to dribbling a little on vanilla ice cream or lemon sorbet, inshallah.

Sharbat Rooh Afza

Sharbat Rooh Afza is available for $2.49 for 700 ml bottle at Patel Brothers stores.


Hamdard Laboratories Sharbat Rooh Afza Page
Patel Brothers

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