I gained an appreciation for Indian art and culture through my art history degree, but through marriage I learned about the country’s rich and vast culture—my husband’s maternal side is rooted within the Punjab region.
My first trip to India was for a family wedding. My mother-in-law took us on a two-week trip throughout Northern and Central India, the regions she grew up in. It was an adventure. It was also September before the start of monsoon season, and very, very hot and humid.
In the height of summer when temperatures reach triple digits, there is a cooling drink made with salt, citrus, water and sugar called Nimbu Pani that provides a respite from the heat and humidity. This fresh lime drink, when made with soda is referred to as Nimbu Soda.
It is a simple and ubiquitous beverage enjoyed across Northern India and every restaurant we visited had it on the menu. Some offered it upon seating us. Each had their own way of serving it. Some had a small carafe of simple syrup for sweetening our lime drink to our liking. Others offered menu with a wide variety of combinations. One place had a tiny bowl of salt with a spoon for seasoning the soda.
Of the many wonderful meals and memories from this trip, the Nimbu Soda stuck with me, so I made this inspired Cucumber Salted Lime Soda. Muddled cucumber adds a mild and crisp cucumber flavor that works beautifully with the lime and salt.
I plan to serve Cucumber Salted Lime Soda as part of the upcoming Diwali festival. Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is an important holiday for Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains. Diwali follows the lunar calendar, so the date changes every year—this year it falls in early November.
Here in Southern California, we will be finishing our second summer then when temperatures can still be high, so this is a refreshing drink to have on hand.
What is a Cucumber Salted Lime Soda?
A Cucumber Salted Lime Soda consists of muddled cucumber, lime juice, simple syrup, salt, and soda water over ice. The recipe is easy, but it’s the endless modifications that make this drink unique. Everything is to taste, from the amount of sugar or salt to the ratio of soda and ice.
To Peel or Not to Peel the Cucumber?
If you have a thin-skinned English or Persian cucumber, you can keep the peel on. You don’t have to remove the seeds.
If you have one of the thicker dark green cucumbers, peel them off. The skin becomes bitter when muddled. Also, remove all the seeds because these tend to be large and unpleasant floating around in your drink.
How to Muddle the Cucumber
For muddling the cucumber, I find it easiest to cut them into 1/4-inch pieces. However, don’t feel like you need to grab a ruler, a rough chop will also do the trick as long as they’re all about the same size.
I use a smooth-topped wooden muddler for this job. There are lots of different muddlers out there—I wouldn’t recommend any with teeth, as the cucumber gets stuck, and you’ll find yourself prying them out instead of enjoying them in your drink.
No muddler? No worries! The end of a wooden spoon works great too. Pro tip: If you’re going to make a big batch, use a small blender, like a Magic Bullet, to pulse a few cups of cucumbers all in one go.
A Tip for Making Cucumber Salted Lime Soda
You don’t want to use granulated sugar here because it won’t fully dissolve. Simple syrup, a sugar water solution, is the best option. It’s easy to make at home and provides sweetness to this drink without any crunchy bits from undissolved sugar.
Ingredient Swaps and Substitutions
If you’d like to try the traditional version of this recipe, leave the cucumber out. Here are other swaps and substitutions to play with:
- This recipe calls for club soda, but there is a lot of room to improvising. For more lime flavor, use sparkling water naturally flavored lime juice. Cucumber or lime soda could also be used.
- If you are serving this drink during Diwali, you’d want to leave the alcohol out since it is a religious holiday. However, any other time of the year, an ounce of vodka is a welcomed addition to turn this into a cocktail.
The muddled cucumber, salt, simple syrup, and lime juice base can be combined several hours before serving. Add the ice and club soda to serve.
If you’re looking to make a larger batch, combine the base in a pitcher and fill it with ice and club soda before serving. You could add the ice and club soda into individual glasses too. Just remember to put out salt, simple syrup, and more club soda for guests to adjust their drinks.
More Refreshing Non-Alcoholic Drinks
- Cucumber Mint “Shrub” Soda
- Winter Spiced Orange Mocktail
- Cucumber Lime Mint Aqua Fresca
- Homemade Ginger Ale
Nimbu Soda with Cucumber (Cucumber Salted Lime Soda)
This is a baseline recipe that is neither too sweet nor too salty. Customize it to your taste!
- 1 heaping tablespoon roughly chopped cucumber
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup, plus more to taste
- Ice, to serve
- 3 ounces club soda
Muddle the cucumbers:
In a highball glass, combine the cucumber and salt. Use a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon to smash the cucumbers and let it sit for one minute for the salt to fully dissolve.
Add the lime juice and sweetener:
Add the lime juice, simple syrup, and enough ice to fill 3/4 of the glass.
Finish with club soda:
Pour club soda over the ice. Gently stir. Taste and adjust with salt and simple syrup.