In a quiet lane in Hyderabad’s Lakdi-ka-pul, Mohammad Idrees sits in front of his tiny stall, which to any customer would seem like an ordinary soda shop. But as time passes, college students, women with heavy shopping bags and men in formals slowly form a crowd around the shop, sipping what Idrees likes to call his signature drink, the masala ice-cream soda.
There is a story behind this intriguing name for one of Hyderabad’s most famous summer thirst quenchers, popularly called Ibrahim’s ice-cream soda. Contrary to what its name suggests, the drink is neither masaledaar nor does it have ice-cream. It’s a plain fizzy liquid bottled in a glass can. But the moment you take a sip, the zing of the masala and the sweetness of the vanilla flavour is sure to hit your taste buds.
Attached to Ibrahim’s ice-cream soda are the memories of many Hyderabadis who used to buy the drink from Idrees’s shop for Rs 5, almost two decades back. Priced at Rs 45 now, the shop boasts of a history of more than 80 years, established as it was when the British presence was significant in the Deccan area. Ibrahim Cool Drinks, for a long time, was the official supplier of soft drinks to government offices, including the Andhra Pradesh Secretariat, beginning from the 1980s.
“I have been a regular customer at the shop, right from my childhood days. We used to come here as school kids and I still visit Idrees saab whenever I am back in the city. It’s a drink unique to his shop and the taste is unmatchable,” a customer at Ibrahim’s Cool Drinks says.
Ibrahim’s Cool Drinks was started by Idrees’s father, Ibrahim, who used to buy the soda bottles from Aladdin, a company that was the foremost manufacturer of ice-cream soda in the city. After the company stopped production, Ibrahim caught hold of the recipe and began manufacturing the ice-cream soda in small quantities at his house.
“After I took charge from my father, I set up a factory unit where we began manufacturing ice-cream soda. It was only by the late 1980s that I developed the masala powder and began adding it to the drinks on customers’ request. But masala soda soon became a hit and from then on, our shop became synonymous with masala ice-cream soda in the city,” Idrees explains.
Today, the stall is mostly managed by Idrees’s son Owais who works as an IT professional by day and spends the night at the stall. Owais explains why the ice-cream soda has a niche market compared to many other popular cool bars in the city.
“We do not use a refrigerator to cool our drinks. We cool them inside boxes with ice cubes that are manufactured at our factory. Drinks retain their natural taste only when they are not refrigerated but cooled in the most organic manner possible,” Owais claims.
Though not willing to reveal the exact secret ingredients of the masala, Owais says it’s just a mixture of many spices that are commonly used in the kitchen.
“The masala adds a zing to the soda but at the same time is also good for acidity and prevents the occasional soda-burps,” he laughs.
Outside the stall, there is a small glass board on which is written the origin and history of the ice-cream soda drink in black marker.
According to the legend, ice-cream soda was a product of innovation that happened way back in 1874. While many claim to have created it, it is believed that McCay Green from Philadelphia was the original inventor.
“Green, one day, wanted to have chilled soda but couldn’t find any ice cubes. For this reason, he added some ice-cream to his soda to have it chilled. He liked the taste and began popularising the drink. It is said that in his will, Green apparently said ‘Engrave it on my grave that I was the inventor of ice-cream soda’,” Owais narrates.
Though not as popular as ice-cream soda, the stall is also famous for Fruit Gola, a black coloured fizzy drink, and faloodas and ice-cream shakes.
Idrees has seven siblings but he became the only one who wanted to carry forward his father’s culinary legacy. While his brothers studied to become engineers, Idrees is better known as Idrees saab in the locality, the old man who sits in front of the stall all 365 days.
The shop owes its 80-year-old existence to the goodwill it enjoys, which continues to bring a large number of customers to the shop every day, Owais says. Though the young man is on multiple social media platforms, Owais says he is not interested in marketing or advertising the product and nor has his father ever made any attempt.
Ibrahim’s Cool Drinks has survived the test of time and has been standing at the same spot for the past 80 years. There is no doubt about its popularity, witnessing the crowds that swarm the area by evening despite the stall being located in a rather inconspicuous location.
“I was the only one among my brothers who made sure the stall ran even after my father passed away. But I don’t think there is any one left in the family to carry forward the legacy,” Idrees says. But Owais chooses to differ.
“I have grown up seeing my father running the stall 365 days. Even now, I make time and spend my evenings at the stall. I will never let the legacy die and disappoint the hundreds of people who still turn up in the evenings just to say a salaam to their favourite Idrees saab,” Owais adds. #KhabarLive