Our summer recipe series was interrupted by an entire weekend of edge-of-your-seat World Cup matches, starting with France beating Argentina (whhhhyyyy?), then Uruguay knocking out Portugal (YES), and ending with Russia upsetting Spain, going into TWO OVERTIMES and winning it for the motherland in penalty kicks. Obviously, we are hoarse from yelling at the TV refs, breathless from the aerobic workout of jumping out of our seats and falling to our knees, as well as emotionally spent from the hand-wringing that went into that Argentina game (We love you, Messi). We needed to quench our parched throats and get back to luxuriating on a Sunday. Limonana did the trick.
Limonana–the drink with a cutesy name that literally means “lemon and mint.” The compound word is Arabic, coming from lemon (pronounced “limoon” الليمون) and na’na’ النعناع (mint). Both ingredients are ubiquitous in the Mediterranean region and abundant in Palestine, with its historically cultivated, fragrant citrus trees and wild mint growing on the terrain alongside sage and thyme. Limonana is a popular homemade and cafe summer refreshment in Palestine and lemon drinks have been consumed in the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine) for at least a thousand years. It has become extremely popular in the rest of the Middle East, and is so good that the Israelis adopted it as their national drink. In the past, the mint was likely muddled in a mortar and pestle, kinda like the start of a good mojito, then added to the lemonade. Luckily, it can now be made in 5 minutes by tossing the ingredients into a blender. Limonana is similar to your standard lemonade, but it’s blended with ice to make an incredibly refreshing, slushy drink capped with foamed mint that naturally floats to the top. So, in conclusion: WAY better. Like, you’ll-want-to-drink-this-the-rest-of-your-life, regardless of the season, better. Oh, it’s -10°F and looks like midnight at 4:30 pm during the height of East Coast winter? Limonana has got you with a taste vacation to a multiple neurotransmitter happy place. The mint, while making it very pretty bright green, also has a soothing effect on the digestive system and counteracts the sweetness with herbal effervescence. Getting the ratios of sugar to water and lemon juice right is what separates a good limonana from a “meh” one. This recipe is not overly sweet, but has enough sugar to withstand the addition of ice cubes. We add a little orange blossom water or rose water to the blend, as is done in Palestine. The versatility of this blend is stunning: you can make it with sparkling water, or create alcoholic versions with sparkling wine or rum. This recipe makes two tall glasses of limonana, or 4 regular cups.
3-4 lemons to make 1/2 cup squeezed lemon juice
6 tablespoons sugar
20 ice cubes
1/2 cup packed, fresh mint leaves (about 40 – 50 leaves)
1/4 teaspoon orange blossom or rose water (optional)
- Prepare a simple syrup by dissolving 6 tablespoons sugar in 6 tablespoons water over medium heat. Let it cool.
- Juice the lemons to make 1/2 cup lemon juice
- Blend ice, 1/2 cup water, mint leaves, 1/2 cup lemon juice, and a splash of orange blossom or rose water (1/4 teaspoon). You can pulse the blender a few times before setting on liquefy and letting it run until totally blended.
- Pour into glasses and enjoy immediately. The mixture will naturally separate and the foam will float to the top, leaving the bright green blend below. You may garnish with whole mint leaves or slices of lemon.
- Impress everybody, including yourself.