Sip This Flavorful Mint Lemonade For An End-Of-Summer Refresher
Gladys Soriano is the recipe developer, food stylist, and food photographer behind the Mediterranean-inspired blog Forks and Foliage. Here, she's sharing authentic Lebanese dishes and recipes inspired by her love for Mediterranean flavors (originally published on Forks and Foliage).
This Lebanese mint lemonade, also known as limonana, is the best mint lemonade you will ever have. And that's because it's made using a traditional Lebanese method of macerating the lemons, resulting in an extra delicious mint lemonade. This recipe makes the ultimate, refreshing summer drink, so get ready to make a big batch!
Mint lemonade is a very popular drink in Lebanon. You'll find it at almost any café or restaurant there. They don't skimp on the fresh mint, so you really get a delicious, flavor-packed minty lemonade. For many, mint lemonade is know as limonana, a combination of the Arabic words limon and nana which mean lemon and mint, respectively. Limonana is common across the Levantine region and many families make theirs differently.
Today I'm sharing the traditional way mint lemonade is made in Lebanon. This method is very popular in the northern coastal city of Batroun. They are famous for their delicious lemonade and for good reason!
Lebanese Mint Lemonade Ingredients
- 2 pound organic fresh lemons: Since we will be using the entire lemon, I recommend buying organic lemons.
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 cups water, plus more to dilute to taste
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water: It is traditional in Lebanese mint lemonade and adds a subtle yet beautiful floral flavor.
- 2 teaspoons rose water: This is optional but also very delicious if you enjoy floral notes.
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves, packed
Preparing The Base For Lebanese Mint Lemonade
Pro tip: Wash all of the lemons, then roll them on a hard surface until they become soft and squishy. This will help them release more juice. Then cut all the lemons into slices or quarters and measure out your sugar.
1. Grab a large bowl, sprinkle some sugar on the bottom, place the lemon slices in a single layer to cover the bottom of the bowl, then sprinkle some sugar all over the lemon slices. Continue adding layers of lemon slices and covering them with sugar, until you've used up all your lemon slices and sugar. If you choose to quarter your lemons, you can simply dump all the sugar on top and mix them well until fully coated with sugar.
2. Using a muddler, masher, or even a wooden spoon, press down on the lemons to squeeze some of their juices out and gently stir them to mix the sugar with the lemon juice.
3. Set the bowl aside for at least 30 minutes or ideally up to a 24 hours in the fridge. Occasionally, mash the lemons and stir the released juices with the sugar.
4. Eventually, the sugar will completely dissolve and you will be left with a concentrated lemony syrup. Strain the lemon syrup and squeeze any remaining juice from the lemons using a citrus squeezer, your hands, or by pressing them against the strainer. You should be left with about two cups of the lemon syrup. This is only lemon juice and sugar, no water yet!
5. The strained lemons are still packed with flavor, so I like to place them back in the bowl, add water to them, and give them another quick mash and stir. The water will turn into a lighter lemon syrup. Strain the lemons again and add the new liquid to the first batch of lemon syrup. At this point you can discard the spent lemons. (You can skip this step and add plain water to the concentrate, but this additional step packs in a lot more flavor and I highly recommend it. You can see in the photo how the water turned yellow. It even tasted like lemonade so it would be a waste to skip this step.)
6. By now you should have a little over 4 cups of a lightly diluted lemon syrup. (That's from combining the two cups of concentrated lemon syrup with the two cups of water that you mashed the spent lemons with.) You have two options here. For later use, store the lemon syrup in the fridge and make individual servings of mint lemonade whenever needed. Or use it all now to make a big pitcher of Lebanese mint lemonade.
7. To make one glass of Lebanese mint lemonade, grab a blender jar and add half a cup of lemon syrup, a quarter cup of water, several mint leaves, a quarter teaspoon of orange blossom water, and a splash of rose water to it. Blend it on high speed until the mint becomes very fine and the mint lemonade turns green. Give it a taste and adjust the ingredients to your liking. You will likely need to water it down more unless you like a pretty strong mint lemonade like my family does. If you want to add more orange blossom water and/or rose water, do so carefully as it can quickly overpower the whole drink and become bitter. Serve the mint lemonade over lots of ice in a tall glass and enjoy immediately.
8. To make a pitcher of Lebanese mint lemonade, to the blender jar add all of the lemon syrup, two cups of water, one tablespoon of orange blossom water, half a tablespoon of rose water, and one cup of packed fresh mint leaves. Blend everything on high speed until the mint becomes very fine and the mint lemonade turns green. Taste it and water it down or adjust the other ingredients as needed. Pour the mint lemonade into a pitcher filled with ice and enjoy the very best Lebanese mint lemonade at home! It's tangy, sweet, floral, and beyond refreshing! If you don't want little bits of mint in your mint lemonade, all you have to do is strain it before serving. Garnish with lemon slices and fresh mint leaves if desired.
Substitutions And Variations
This recipe is naturally vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar is best for traditional Lebanese mint lemonade in order to macerate the lemons. I have not tested this recipe with other sweeteners, but if you prefer natural sweeteners, try using ones that are granulated and not liquid.
- Orange blossom water and rose water: You can find them at any Middle Eastern store or even online (linked in the recipe). If you don't have access to them, you can completely omit them and you'll still have a delicious Lebanese mint lemonade.
- Orange juice: For a little more sweetness and delicious flavor, add the juice of one large orange to the mint lemonade.
- Sparkling mint lemonade: Instead of regular water, add sparkling water for a fun twist.
- Spike it: make it even more fun with a little bit of gin or vodka.
Tips To Make The Best Lebanese Mint Lemonade (Limonana)
- Use fresh, organic lemons. You'll need the best, juiciest lemons in order to make the best lemonade. Find a friend that has a lemon tree and ask them for some!
- Add lemon zest. If you love a bright pop of flavor, add some fresh lemon zest to the lemonade. Alternatively, cut a whole lemon into quarters or smaller, remove the seeds, and blend it with everything else.
- Make it to your taste. Some people like a tangier mint lemonade while others like it sweeter. My recipe has the ratio that we enjoy the most, but feel free to adjust it to your liking! Water it down, add more sugar, use only orange blossom water, add more mint, whatever works for you!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make Lebanese mint lemonade without macerating the lemons?
Yes you can, but the flavor won't be the same. If you are short on time and want to make it quick, use the same exact measurements in this recipe but juice the lemons instead using a citrus juicer. To help the sugar dissolve quicker, stir it into warm water and then add it to the lemon juice and proceed with the recipe.
What makes this mint lemonade Lebanese?
Unlike common lemonades, traditional Lebanese mint lemonade is a lot more flavorful because the process of macerating the whole lemon releases the oils from the rind and packs it with delicious flavor. Also, the addition of orange blossom water to mint lemonade is very traditional in Lebanon.
Can I use Meyer lemons to make mint lemonade?
Absolutely! Meyer lemons are sweeter and less acidic than Lisbon and Eureka lemons, which are the types of lemons most commonly found at the grocery store. Meyer lemons are even a little floral and lend themselves beautifully to this mint lemonade. You may need to use less sugar if using Meyer lemons. And if you like a bright pop of acidity, consider throwing in a couple regular lemons along with their zest.
The mint lemonade is too sweet/tart/strong. How do I fix it?
Remember, this recipe is more of a guideline to teach you the method of making Lebanese mint lemonade. But ultimately, the ratio is up to you! If it's too strong for you, water it down. If it's too tart, dissolve more sugar into it. If you don't like floral flavors, skip them! Everyone likes their mint lemonade a little different, so play around with it and see what you enjoy most!
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Gladys is the recipe developer, food stylist, and food photographer behind her blog, Forks and Foliage. You'll find her sharing authentic Lebanese dishes as well as recipes inspired by her love for Mediterranean flavors. Follow Gladys along on her blog and social media accounts for wholesome, seasonal recipes with the occasional indulgence.