This is a classic beverage throughout the Middle East, and a very popular summer drink in Israel. Unsurprisingly, it’s traditionally made without alcohol; I've included some ideas and options to turn it into an alcoholic cocktail if you like. Spearmint is key, as peppermint is overpowering, but a little bit of spice (I've made a few suggestions) is a great addition.
Muddle one lemon, sliced into wedges, a small handful of mint, and 1-2 Tbsp of sugar in a cocktail shaker (though you can use anything that has a secure lid and holds about 24 ounces).
Fill with ice, add 1 1/2 ounces of water, seal, and shake until ice cold. Strain into a water or Collins glass filled with fresh ice and optionally, more crushed mint.
You can top with seltzer and stir gently for a longer drink. Optionally garnish with a fresh mint spring and/or lemon wheel.
Basic blended, serves two
Add 2 cups of ice, 2-3 Tbsp sugar, 3 ounces of water, a big handful of mint leaves, and the juice of two lemons to a good blender. Blend everything until slushy. Serve in water glasses with a straw and optionally garnish with a lemon wheel and/or mint sprig.
Limonana Daiquiri - Use the recipe for the blended version but substitute rum for the water and add a pinch of cayenne or aleppo. Garnish with a lemon slice dipped in a bit more spice and a bit of salt, if you like.
Limonana Julep - Use the recipe for the shaken version and substitute bourbon or rye for the water, and optionally some Smoked Cinnamon Maple Syrup for the sugar (I tend to sub about 30% but you can even substitute it completely). Garnish with a slice of fresh ginger and a slice of rind from the lemon.
Limonana Frozen Fizz - Use the recipe for the blended version and substitute gin for the water and add a few saffron threads. I sometimes like a dash or two of bitters on top. A thin slice each of cucumber and lemon zest is a nice garnish and adds a refreshing smell and flavor.And feel free to omit the alcohol and just use the spices!
Variations & Ideas:
You can add other fresh aromatics including: jalapeño, ginger, or cilantro. Other citrus are great too, try adding or substituting orange or lime.
The basic recipe uses white sugar, but try Demerara, palm, or maple for fun new flavors.
Mottainai tip: start by making a rich simple syrup (boil 2 cups sugar with 1 cup water). Infuse the hot syrup with lemon zest and finely chopped mint stems (plus any leaves that are too small to easily use in the limonana). Strain after 15 minutes, and store in the fridge for up to a month. Less waste!