I love lemons. Like probably more than I should-for the sake of the enamel on my teeth. No matter how they’re prepared, I don’t discriminate. Pickled with olives, juiced for salad, and even fresh straight-up with a salt shaker to accompany. When it came to lemonade, I was used to the powder in a can everyone reached into their pantries for on hot, Chicago days. But when I visited Palestine in 2017, the lemonade game changed.
Even though we’re mostly visiting family while in Palestine, my family there insists on treating us like guests and take care of us with so much love after our long journey to get there. And in classic Arab hospitality fashion, we’re offered everything under the sun when visiting people’s homes. That means come with an empty stomach because food, snacks before and after the meal and a variety of beverages will be on deck. And there’s no saying “No, thank you.”
While visiting an aunt and uncle on our 2017 trip, my aunt brought out a tray of cold drinks to offer us while we waited for a late night dinner to be prepared. Initially I assumed it was some type of colorful, carbonated soda from its bright green color and the frothy layer of bubbles at the top of the glass. My uncle immediately insisted I drink a glass, boasting that my aunt’s mint lemonade was the best. Mint lemonade? I was intrigued. Sure, I had my share of mint lemonade at a few restaurants while visiting, but it didn’t look as appetizing as this. I watched my nephews chug their glasses before I even grabbed mine. When I raised the glass towards me, the zing of fresh lemon made my mouth water and the aroma of fresh mint was soothing and felt like home.
This mint lemonade was like no other. It was frothy and ice cold. It was perfectly balanced between sweet and sour. And naturally, when I asked my aunt for the recipe, she just replied with a quick list of ingredients and “throw everything in the blender.” I knew I wasn’t going to get an exact recipe. So the next time she made it, I made sure to document it all through photos and videos (shoutout to smartphones).
As the weather has warmed up, I went back to those photos and videos to try to recreate that Mint Lemonade myself. After some R&D (mostly me making a mess in the kitchen and my family tasting glass after glass of lemonade), I’m excited to finally share this recipe. One of my nieces has become such a fan of this Mint Lemonade. It’s her second year of fasting for the month of Ramadan and on any day I offer to make a batch for Iftar, her face immediately lights up! It didn’t click to me until I was photographing her with a huge glass that my aunt made me fall in love with this drink and here I was now making it for my niece. Seeing our family recipes literally travel the world and pass through generations reminds me why I do the work I do and inspires me to keep doing it. Check out the recipe below and some extra tips for making your own Mint Lemonade!
Fresh Mint Lemonade
Prep Time: 5 minutes Total Time: 10 minutes Yields: 4-6 servings
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3-4 lemons)
- 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2-3 cups of cold water
- 1 cup of ice
Place all the ingredients in a blender. Pulse a few times to break up the ice. Then blend on medium/high until the all the ingredients have become a smooth and frothy blend. This takes about 1-2 minutes. Taste and adjust to your liking. Serve immediately!
- Use cold water. This helps keeps the drink as cold as possible so you don’t find yourself having to add more ice and therefore watering down the lemonade.
- Sugar substitutes work well in lemonade. The tart flavor of the lemon helps mask that particular taste some sugar substitutes have. I used Stevia in a batch and it was almost undetectable.
- This is best served immediately, but if you want to make it in advance, blend all the ingredients minus the ice. When you’re ready to serve, blend the prepared lemonade with the ice in a blender to get that frothy, fresh taste.