Limonana is a classic Israeli drink that combines freshly squeezed lemon juice and mint leaves for a unique Israeli-style lemonade treat that’s beloved throughout the country.
Limonana is a combination of the Hebrew and Arabic words “limon” and “nana” which mean lemon and mint, respectively. While the drink may have originated elsewhere in the Middle East, it’s an Israeli advertising agency that gave it its catchy portmanteau of a name in the 1990s. In an attempt to get public bus advertising off the ground in Israel, they advertised a new soft drink called Limonana in sprawling ads across the sides of buses and reported that local athletes and celebrities couldn’t get enough of it.
Although the drink was advertised on buses only, the ad campaign was a huge success. Customers begged for the drink and stores pleaded to carry it until the advertising agency was forced to admit the truth: no such drink existed.
Undeterred, soft drink companies began to manufacture the flavor and the drink that had existed only as a marketing ploy was now a reality. Restaurants and cafés quickly followed suit, re-imagining the drink in iced, slushed, and alcoholic variations. It’s been a nationwide hit ever since.
The ubiquitous drink is peddled by vendors on nearly every street in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but those of you across the ocean can make this simple, invigorating version at home. Creating a simple syrup with the sugar and water, which turns the sugar liquid, means it’s much easier to blend into a cold drink, and steeping mint in the simple syrup infuses the drink with an extra layer of flavor.
It’s delicious as is, but you can make it alcoholic by adding vodka, tequila or Arak, an anise-flavored spirit that’s popular in Israel, Greece and Turkey. With or without alcohol, you’re going to want to make these icy, cooling, sweet, and tart slushies all summer long.
- 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, from around 3 lemons
- 1/2 cup loosely packed mint
- 6 Tbsp sugar
- 1 cup water
- 4 cups ice cubes
- Combine water, sugar, and half of the mint leaves in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 1 minute.
- Remove from heat and let syrup steep, about 30 minutes. Discard the mint leaves and refrigerate the syrup to let it cool.
- Combine the mint simple syrup, the rest of the fresh mint leaves and the fresh lemon juice in a blender. Blend at high speed until well mixed.
- Add the ice and blend until the ice is thoroughly crushed. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.