When the mercury rises, there is nothing more refreshing than a glass of bracingly cold lemonade. Not even iced coffee quite compares. But there is one drink that manages to improve upon perfection: limonanna — a sweet-tart mashup of lemons, sugar and heaps of fresh mint. Variations on the drink are served throughout the Middle East, but the name was coined in an Israeli advertising campaign in the 1990s. It’s a mixture of the Hebrew words for lemon (limon) and mint (nana).
In recent years limonanna has become something of an official drink of Israel, sipped beachside in Tel Aviv or in umbrella-shaded outdoor cafés throughout the country. And like most ubiquitous and iconic dishes, everyone who makes it has his or her own technique. Sometimes the mint is used to infuse a simple syrup, which is then combined with lemon juice and water. Other times, whole fresh mint leaves are blended right into the drink, creating a frothy, bright-green cocktail. A splash of rum or vodka can be added for a boozy twist, and the whole concoction can be whirled together with ice cubes to make a limonanna slushy.
However it is made, limonanna is a perfect hot-weather antidote anytime of day, but I particularly love to serve it alongside savory brunch dishes. It is a natural fit for an Israeli-inspired breakfast like a grilled halloumi and chopped-tomato salad platter, or a plate of za’atar-dusted labneh and pita. But it complements everything from a frittata or lox and bagels to savory cheddar scones.
Before long, and certainly before I’m ready for it, the temperature is bound to dip again. Until then, my blender will be working on overtime.
½ cup packed mint leaves, plus more for garnish
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 6 lemons)
1/3 cup granulated sugar, or more as needed
1/3 cup water
3 cups ice cubes
¼ teaspoon orange blossom water, optional
1) Add the mint leaves, lemon juice, 1/3 cup sugar, water, ice cubes and orange blossom water, if using, to a blender. Process until ice is broken up and mixture is frothy. Taste and add a tablespoon or two additional sugar, if desired; blend again.
2) Divide into two glasses and serve immediately.
Leah Koenig is a contributing editor at the Forward and author of “Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen,” Chronicle Books (2015).
This story "Frosty Limonanna for a Chill Summer Brunch" was written by Leah Koenig.