Ice limonana — mint lemonade, the drink of the Israeli summer

Limonana is the quintessential drink of the Israeli summer. Simple and ubiquitous, there’s nothing more refreshing than freshly squeezed lemons and ground sprigs of mint, whether served on ice or blended into a smoothie.

In the summer, limonada becomes my social drink of choice — the drink that captures the spirit of the moment, a pleasant afternoon nestled into a chair in a lively streetside cafe. In the winter, I order a cappuccino; in the spring and early summer, I make that iced coffee; and once even milk is too heavy for the oppressive summer heat, I get limonana. Big, green and frothy, and very cold, please.

The name limonana is simply a combination of the word for lemonade, limonada, and the word for spearmint, nana, one of the country’s favorite herbs. It can be prepared as a drink, or as a smoothie, in which case all the ingredients are blended together.

The recipe contains a lot of fresh lemon juice, as well as a lot of mint, which gives it a strong flavor and a bright color.

You’ll want to adjust the sugar to your tastes: 4 tablespoons (i.e. 1/4 cup) will give you a mildly sweet drink, and 6 tablespoons will give you a drink that’s sweet but not cloying, something like the sweetness you’ll get in restaurants. 2 tablespoons comes out barely sweet. I prefer 4 tablespoons, but if you like things really sweet, you might even want to add more than 6 tablespoons.

For 4 cups (one liter) of ice limonana:

2 heaping cups of ice
1 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 4 large lemons)
1/2 cup spearmint leaves (from about 40 stalks), plus a few more to garnish
4-6 tablespoons sugar (or to taste; see note above)

Juice the lemons, and remove the mint leaves from the stalks. Dump all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth.

Serve garnished with mint.

Note: While you can find a limonana pretty much anywhere, I had a great limonana smoothie — limonana garus — at Etnachta, on Dizengoff 190. There, most everyone is sipping bright green limonanas in the summer.

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