Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Taste of a Place: Lemon Mint Drink

I spent an amazing week in the Middle East over spring break, as a trip advisor for a group of Northwestern students visiting our campus in Qatar. I've been back for two weeks now, my jet-lag is finally gone, my camel photos have made the rounds, and all that remains is to reconcile my intense craving for an addictive drink I had in Qatar, a local specialty called lemon mint drink.

I've experienced this kind of thing before, especially back in the day when I was routinely traipsing around the country as a rock drummer. The first tamale I ever had in my life was in New Mexico, from a stand by the side of some highway, and it blew my mind. I got home to Indiana suffering from terrible cravings, and there was no place to go to satisfy them, no way I was going to try to make tamales myself, nothing to do but live with the longing. My list of foods to pine for grew over the years - burritos in San Francisco, fish tacos in Southern California, the impossibly good whole wheat biscuits at the Bluebird Cafe in Athens, pizza in New York (sorry, Chicago).

Add to that list now this pretty, refreshing Middle Eastern drink, basically a strong sweet lemonade flavored and colored with a lot of fresh mint, the perfect thing after a day in the sun. I thought this might be a craving I could satisfy at home, and after a couple of attempts I think I came very very close. I closed my eyes, took a deep sip, and was almost back in the (camel) saddle again.

Bookmark this one for when all the gardens are exploding with mint. And I think a shot of vodka or gin added to the mix might possibly make this the perfect summer cocktail.

Lemon Mint Drink
serves 4

1 cup hot water
5 tablespoons sugar
Juice of 5 lemons
1.5 ounces mint leaves, rinsed and dried. No stems.
3 cups water
1-2 cups ice

Combine sugar and hot water and stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour into blender.

Add lemon juice, mint leaves, water and ice, and blend blend blend.

Press through a strainer and pour over ice.

(You can skip the straining, but the texture won't be quite as nice).

(I know this is a basically immoral amount of sugar - I am going to work on a version with agave, coming soon!)

Nothing hits the spot (after a camel ride by the Persian Gulf) like a glass of lemon mint drink.