Lemon and Mint, Damascus favourite drink.


It is so bloody hot in London. I just came back from work on the underground. I swear the temperature in that train was in the high thirties, low forties. It is been like this for the last three days and it is getting too much for me. My functioning temperature is below twenty and if it gets any higher my brain starts to melt away. People are usually amazed how a person from the Middle East can not tolerate the milder heat on the English summer. My wife theory is that my hypothalamus (medical term for thermostat) is defunct.

To celebrate the early summer, and survive the weekend, I made my drink of choice when I am in Damascus. This is the single most requested recipe of all Syrian food on my blog. It seems this drink left its mark on every person who passed through Damascus. Many people have mentioned to me that they tried to look for a recipe since they came back without success. Others have attempted their own versions without much luck. I find that really surprising considering the simplicity of this drink. It is lemonade and mint leaves mixed together in a juicer, simple as that!

One last thing to mention, this drink is now called Polo! Yes, as in Polo the white round mints with a hole. I have no idea how this name came common knowledge but we in Syria have this annoying habit of giving things annoying unrepresentative silly names. Why do we do that I have no idea. When this drink first showed up on restaurant and cafe menus ten years ago everybody called it Lemon and Mint as it should be called. Now it is Polo!

I, as a person who refuses to use silly names, still call it Lemon and Mint. During my last Holiday I can't count the number of times a waiter corrected me after I ordered, insisting that this thing is called Polo. Every time I felt like shouting "It is not a bloody Polo. It has nothing to do with bloody Polo. Why give a great drink such a silly name". Instead I nod quietly with an awkward smile. I give up!

Her is my "POLO" recipe:

Water 1L
Juice of five lemons
Caster sugar 70g
Mint 50g
Orange blossom water 1tsp (optional)

Pick the mint leaves. Make sure you get rid of all the stalks otherwise you end up with loads of bits in your straw. In a juicer, add all the ingredients and buzz for few minutes.

Add a splash of Rum for a Syrian Mojito.

25 comments:

Zora said...

Hilarious about the 'Polo' name--I had no idea! I also just assumed it was a drink that always existed--not some drink someone made up in the last decade.

Mika said...

Yes, polo is a really funny name...It will be interesting to know how this drink gets it...
I will try it and the addition of rum is a great tip...

أُمنيّة said...

yes polo is a great thing indeed:P
thanks

Shadi said...

Thanks for the refreshing post, we missed you :)
As for the name, it is actually UK inspired !
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polo_(sweet)

Joy said...

Your London heat sounds like Summer in Melbourne, I hope it cools down soon and in the meantime you can drink lots of these beautiful Lemon and Mint drinks!

The Grubworm said...

Oh, delicious and refreshing. Always a sign of a good drink. It does look very good, especially with the addition of the orange blossom water. And you can add rum too. Now that I like even more ;-). Great picture too.

Anonymous said...

yeahh, you're back! missed your posts. I absolutely love lemon & mint! it's true, that's one of the things I miss a lot about syria (although not as much as 3sir toot). There's a similar thing here in tunisia which is citronade, basically polo (or truely arabic pronunciation "booloo") without mint, and it's delicious in summer as well. sometimes it comes with almonds, which isn't bad either.
sarah

The London Foodie said...

Love the idea of a Syrian mojito, can't wait to try this one next time it warms up again! Cheers.

Luiz @ The London Foodie

tasteofbeirut said...

I kiss your feet! (not really, but figuratively) I have been wanting this recipe for at least a year when I had it and realized my life was not the same afterwards. I want it when it is hot and it is hot here, in the 90s, and this drink is a necessity. I will even call it like you, add some rum and make a mojito, Syrian style.

Kano said...

@Zora @Mika @Omnia @Shadi @Joy @The Grubworm @sarah @Luiz @Joumana

Thank you very much for the comments. After over three weeks without writing anything I thought no one will come back to my blog :)

Rime said...

Thank you, oh thank you, for hating the stupid "polo" christening of my favorite drink too, which I also refused to call anything else but "laymoon bil na3na3" for the 6 weeks that I just spent in Damascus. What is wrong with Damascenes these days, and why does everything have to be rebranded? Please don't give up and don't give in to this!

Remember "Jamaica"? At least it wasn't a traditional drink.

Kano said...

@Rime

I am glad somebody else is irritated by this and it is not only me.

Which drink is "Jamaica" by the way?

Rime said...

Jamaica was a mixture of orange juice and grenadine syrup, to which you could add alcohol (I think a shot of vodka), and it was the in thing apparently (in the 90s at least). You didn't miss much. :)

foodjihad said...

I will kill to be in London instead of Cairo right now :) I love lemon with mint, truly refreshing. I will have to try with the orange blossom water. Sounds delicious.

Kano said...

@foodjihad
I promise you London is worse than the Middle East these days. Hot and rainy.

Heidi said...

Funny...am living in Damascus these days and find that some fruit stands call it "booloo" and others seem to have no idea what I mean until I say "lemon with mint." My neighbors, who drink this regularly, also call it "lemon with mint." So I'd say that are still some not infected by the silly name recently given this marvelous drink.

sarah said...

I hear you on the heat, I am a mess all summer, or as long as it's over 27C. This can continue until the end of October :-( (At least in London it will be over in a few weeks, and not months)
Love lemon mint drink- besides water, it is what I live off in the summer. funny how the name polo stuck to the drink, wonder how that happened.

Kano said...

@Heidi
There is still hope :)

@Sarah
You didn't get in touch when you came to London :(

I live about 15 minutes on the bus from Sothall. You should have came around.

Next time hopefully.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kano,

Thank you so much for this recipe!!! I fell in love with this drink first time I travelled to Shaam and tried it in different variations in Dimashq but the only place that make it with perfection is the Botanical garden next to the Citadel in Dimashq! And I have always called it lemon wa mint and no one have ever corrected me, even if they corrected me I wouldn't be able to understand *LOL*, I'm still in the progress of learning arabic ;o)

looking forward on making these dishes
Mariam Bibi

Kano said...

@Miriam Bibi

Welcome to my blog. I never been to the botanical garden. Another place to try when I go back.

Anonymous said...

How did I stay in Damascus two years ago (not to mention Aleppo, Hama, etc etc)and never come across 'Polo'?
Luckily, I've just got back from Beirut and there it's called 'Minted Lemonade' - very literal! Whatever it's called, it's delicious. Now to get the lemons...

shereshe said...

OMG! So good! I actually just made a video about making it!!
http://youtu.be/We7QGakTj6g

Although I didnt know it was polo :( I knew it as Bolo!!

Luay Rifai said...

Been searching for this and serendipitous-ly you were first on my online search.
Must thank you for it.
Thanks Shado

-Luay

Kano said...

Hi Luay

How are you? Long long time! I hear your news from time to time from the net. Next time I am in the US or you are in the UK we should catch up.

Luay Rifai said...

We most certainly should.
Always great to hear your news, contact me whenever you wish, I'm on gmail.

I just printed out your recipe to take it for the food tasting for my wedding - to be passed as the signature drink. Hope they can make it!

Thanks again.

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