Mamluk Barley Drink for Ramadan

This recipe for a malted barley drink (ماء الشعير, mā’ al-sha’īr) from 14th-century Egypt requires a bit of preparation and timing, but it is very much worth it. The first stage involves sprouting barley after soaking it (this will take several days). Once the barley is dry, it is ground into flour, to which wheat flour is added. After pouring on hot water, it is left overnight, after which cold water is poured before leaving it for a further two days. At the end of that period, it is time to add the leaves of citron, sour orange, rue and mint, together with lemons cut in half and a bit of salt for seasoning. Then leave it aside until the evening, when it is ready.

Before serving, the liquid is strained, and lemon juice, sugar, musk and rose water are added. Then, you’re good to go! Feel free to add some crushed ice for that mocktail effect! It’s truly amazing. This is one of the few ‘Ramadan’ drinks mentioned in the medieval Arabic culinary literature.

Mamluk anti-nausea drink

This is a recipe for a medieval Egyptian medicinal drink which was prescribed against nausea (قرف, qaraf). It is packed with vitamins due to the large number of fruits (the juice thereof) required to make it: sour orange, pomegranate, unripe grapes, and tamarind (steeped in wine vinegar before being expressed).

The method is straightforward as it is mainly a question of boiling the various juices at different stages of the process. Naturally, it needs spicing, which comes courtesy of the amazing atraf al-tib spice blend, whereas bunches of mint are used to stir the mixture. And since one can never have enough fruits, some chopped-up quince and limes (scored and the slits stuffed with black pepper and more atraf al-tib) are thrown in for good measure at the end. The result should have a syrupy consistency, and should be diluted with water before drinking. But feel free to add some crushed ice to give it that festive mocktail touch!

Medieval Syrian pomegranate drink

This is a recreation of a 13th-century Aleppine recipe for a drink made with pomegranate seeds, fresh mint leaves, sugar and a dash of rose water. For that real medieval experience you might wish to consider fumigating the goblet from which you drink with that most aromatic of spices, ambergis! It is best drunk chilled with some crushed ice — a delightful mocktail to suit all occasions!

‘The Great Uplifting Syrup’

This is a medicinal syrup (شراب, sharab) included as an appendix to an anonymous 13th-century Andalusian cookery book. The ingredients include borage, mint, and citron leaves, which are infused with a range of pungent aromatics (aloe, Chinese rhubarb, cassia, cinnamon and clove blossoms) tied in a pouch. It is sweetened with sugar.

It is purportedly beneficial for weak stomachs, while strengthening the liver and assisting digestion. More importantly, it also gladdens the heart, hence its name. Honestly, I didn’t notice any differences in my stomach or liver, but I can attest to the fact that drinking this syrup lifted my spirits!

Medieval Syrian pomelo drink

This is a recipe from a 13th-century Aleppine collection, and is a variation on a drink made with citron (أترجّ, utrujj). The Arabic word for the fruit used is kubbād (كبّاد), which in the western Mediterranean was known as zanbū‘ (زنبوع). The re-creation was made with the pulp, sugar, sour orange (نارنج, nāranj) juice, borage water, rose water, willow water, rue and the atraf al-tib spice blend. To really make it come into its own, add crushed ice and turn it into a refreshing mocktail — ideal for hot summer days!


Egyptian Pomegranate Oxymel Syrup

This oxymel (سكنجبين; sakanjabīn, sikanjabīn) syrup (شراب, sharāb) is found in a 14th-century Egyptian manual and is made by boling rose-water syrup (جلاب, jullāb) and sour pomegranate juice. Before drinking it, dilute with water and add crushed ice to turn it into a refreshing drink! And, don’t forget that it’s also a digestive, so it really is a win-win situation!

According to the physician Najīb al-Dīn al-Smamarqandī, who was active in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, oxymel is harmful to people with weak stomachs, or those suffering from nausea, colds, or nervous weakness. However, oxymel made with quince strengthens the stomach, counters loss of appetite, prevents nausea and sickness, and in convalescents helps strengthen their organs and stimulate their appetite. Oxymel made from pomegranate or apples, on the other hand, strengthens the liver and heart!

Citron drink (شراب الأترنج, sharaab al-utrunj)

Very simple to make, this refreshing citron drink from 13th-century Aleppo is a real winner on warm balmy days in the garden or by the pool! It is made with citron pulp, sugar, sour orange juice, borage water, lily water, rose water, and willow water. The author includes a variation which adds rue and the aṭrāf al-ṭīb spice mix. It is absolutely delicious refrigerated or with crushed ice for that mojito feel! You could, of course, make it with the juice of any citrus fruit, whereas today we can use normal oranges, which are already sweet enough and so one can reduce the sugar content somewhat.

Lemon-quince drink

A fourteenth-century Egyptian recipe for a refreshing quince and lemon drink (شراب ليمون سفرجلي, sharāb laymūn safarjalī). It is made by boiling rose-water syrup mixed with quince juice and then lemon juice, to give it that wonderful sweet-and-sour flavour. If you have musk to hand, add that too before serving. If not, it tastes just great without it! This re-creation comes with a twist in that some quince slices were also added to the mix, as these are prescribed in a similar recipe in the same book, for a quince oxymel (سكنجبين, sakanjabīn).

Tamarind syrup drink

A 13th-century Andalusian recipe requiring fresh tamarind soaked in water and sugar, which are cooked down to a syrup. It is drunk watered down and can be further enhanced with lashings of ice for a great beverage. It is another recipe that is primarily — but by no means exclusively — medicinal in that it was said to be useful against jaundice and thirst, as well as arousing appetite and removing the bitterness of food in the mouth.

Andalusian violet drink

This refreshing beverage from 13th-century Muslim Spain is made with fresh violet flowers that are boiled to extract their essence. After straining, sugar is added and this is cooked down to a syrup. Water it down with half the amount of hot water and it is ready to drink. Althrough primarily a medicine against fever and coughs, it has a wonderfully delicate taste which makes it a perfect summer drink as welll.