Sumac lemonade

The mysterious plant was indeed sumac, a Godsend for our forefathers and mothers who needed a lemony taste in their dishes but could not access lemons (either due to seasonal lack of availability or because they did not live in the coastal areas where citrus is grown).

Sumac is dried and ground into a powder and keeps for many many months in a jar. If you buy it from a store, beware of the sumac that looks bright red. It should be dark, of a brownish hue otherwise, it has been dyed artificially.

Sumac is used in hundreds of dishes in Lebanon and throughout the region; it is one of the components of zaatar in Lebanon and used also to flavor stuffings (for  mehshis and kibbeh) as well as in dressing for fattoush.

This recipe is from dear Asma, a Kurdish/Lebanese lady from the region of Mardin in Turkey. The sumac berries are soaked overnight then strained through a cheesecloth and mixed with grape molasses for a refreshing summer drink. The taste is peppery, a bit sour, and mellow from the molasses or honey.

Today, I used powdered sumac simply because that is what is available in  North America.

INGREDIENTS: 1 serving

  • 12 ounces of water
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of dried powdered sumac
  • 1 tablespoon of grape molasses or honey
  1. Place the sumac in the water, cover and leave overnight. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve or a cheesecloth or a paper towel set over a sieve; add the grape molasses or honey, stir and refrigerate. Drink ice cold for a refreshing drink. This drink is also supposed to help upset stomachs.
NOTE: I used a type of grape molasses called “whipped” in Lebanon; it is thick and golden and sweet. Unfortunately, this type is not sold in the US (or I haven’t seen it). I would suggest a good honey as a substitute.
This rooster was strolling the streets of Bourj Hammoud carefree, until the shopkeeper’s poodle spotted him.
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  1. Posted June 28, 2012 at 4:02 am | Permalink

    A very interesting drink! Healthy too.



  2. Posted June 28, 2012 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    I have some sumac at home, and it’s reddish like a wine. Not that bright, but not very dark and brownish either. Would you say it’s been artificially dyed?

  3. Joumana
    Posted June 28, 2012 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    @the indolent cook: No, I’d say you got the real thing! :)

  4. Posted June 28, 2012 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    What a wonderful idea, sumac lemonade!! I will be making this soon, Joumana.

  5. Posted June 28, 2012 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    Ah! I could NOT figure what that was. What a unique lemonade!

  6. Posted June 28, 2012 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    Delicious…I love sour drink. I’ll try it. Thank you.

  7. Posted June 28, 2012 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Love the stuff and use it often. I just got a zatar plant and am looking forward to making a bit of the mix. Why do they say zatar is made with thyme? This plant looks more like oregano and smells like heaven. I’m thinking using sumac in lemonade is a great idea!

  8. Posted June 28, 2012 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    What a great and original idea, ideal for this time of the year! You amaze me with each and every post!
    Love xoxoxoxo

    PS comment is short, will dash to the kitchen to make this lemonade. :)

  9. Joumana
    Posted June 28, 2012 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    @Deana: Thyme in the Levant is more like oregano in the US, or at least a certain variety of it.

  10. Posted June 28, 2012 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Awesome timing! I just got some sumac but I didn’t know what to do with it.

  11. Maureen Stewart
    Posted June 28, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    This sounds delicious – I use sumac for so many things, but I’ve never tried this before, though I’m afraid I’ll only have access to the powdered version here in Vienna… Love the pic!

  12. Posted June 28, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Une limonade que je pourrai faire à Paris aussi.
    Des ingrédients que je trouverai facilement.
    A bientôt

  13. Manijeh
    Posted June 28, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    You can find grape molasses in California’s mid. eastern stores. I shop in one which is by the Armenians from Lebanon and they import the syrup in jars from Turkey. It is the real thing and very good.

  14. Posted June 29, 2012 at 4:26 am | Permalink

    I’ve just discovered/used Sumac for the 1st time, and fell in love with it! This will be a fun drink to try.

  15. Posted June 29, 2012 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    I never realized that sumac had a lemon flavor. Now I will have to try it.

  16. Posted June 29, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Joumana dear what a drink! This is completely up my alley as far as summer drinks go. And grape molasses sounds just marvelous seeing how I am in love with pom molasses – thanks to you!

    chow :) DEVAKI @ weavethousandflavors

  17. Posted June 29, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    When my son went to Dubai I told him to bring me some sumac and he brought me two kinds. One was labeled Sumac from Lebanon. Pity I didn’t know that I could use it in drinks as well. Love grape molasses.

  18. Posted June 30, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    I cannot imagine how this tastes, but know that once you have acquired the taste I bet is is so refreshing and delicious!

  19. Posted June 30, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    cool love sumac use it often with chicken will give this a try

  20. Posted July 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I have loved sumac for ages with the sour bright tang it has a little song to sing on the tongue and I find myself consistently addicted to whatever I eat with sumac in it. This is a great, very simple, delicious idea. I cannot wait to try it. I have both ingredients!

  21. Posted July 5, 2012 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    Quant à cette boisson-là, je l’essaye au plus vite !

  22. Genevieve
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    I LOVE sumac, but cannot find pure sumac (no salt) that doesn’t cost and arm and a leg off-line. I’ve ordered some before, but was left with something that tasted stale and artificial. Do you have a favorite brand/ website?

  23. Joumana
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    @Geneviève: Where do you live? I always found mine at the Middle-Eastern store in the US.

  24. Genevieve
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    I live near Philadelphia, PA.. There aren’t really any middle-eastern stores around here, do you have any online suggestions?

  25. Jealith
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    We have sumac trees that grow wild, is this the same thing? We always called it poison sumac.

  26. Joumana
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    @Jealith: in the US the sumac bush is poisonous, so no it is not the same thing.

  27. Joumana
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    @Genevieve: there is a company Ziyad brothers, that distributes a ton of Middle-Eastern products and I believe they sell online as well.

  28. Antares
    Posted August 8, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    There is edible sumac all over the NE quarter of the US! Most of the edible sumac in the US is stagnorn sumac, and it’s fuzzy, not smooth, otherwise it’s about the same. Poison sumac has white drupes instead of red. I’ve been drinking sumac lemonaide for the last couple weeks since it ripened, all harvested from the roadsides!

  29. Antares
    Posted August 8, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Oh, here she mentions the other types of sumac that can also be used, and which grow in other regions!

2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Gitto fick jag nys om den eminenta bloggen Taste of Beirut och när jag där fick syn på lemonad med sumac var det som att en dörr öppnades och jag insåg att javisstja, sumac kan man använda till [...]

  2. [...] I discovered the sumac lemonade on the wonderful blog Taste of Beirut I suddenly realised all the possibilities of sweet dishes [...]

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