The scene: bustling sidewalk cafe in Sibiu, Romania. Hot day. Lots of sunshine. People shopping, talking, eating, drinking everywhere. Nearby, I see a group of old men at a table underneath a tree. Another group of teenagers playing with their mobiles and chatting at a table in the sun. Similar cafes lining the street. And the majority of people with a little pitcher in front of them, sipping through a straw. Old men, young girls, moms and babies – everyone sipping from their little pitcher. I was intrigued.
I recently spent the weekend in Sibiu, Romania. It was going to be a great weekend: good weather, ancient little town, and in Transylvania (potential for vampire sightings!)
Then I got food poisoning. On the plane, on the way to Romania.
I travel a lot. And have never, ever had food poisoning. Disappointingly, I think I got sick from food in London because it hit me on the plane.
Anyway, after 2 days of barely leaving my hotel room and not eating, I ventured out into Sibiu for supplies and a drink at a cafe. That’s where I discovered this amazingly refreshing, fresh-squeezed lemonade. And you can make it at home! (And I have, several times since returning.) I’ve included the “recipe” (although it’s barely a recipe), but the real charm is in the simple ritual and presentation of this lemonade – mixed for you right at your table.
When I sat down at a cafe table and looked at the menu, it was all in Romanian. So in proper tourist fashion, I just pointed at the lemonade jug on the next table.
“Limonata.” he says.
Ah, I probably could have figured that out.
The waiter returns (after a nice, leisurely pause … this is Eastern Europe in the summer, things move slowly…) with a pitcher with about 1 inch of yellow liquid at the bottom, and a bottle of still water. He sets the pitcher on the table, and then pours the water into the jug, puts the straw in, et voila! fresh lemonade for one!
It turns out there was just fresh-squeezed lemon juice and a few spoons of sugar in the bottom of the jug. Top it up with water from the bottle to the strength you want.
That’s it. So simple. So quick. And I love the ‘mixed at your table’ ritual – it really emphasizes the freshness of the lemonade.
Like a Citron Presse, only sweeter
When I lived in France, a popular drink at a cafe was a citron presse. That’s the juice from one fresh squeezed lemon in a glass, served with a small jug of water. Again, you blend to your preferred strength. But I always find the French glasses too small, so you end up with a really lemony glass of water. That’s why I loved this Romanian version. There was enough space to really make a refreshing lemonade, rather than just an intense hit of lemon juice.
Fresh Squeezed Lemonade, Romania Style
The limonata in Romania was made with white, granulated sugar. I try to avoid the stuff these days. So when I make it at home, I use maple syrup.
The recipe is super simple.
Squeeze the juice from one lemon into a large glass or small pitcher.
Add 2 Tb. of maple syrup, or to taste.
Top with still (or sparkling!) water, stirring to blend.
Adjust ingredients to taste.
Drink directly from the jug with a straw. Serves 1 person.
You could also fancy up this basic ‘recipe’ by adding mint leaves or some fresh berries. Have you made fresh squeezed lemonade? What’s your favorite combination?