Old-fashioned, Homemade Drinks

Long before shrubs became fashionable again, they used to be ancient Greeks’ favorite refreshments, called oxymeli (vinegar-honey syrup).

Equally almond milk, before becoming the favorite commercial dairy substitute, homemade milk from almonds and almond syrup, as well as the magnificent almond liqueur –called Crema alla Mandorla— were favorite Sicilian, and southern Italian drinks.


From my 1994, out of print book Mediterranean Pantry, with photos by the brilliant Martin Brigdale


Oxymeli, the sweet, tangy, and aromatic drink was thought to be not merely refreshing but also restorative and healthful! Long before shrubs became again fashionable as cocktails got immensely popular,  ancient Greeks’ favorite refreshments were called oxymeli (vinegar-honey syrup), similar to shrub.


In an old Turkish cookbook compiled by Turabi Efendi in 1862, I found a vinegar-sugar syrup called oxymel that was scented with sweet marjoram. Starting from that basic recipe I experimented with different quantities of sugar and vinegar, using marjoram, mint, and rose geranium as flavorings.

My favorite was this mint-flavored oxymel, but you can try other herbs you like. I use sugar, but you may well substitute honey, choosing a somewhat plain, not too fragrant honey.


TO SERVE place 2-3 tablespoons oxymel in a glass, pour in very cold water and ice cubes, adding gin or vodka, if you like, and decorate with a sprig of fresh mint.


Soumada: Almond Syrup 


 In Greece and the Middle East we dilute our precious almond syrup (called soumada in Greek) with ice-cold water and traditionally offer it at weddings, engagements, and other special occasions. At one time this expensive delicacy was given to nursing women as it was believed to help them produce milk.

To serve, stir 2 to 3 tablespoons of the syrup into a large glass filled with 1/2 to 2/3 cup water and some ice cubes.  If you like it alcoholic add a little liqueur Crema alla Mandorla,or a little gin or vodka.

You can also use this almond syrup as a sauce for chocolate ice cream or as flavoring when you make almond ice cream.



Oxymel: Mint and Honey Shrub

Soumada: Almond Syrup 






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