Limbu sarbat is an incredibly refreshing take on lemonade. My version features a cardamom-mint infused syrup that perfectly balances the tart flavors of lemon. The best part? It requires just six ingredients, one of which is water!
What is Limbu Sarbat?
Limbu sarbat (or limbacha sarbat in Marathi*) is a refreshing lemonade-like Indian beverage made with citrus (limes or lemon), sugar, ice water, and salt.
As a child, I loved its crisp, tart flavors during the hot summers in New England and while vacationing in Maharashtra. My mom prepared it with whatever citrus we had around, sometimes lime, sometimes lemon. She'd always add a pinch of salt to the drink to round out the sweetness.
I recently rediscovered the drink while reading Kaumadi Marathe's cookbook, Essential Marathi Cooking. She titles the recipe Limbacha sarbat and affectionately refers to it as "Marathi lemonade." Kaumadi's version uses a pinch of cardamom powder, which adds a minty, herbal flavor.
*Marathi is a language most commonly spoken in Maharashtra, India (and worldwide by the Maharashtrian diaspora).
Why You'll Love This Drink
Naturally, I wanted to make my own version of limbu sarbat. This limbu sarbat is cool, refreshing, tart, and addicting. Best of all? It's easy and infinitely customizable. Plus:
- Infusing fresh mint leaves and cardamom into a simple syrup yields a pleasantly floral and minty flavor.
- The cardamom mint syrup can be made well ahead of time and enjoyed throughout the week so you can have lemonade at a moment's notice!
- Cardamom: You can use either ground cardamom or whole cardamom pods. I like using whole cardamom for the freshest flavor, but if you already have cardamom powder in your pantry, it's extra convenient.
- Mint: You will need fresh mint for the simple syrup and garnishing. Make sure to use spearmint, as opposed to peppermint!
- Lemon: I've made this recipe with regular lemons and meyer lemons, and they're both delicious! Just note that with meyer lemons, you may need a bit less sugar in the final lemonade.
How to Make This
Make the simple syrup: First, use a mortar and pestle or the back of a knife to crush your cardamom pods until broken open. Next, rub the mint leaves with the sugar to release its essential oils. Add the cardamom pods and water to the sugar-mint mixture, and bring to a boil.
Cool the syrup: Cool the mixture to room temperature, then strain it through a sieve. This additional cooling time will allow the mint and cardamom to further penetrate the sweet syrup.
Mix the lemonade: Stir the syrup it into a glass with fresh-squeezed lemon juice and ice. Add enough cold water to taste, then garnish with a mint leaf. That’s it!
Swaps and Substitutions
Cardamom: To keep this lemonade true to its original profile, I don’t recommend substituting cardamom.
Lemons: You can absolutely use limes instead, though you will need to increase the amount of sugar since lemons are sweeter.
Mint: For enhanced mint flavor, you can muddle the mint at the bottom of your lemonade glass before pouring in the rest of the ingredients. Basil would also work well here.
The syrup should last at least two weeks in the fridge (up to a month) stored in a clean, uncontaminated airtight container.
I love serving this mint lemonade with grilled meat or a refreshing salad, such as this watermelon and charred corn salad.
Simple syrup is made from equal parts sugar and water. You heat the sugar and water until they dissolve, then allow it to cool before using.
This syrup can be used for a number of different applications, from mocktails to cocktails. You can even drizzle it over a cake for added moisture.
Nimbu pani is very similar to limbu sarbat, but it typically has a good amount of salt, almost like an electrolyte drink.
For even more cozy recipes, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.Happy eating! Love, Karishma
Limbu Sarbat (Indian Lemonade)
For the simple syrup
- 8 whole green cardamom pods, or ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ cup granulated white sugar
- ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, de-stemmed
- ¼ cup water
For 1 serving of lemonade
- 2 - 3 ice cubes
- 2 tablespoons cardamom simple syrup, see recipe above
- 2 - 3 tablespoons lemon juice, from about 1 lemon, plus more if desired
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup ice cold water, plus more if needed
- 2 fresh mint leaves, for garnish
For 4 servings of lemonade
- ½ cup cardamom simple syrup
- ¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, from about 4 lemons
- 2 cups ice cold water, plus more if needed
- Pinch of salt, to taste
- 12 ice cubes
- 8 fresh mint leaves, for garnish
For the simple syrup:
- If using whole cardamom, crush the pods with the back of a knife or a mortar and pestle until broken open.8 whole green cardamom pods
- In a small saucepan, add the sugar and mint. Rub the mint into the sugar for about a minute to release any essential oils. Add the cardamom pods (or ground cardamom) and water, and whisk to combine. Set over medium heat, and bring to a boil until the sugar dissolves.¼ cup granulated white sugar, ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, ¼ cup water
- Remove from the heat and pour liquid into a heatproof container. Cool completely. Once cooled, strain liquid through a fine mesh sieve. Store in a clean, airtight container for at least 2 weeks up to one month.
For 1 serving of lemonade:
- In an 8-ounce glass, add ice cubes.2 - 3 ice cubes
- Stir in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, the simple syrup, and a pinch of salt to taste. For a punchier lemonade, add 3 tablespoons lemon juice.Add the water, and stir to combine. Adjust to taste and garnish with fresh mint.2 tablespoons cardamom simple syrup, 2 - 3 tablespoons lemon juice, Pinch of salt, ½ cup ice cold water, 2 fresh mint leaves
For 4 servings of lemonade
- To a pitcher, add simple syrup, lemon juice, water and a pinch of salt. Taste and adjust as needed. Fill 4 glasses with ice cubes, then evenly divide the lemonade amongst the glasses. Garnish with fresh mint. Note: Salt can really bring out the flavors of the lemonade, so don't be afraid to use a little bit here.½ cup cardamom simple syrup, ¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, Pinch of salt, 2 cups ice cold water, 8 fresh mint leaves, 12 ice cubes
- This recipe yields a subtle mint-cardamom flavor. If you'd like something stronger, you can allow the simple syrup to marinate overnight in the fridge before straining.
- A pinch of salt can really help to balance out the sweet-tart flavors of the drink.
- Feel free to muddle the mint in your glass before adding the rest of the ingredients to extract more flavor.
- This lemonade can easily be converted into a cocktail or a mocktail by replacing some of the water with sparkling water.