Lemon Barley Water

When life gives you lemons, make… lemon barley water?

Every now and then I’ll find something in some obscure corner of the Internet and it’ll become my little obsession for a week or so. Like kiwifruit bread. Or plarn. I think Scruff’s sort of gotten used to me showing him random stuff I’ve found on Pinterest, but that hasn’t made him any keener on most of my ideas.

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Anyway one day I was googling stuff you can do with lemons and I came across this recipe for lemon barley water. I’d never heard of lemon barley water before, and the whole concept of cooking barley and turning it into a drink was also new, which was pretty much all the encouragement I needed to give it a go. After doing a bit more googling I realised lemon barley water is a pretty standard thing – our supermarket stocks an entire shelf of the premade stuff and here’s a whole Wikipedia article on barley water generally. Alas, I was ignorant.

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My first experience was a good one – super refreshing, and really easy to make. The only thing that ruined it was Scruff flat out refusing to try it.

“It’s weird. Please stop finding weird stuff on the Internet.”

“But it’s an actual thing! Here’s a whole Wikipedia article on it! It’s super refreshing!”

Luckily my mum and one of my friends was willing to give it go, and they both liked it. Neither of them had heard of it before either which also made me feel better.

Finally caving to pressure Scruff had a (small) glass.

“Yeah it’s nice.”

This being the culinary equivalent to being told “You look fine” by your husband/boyfriend/lover (ladies you know what I mean), I decided I was onto something but it probably needed a bit of jazzing up.

In came the suggestions: “Try it with sparkling water!” “How about adding some mint?” And after a particularly rough day… “Get me some of that lemon barley water and pour as much gin as you can into it!”

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So here’s my final lemon barley water recipe. It’s the perfect drink at the end of a hot summer’s day, the sort of thing you’d sip while sitting on a porch as night slowly sets in. And if you hadn’t heard of it before now I assure you it isn’t weird at all – just simple, delicious, and very refreshing.

– Steph

Lemon Barley Water

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Course: Drink

Author: Steph


Lemon barley syrup

  • 2/3 cup pearl barley
  • Zest of 4 lemons
  • 1.5 litres of boiling water
  • 220 gm of caster sugar
  • 200 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (approximately 3-4 lemons)

To serve (per glass)

  • 150 ml lemon barley syrup
  • 90 ml sparkling water
  • 3 whole mint leaves, bruised (Note 1)
  • 3 ice cubes


Lemon barley syrup

  1. Rinse the pearl barley under cold running water.
  2. Place the pearl barley, lemon zest and water in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil.
  3. Simmer for ten minutes over medium heat.
  4. Meanwhile, weigh out the sugar and place in a heat-resistant bowl (ideally one with a spout).
  5. Once the pearl barley has finished cooking, strain the cooking water into the bowl with the sugar (Note 2).
  6. Stir to completely dissolve the sugar.
  7. Add the lemon juice, then stir through.
  8. Pour into a serving jug or sterilised jars/bottles. This is where using a bowl with a spout helps.
  9. Leave to chill in the fridge.

To serve

  1. Measure out the lemon barley syrup into a glass.
  2. Top with sparkling water.
  3. Add the mint and ice cubes, then serve immediately.

Cooking Notes

  1. To be very honest I still haven’t worked out the best way to extract the mint flavour into the drink, but bruising the mint leaves definitely helps. You can bruise the leaves by slapping them against your palm, or bashing gently with the end of a wooden spoon against a hard surface. If anyone has any better ideas leave it in the comments!
  2. Not sure what to do with the leftover pearl barley? Make a pearl barley salad.


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