Saturday, 2 April 2016

Ginger Sekanjabin: An Ancient Persian Drink

'Heat, ma'am!' I said; 'it was so dreadful here, that I found there was nothing left for it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones.

Well, it might as well have been me who said this. The heat is rising and some days are just plain intolerable. Anything cold is welcome. In fact, anything flowing is welcome.

So I guess a few drinks are in order and this Sekanjabin is a good start.
But before we go on, this quote by Rev. Sydney Smith (who was an English Clergyman and writer, known for his wit and humour) is part of a section in Lady Holland's Book where he was commenting on 'the want of perception of a joke in some minds'. Apparently, Mrs. Jackson called on him to talk about the oppressive heat of the past week and that was when Rev. Smith, in a jocular vein, is quoted as having made the statement to her. The rest of it is quite funny as well.

'Take off your flesh and sit in your bones, Sir! Oh, Mr. Smith! How could you do that?' she exclaimed, with the utmost gravity. 'Nothing more easy, Ma'am; come and see next time.' But she ordered her carriage, and evidently thought it a very unorthodox proceeding.
Sydney Smith, 
Memoir of the Rev. Sydney Smith: By his Daughter, Lady Holland, 
with a Selection from his Letters, Volume I 

I hope that brought a laugh in the midst of this dreadful weather.
The Sekanjabin is an ancient Persian drink and is said to have healing properties. The base recipe consists of just Sugar and Vinegar. The original recipe for the Syrup of Simple Sikanjabîn (Vinegar Syrup) can be found in an ancient Andalusian Cookbook, which is commonly titled as The Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook today. (This was a collection of recipes (some of which in turn were copied from earlier collections of the 1200's) compiled in the early 1400's by a Scribe - the name of whom perished along with the first page of the original compilation.
Take a ratl of strong vinegar and mix it with two ratls of sugar, and cook all this until it takes the form of a syrup.
(1 ratl is 468gm, roughly a pound.)
The Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook from the 13th Century 
(Main translation by Charles Perry. The above version has Candida Martinelli's edits.)
I have a plan to try out the ancient recipe as such one day. But for a start, I thought a bit of flavouring wouldn't hurt. Ginger Sekanjabin is a slightly modern version of the basic recipe and as the title obviously suggests, is flavoured with ginger. A combination of strawberry, ginger and mint also seems to be a popular version.

I wasn't particularly apprehensive of the outcome of this recipe (though it has Vinegar in it) as we have a similar Ginger-Lime concoction that everyone makes back home. The Sekenjabin (also spelled Sikanjabin Skanjubin or Sekanjamin) is really good, though I am a bit partial to the Ginger-Lime Juice.
I have a confession to make. I took these photos with a wall in the background and there was a pipe running across it which is what you see as a mid gradient in these shots. I thought I will edit it in post. However, I decided to leave it as such as it seemed harmless. I cannot make up my mind if it was a good idea now!

Ginger Sekanjabin: An Ancient Persian Drink

I have kept the recipe almost as it appears in Umm Maryam's A Kitchen in Persia: Classical and Unique Persian Recipes (in terms of ingredients and general method).

I had made two quarter batches (one exactly like this and one with a slightly different flavour.). The recipe works well with quarter as well as half batches.
Serves 20 to 25

  1. Sugar - 4 cups
  2. Ginger, minced - 1/2 cup
  3. Red or White Wine Vinegar - 1 cup (I used Red Wine Vinegar.)
  4. Water - 2 and a 1/2 cups

Take the sugar and water together in a large saucepan and boil them over a high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the vinegar and minced ginger.

Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. I like to leave it for an extra hour or two. Now, strain out the minced ginger with a fine sieve.

Store at room temperature in sterile bottles.
Serve cold with ice or at room temperature with a syrup to water ratio of 1:4 to 1:5. (You can also use sparkling water.)

  1. You can garnish the drink with Mint Leaves or Rosemary.
  2. A dash of this goes well with green tea and some herbal teas.
  3. The syrup will keep at room temperature for months (provided you use a clean and dry bottle for storing it.)
  4. The Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook from the 13th Century is a free pdf and can be downloaded from Candida Martinelli's Italophile site.


  1. First of all, the clicks are amazing... just because u said it was a pipe, I noticed it, but it looked more like a light yellow tinge added to make the pics better! They are simply wow... and what a recipe, I am wondering how it would taste like. Thank you for sharing the link, I love levant cuisine and I have downloaded the book for my leisure time browsing and trying... :)

    1. Thank you so much, Rafee. You are so very kind.

      And yeah, it is unusual - isn't it. It tastes good, and of course that Wine Vinegar and Ginger notes are quite discernible. The Techie liked it well (I wasn't expecting him to!). I like to have it small servings and sip over a period of time - it might come as a bit strong if gulped down like normal juices.

      The link - I did remember you when I was drafting and thought you might be interested if you had not come across it already. I'm sure you will find something interesting to try out :)


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