Swank (aka Lime Water)

Hi Everyone, Lime + water + sugar = swank. It’s that simple that’s why we call it as we see it: lime water. I always get a good laugh when I think of our practicality when it comes to naming things. We make rice pudding/kheer and because it is rice and the dish is sweet, we call it sweet rice. We make paratha roti and because we brush the dough twice with oil, we call it oil roti. Perhaps the knack for practical naming is borne out by the naming of some of the more familiar streets in the Cummingsburg area in Georgetown: New Market Street simply because it led to the new market. Church Street because it was the primary route used by people to access the St George’s Cathedral. (Source: Historic Cummingsburg: National Trust of Guyana).

Swank – this drink in all its simplicity provides many waves of refreshment on a hot day. Heck, who am I kidding, we drink swank any time of the day and regardless of the weather. It is just so good. If there is one thing we always have in our homes, it’s limes. And of course this is due in large part to our proclivity to liming and salting every piece of fish and meat. But having limes in the house saves us also if there are no bottled drinks in the house and someone dropped by and you want to offer them something more than water. In no time a jug of swank can be made.

While most people are polite enough to accept the swank with thanks, regardless of how you’ve made it, others are very picky about how they like their swank. You might think I’m joking but I’m not and those of you reading this column know yourselves. There are standards involved.

A jug of Swank (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

For swank to be truly called swank it must be made with brown sugar. The drink must have that signature brown colour. From there it is all about personal preference. Some people put in a bit of essence to enhance the flavour and “sweeten up the smell.” Some like it with the pulp of the lime while others don’t. Many like it poured over ice while others prefer it chilled and yet another group likes it chilled and poured over ice. I’m in the latter group.

The level of sweetness is another factor. Some like their swank a little more on the tart side while others want it sweet, not like sling but sweet enough that when ice is added it does not taste watered down.

To elevate swank, I like to put a dash or two of Angostura Bitters just before serving it. The addition of the bitters is sublime.

At home I noticed that mommy would toss the squeezed limes into the drink as she was mixing it; doing that sort of intensified the limey flavour of the drink the longer it sat in the mix. These days when I make swank, I reserve one of the limes, slice it thinly and add the slices to the drink. At first the slices float and then the longer they sit in that flavour mix, they give off more of that limey flavour, then, heavy from absorbing the liquid they sink to the bottom of the jug. So good.

When it comes to mixing the actual drink, again, people have their own methods. Some squeeze the juice of the limes into a large cup or the jug in which they plan to make the drink, add the essence, sugar and a little bit of plain water to make a very thick syrup and then pour in plain or cold water to make the amount of drink they desire.

Another way is to squeeze the juice of the lime, add the essence, enough water to make the drink and then the sugar to sweeten. There is one thing about making drinks, adding sugar and then drinking the drink shortly after, that I do not like. That is, the “raw” taste of the sugar. In such cases, I leave the drink to settle and let the flavours meld for at least an hour before drinking. But, there is another way in which I sweeten my swank that I never have to worry about the raw taste of the sugar and that’s by sweetening it with simple syrup (equal amounts of sugar and water brought to a boil and then allowed to cool). Using simple syrup to make swank also means that you can mix your drink with ice-cold water instead of plain water. Using the simple syrup with cold water will save you the frustration of mixing your swank with sugar and ice water only to have you stir and stir and stir because the sugar would not dissolve in the cold water.

A few years ago a friend made me some swank and added a sprinkle of Indian Black Salt (Kala Namak) to the mix. The black salt transformed the drink with very subtle notes of salt. I loved it but black salt is not for everyone, it has a pungent smell of sulphur that can be off putting; it’s an acquired taste. If you’d like to try your swank with a little salt, stir in a sprinkle or two of salt into your glass or cup. Speaking of cups, you know what kinds of cups are perfect for swank right? Enamel cups of course. Large enough for a nice long drink with the sound of the ice hitting the side of the cup as you swirl the drink.

Swank goes well with just about everything, snacks and food (as in main course or main dish). However, I find it exceptionally delightful with a plate of Cook-up Rice. Don’t you?
Alright, you know what you drinking today right?

Cynthia
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