Regional Polish Rhubarb Drink with Mint and Honey

Napój Żniwny z Rabarbaru i Mięty

Regional Polish cuisine is full of hidden gems – and this cooling Rhubarb Drink is definitely one of them. 

It couldn’t be any easier to make at home. All you need is 4 simple ingredients: rhubarb, mint, honey and water. 

With spring in full bloom and hotter summer months ahead, this tangy rhubarb beverage will keep you refreshed and hydrated.

For the full list of ingredients & detailed instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post. But before you scroll, there’s important stuff to know below.

‘Napój żniwny z rabarbaru’ is a light rhubarb beverage popular throughout whole Lubelszczyzna (the Lublin region) – but especially in the village of Perkowice. 

It’s brewed in late spring and summer, when fresh rhubarb and mint are at their peak. These ingredients come directly from the villagers’ backyard gardens, with honey sourced from the neighbouring apiaries. 

freshly picked rhubarb

Back in the day, the beverage would be poured into large metal churns and then submerged in a well to remain cool.

Originally, the drink was enjoyed mainly by farmers, as a refreshment during their demanding work in the field (in Polish, “żniwny” means “harvest”). Today, it’s served at picnics, festivals and family gatherings, such as Sunday dinners and… even weddings!

In 2016, this rhubarb beverage was officially listed on the “Traditional Products” list of the Ministry of Agriculture under the name of “Napój żniwny z rabarbaru i mięty”. (entry in Polish)

Do you need any special ingredients or equipment?

No, everything should be easily available in any major supermarket.

For this particular recipe, you don’t have to worry too much about rhubarb’s appearance. It’s a chance to use up “ugly”, unloved stalks. So if it’s the green variety, or if the stalks are a bit bruised – that’s perfectly okay.

How to serve it?

This Rhubarb Drink tastes best when cooled. Serve it in a jug and garnish with fresh mint leaves.

But that’s not all, you could use it for:

Rhubarb Cocktail

Rhubarb cocktail with gin

Use it as a base for a refreshing cocktail. Here’s what we came up with:

“Żniwny Gin” (Harvest Gin)

  • 0.5 cup (8 tablespoons, 120 ml) chilled rhubarb drink (‘napój żniwny’)
  • 3 tablespoons (40-45 ml) gin; can be pink/strawberry gin
  • 3-4 ice cubes

Shake vigorously and pour into a glass. Garnish with fresh mint and shaved rhubarb (optional). Feel free to experiment yourself, perhaps with vodka, tequila or other spirits.

Rhubarb & Mint Kisiel (Kissel) 

Rhubarb drink can be transformed into Kisiel dessert and served either hot or cold. This recipe was inspired by Polish pastry chef Paweł Małecki.

  • 4 cups (900 ml) rhubarb drink (‘napój żniwny’)
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch; can be replaced with potato flour or cornstarch
  • 7 oz (200 g) fresh berries and/or currants, or roasted rhubarb (10-12 min at 430°F [220°C] in the oven)
  • Mint leaves, for garnish

Heat up 3 cups of rhubarb drink in a small pot. Mix the remaining cup of cold drink with 2 tablespoons of potato starch, until fully dissolved.

Gradually add this mixture into the pot, whisking as you go. Once kisiel thickens and you’re happy with its consistency, pour it into individual cups and set it aside to set. Serve garnished with fresh fruit and fresh mint leaves.

Can you make it another way?

Yes, you can:

  • use frozen rhubarb
  • add a variety fruit, such as currants, stone fruit or berries (especially strawberries)
  • replace fresh mint leaves with mint tea; although that’s a bit of a last resort – as the aroma won’t be as potent.

What diets is it suitable for?

This recipe is suitable for vegetarians and those who follow gluten-free and dairy-free diets.

To make it vegan, replace the honey with a plant-based sweetener, for example with agave or maple syrup.

How long can you keep it in the fridge?

The great thing about this recipe is you can make it in advance and chill in the fridge for up to 3 days. Perfect for a long, sunny weekend.

Can I freeze it?

No, this recipe isn’t suitable for freezing.

A glass of cold Polish rhubarb drink with honey and mint

Recipe: step by step

A glass of cold Polish rhubarb drink with honey and mint

Regional Polish Harvest Rhubarb Drink with Honey and Mint

Yield: 6-8
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

This recipe makes around 6 to 8 portions (around 16 oz, 470-500 ml).

Ingredients

  • 2 lb rhubarb (~ 6 large stalks, 0.9-1 kg)
  • 12 cups water (~ 3 quarts, 3 litres)
  • 1 bunch mint leaves, fresh (~ 2 oz, 55-60 g)
  • 1 tablespoon mild honey; e.g. acacia

Instructions

Prep

  1. Wash rhubarb thoroughly, cut off woody ends and discard them. Cut rhubarb into smaller, 1 inch ( ~ 2,5 cm) pieces.
  2. Bring 12 cups of water to boil, ideally in a cooking pot.

Mint infusion

  1. Place mint leaves in a large bowl, leaving a few nicest-looking leaves aside (for garnish).
  2. Pour 4 cups of boiling water over mint leaves, stir and leave to cool.

Cooking rhubarb

  1. Drop rhubarb pieces into the pot with the rest of hot water.  Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, until starting to fall apart. Stir occasionally.
  2. Pour pot’s contents through a strainer, over a large jug or bowl. Keep strained rhubarb pulp for another dish e.g. for a sauce or filling.

Combining liquids

  1. Combine rhubarb liquid with mint infusion. Add honey and stir. Pour into jugs or carafes, and refrigerate as soon as it's cool enough to do so.
  2. Serve cold, with ice cubes and fresh mint leaves as a garnish.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 32Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 19mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 1g

Polish name: Napój Żniwny
Pronunciation: napooy zhneevnyh
Cuisine: Polish
Region / Subregion: Lublin region, Polesia and Roztochia Lublin region
Other traditional or regional names:
Also known as (including misspellings): Rhubarb Lemonade, Polish Rhubarb Drink