Sima- Finnish Fermented Lemon May Day Drink

Must Try Recipes

What would you say if I told you that with just a couple lemons, some sugar, yeast and water you could be enjoying a tasty home-brewed, slightly alcoholic drink tomorrow night?  Pretty impressive, right?

A number of my friends have gotten into either beer or wine making.  I’m thinking I’d rather just stick with the Finnish technique of adding some yeast to some flavored sugar water… that seems a whole lot easier and a whole lot cheaper.

This is traditionally served in Finland on May Day (along with crisp donuts called May Day Fritters, aka tippaleivat).  Doesn’t drinking some homemade brew and eating donuts sound a whole lot cooler than dancing around a May pole?  Score one for the Finns.

Also, I’m not quite sure if the raisins provide any flavor or only act as an indicator to tell when the drink is ready.  The raisins spent all of Sunday doing liquid gymnastics, rising and falling for hours before finally settling at the top.  Pretty cool stuff.

Oh and the taste?  Pretty great.  If you like hard apple or pear cider, this should be right up your alley.

Sima- Finnish May Day Lemon Drink

Yield: Approximately 1 gallon


* 14 cups water
* 1 cup brown sugar
* 1 cup plus 4 teaspoons sugar, divided
* 2 lemons, washed and thinly sliced
* 1/8 teaspoon yeast
* 16-20 raisins


In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the brown sugar, 1 cup of the white sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the lemon slices, stir and let sit until lukewarm. Transfer the liquid to a nonreactive (non-metallic) container and add the yeast and stir. Partially cover and let sit for 8 hours or overnight. Tiny bubbles should have formed around the perimeter of the liquid.

Strain the liquid into sterilized bottles. Place one teaspoon of sugar per quart of liquid as well as 4-5 raisins. Cork tightly. Let stand at room temperature until the raisins have all risen to the top of the bottles. Refrigerate until use, letting out some of the pressure from the bottles from time to time, if necessary.

Latest Kitchen Guides

Kitchen Must-haves