Lemon-Honey-Ginger Drink

Some mornings, you wake up feeling like this:

Grumpy morning Lucy

(Lucy was having a morning.)

I woke up with a horrendous head cold, enough to make me call out of work for the first time in years. It seems to be a trend with nearly everyone, this season.

Lemon Ginger Honey Mug and Paper

Because New Zealand winters aren’t terribly cold (“terribly” being a relative term, of course), most houses are poorly insulated and lack central heat. Many people have woodstoves, and it’s common to stave off a chilly evening with cardigans, a hot water bottle in bed, and a space heater that you bring with you from room to room. Nevertheless, my parents tell me they often used to wake up in winter to frost on the inside of the windows.

When you see photos of New Zealand, they’re usually glossy sunny photos of lush green forest against a blue sky. In reality, that lush green forest often sits against a backdrop of cloudy grey. To this day, the smell of rain in the morning connects me instantly to memories of New Zealand.

 photo P1090540_zpsb7bef428.jpgNo clouds here! Promise!

What to do, when the winter chillies have you down for the count? This drink is a start. You can find a lemon-honey-ginger in every Wellington café during the winter months.

It’s technically an infusion instead of a tea, since it lacks tea leaves. The three ingredients are self-evident, and the drink comes together simply: fresh lemon pulp, grated ginger root, and manuka honey (though non-Kiwi honeys also do just as well). Served steaming hot, preferably right out of the saucepan (or microwave), it provides the same comfort as a cup of tea, but I find that the benefits last longer. No sooner have I put down my mug than I feel my coughing and sneezing flare up again, but with a lemon-honey-ginger, which nourishes as well as soothes, I feel better for hours.

Honey and Sunlight

Manuka honey, which comes from the native New Zealand tea tree, is a traditional choice for the honey in this recipe. It has a unique earthy-floral flavour and a rich, dark colour. Since it’s difficult to find outside of the country, substitute any honey you like, although delicate and floral honeys (such as orange blossom) are likely to lose their complexity in the heat of the drink. I used wildflower honey given to me by a local beekeeper.

Jar of local Honey

Lemon Ginger Honey Mug

(It’s preferable to serve this drink in a mug with blue birdies on it.)

Recipe Notes: If at all possible, avoid making this drink with powdered ginger or bottled lemon juice (unless the label reads 100% lemon juice), both of which have a sharp flavour that will shout loud and bitter in such a simple recipe. Fresh ingredients meld much better and retain more of their curative properties.

If you’re up to it, a pinch of cayenne adds a layer of complexity (and conveniently, is also a natural antibacterial). It’ll open those sinuses right up!

You can strain out the solids before serving, but I prefer to serve mine with the ginger and lemon pulp still in the drink. Each piece of ginger feel like a spicy point of victory against the microbes I’m fighting. Don’t boil too long: you’re not making a stock, just infusing the water with the ginger and lemon and keeping as fresh a flavour as possible.


Makes 2 large mugs

1 fresh lemon
1-inch piece of fresh ginger root
4 tbsp. honey (or to taste)
3 cups boiling water

  1. Zest the lemon into a saucepan. Cut the lemon in half and juice it in with the zest. With a spoon, scrape out some of the lemon pulp and add that as well.
  2. Grate or finely slice ginger, then add to lemon.
  3. Add water and boil 3 minutes over high heat.
  4. Remove from heat, stir in honey, and serve piping hot.

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