This is actually saffron limeade. I got this recipe from my husband. His family has been making this drink for many years. Lemonades and limeades provide a wonderful canvas upon which other flavors can be layered.
The addition of saffron to the drink imparts a luxurious fragrance and flavor, as well as an exotic orange-yellow tint. Saffron is a spice derived from the saffron crocus. Saffron is comprised of the stigma and style (stalk) of the plant, and it's the most expensive spice in the world.
If you're looking for something special to serve at a summer lunch or barbeque, saffron limeade would be the perfect choice. Consider pairing it with Spanish paella, where saffron is also used in the preparation of the rice.
6 cups water, + extra for saffron
3-1/2 cups superfine sugar, to taste
2 cups lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 quarts ice cubes
1 teaspoon saffron threads
In a deep pan, bring the water to a full boil. Set aside.
In a sauce pan, melt the sugar without any water over high heat. It's important to carefully watch the sugar; as soon as the edges of the pan start caramelizing, immediately lower the heat to medium-low. Gently jiggle the saucepan in circles. Do not use a spoon! Lower the heat to the lowest setting when there are only a few remaining non-caramelized pieces. Don't let the sugar get dark brown or you'll get a burnt taste.
When all the sugar is an amber color, remove from the heat, pause for about a minute (be careful of splattering when the water is added), then slowly add the boiling water. Simmer the liquid until all the caramel is dissolved.
In a mortar and pestle, grind 3/4 teaspoon of saffron threads into a fine powder. Add the saffron to the sweetened liquid. Add about 1/2 cup of water into the mortar and pestle to gather the possible remaining of saffron powder. (Saffron is quite pricey, don't waste it!). Pour the saffron liquid to the sweetened liquid. Let it cool completely. Add the lime juice. Garnish with the remaining saffron threads. Stir well.
Serve over ice in pretty glasses.
It's so refreshing!
I prefer using superfine sugar. It's a fine-grained sugar and it dissolves much more quickly than the regular kind.
Saffron is quite expensive; I usually get it at a more reasonable price at the Indian market. Indian cuisine often calls for the use of saffron.
I like making the caramel first to give a nice amber color to the drink. If you don't mind a lighter color, just make simple syrup by dissolving the sugar in about 2-1/2 cups of water; bring to a boil and simmer for about 2 minutes. It will have the consistency of syrup but with a clear color.