One of the most popular beverages in Saudi Arabia these days isn’t brewed, it’s squeezed. Traditionally, Saudis drank more hot beverages, but things are changing. “In contemporary lifestyle, juices are a big element,” says heritage food documenter Majed Al Muhanna.
Juices are popular in Saudi and across the GCC, where the juice market was valued at US$2.5 billion in 2019. Natural fruit juices are on the rise for a few reasons — among them, GCC government healthy eating initiatives that promote juice consumption, and a growing demand for organic and natural halal food options.
Of the GCC countries, Saudi Arabia is the leader in the juice market, which is clear by the sheer availability of the beverages. Sold in grocery stores, served in restaurants and hotels, and popping up at juice specialty shops like Signature and Juice World, juices are easy to come by in the kingdom. “People love apple cider [and] like mango juices, apple juices and fruit mixtures,” Al Muhanna says, adding that mocktail versions of mojitos and pina coladas are also popular.
“We do like a strong flavor and a sweet flavor,” Al Muhanna says. “For a Saudi, they’re not drinking alcohol, so to complement the food, the juice or drink needs to be more flavored.”
Get a taste of some of Saudi’s best squeezes with these three juices.
Previously called a Saudi Cooler because it’s light, refreshing and cool on a summer day, Saudi Cooler (also known as Saudi Champagne) is one of the most popular drinks at hotels and fine dining restaurants. A mix of apple juice and sparkling water with thin slices of oranges, lemons, apples and sprigs of fresh mint, it’s easy to see the appeal. “I love it because it has a hint of mint flavor,” Al Muhanna says. “It’s light. It’s not that sweet.”
Mango is a very popular juice among Saudis, which is why you’ll see it both on its own and combined with other fruits. Try a refreshing glass of mango juice straight up or mixed with avocado, guava, milk or strawberry. Prefer a mocktail? Mango juice is also commonly incorporated into juice cocktails, such as mango mojitos, in Saudi.
One of the best-known juice combinations in the Middle East is lemon mint, sometimes called limonana. The ingredients include freshly squeezed lemon, mint, sugar and water. Not as sweet as American lemonade but equally if not more popular during the summer, lemon mint can be found at restaurants across Saudi. You’ll also find many adjustments made to this classic, such as lemon mint strawberry juice, and new variations are created every day.
— Lisa Zimmermann