Sima (Finnish Spring Mead)

Group of lemons
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Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Ferment: 48 hrs
Total: 48 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 20 servings
Yield: 4 quarts
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
101 Calories
0g Fat
27g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 20
Amount per serving
Calories 101
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 12mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 27g 10%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Total Sugars 21g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 25mg 127%
Calcium 28mg 2%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 202mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Celebrate the arrival of warmer weather by preparing Finnish sima. A traditional drink commonly prepared on the first day of May to welcome spring, it's a lightly fermented lemonade. It's easy and quick to make and tastes like a yeasty lemon soda with a hint of caramel. Sima is also very refreshing.

In Finland, sima was traditionally made with honey and fermented for a long time to produce a mead-like wine with a good amount of alcohol. Today, it's most often fermented for just a few days to create a naturally carbonated beverage that's lightly alcoholic if fermented too long.

This sima recipe flavors water with fresh lemon zest and slices. Rather than honey, it uses a combination of brown and white sugar, while regular baker's yeast is added to begin fermentation. After a day of rest, it's bottled with a little more sugar and a few raisins. A foolproof way to know when it's done—the raisins will float once the sima is fully carbonated.

As with any naturally fermented drink, sima transforms from being slightly bubbly to slightly intoxicating the longer it's allowed to ferment. If you drink it as soon as the raisins float, it's fine to serve to the kids. It typically doesn't get stronger than 1 percent alcohol by volume, but keeping the timing in mind is important. Since you can't stop fermentation, it's best to make only as much as you'll drink within a day or so.


  • 4 quarts water

  • 2 large lemons

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

  • 1/2 cup white sugar, plus 1 teaspoon per bottle

  • 1/4 teaspoon yeast

  • 5 to 6 raisins

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Bring the water to a steady boil.

  3. In the meantime, use a lemon zester or a potato peeler to remove the outer yellow rind of the lemons in strips. Peel or trim off the bitter inner white rind of the lemons and discard.

  4. Place the prepared lemon strips in a large glass or plastic (nonmetal and heatproof) container.

  5. Slice the peeled lemons and place them in the container with the zest, along with the brown sugar and white sugar.

  6. Once the water boils, pour it into the container with the lemons and sugar. Let it cool to lukewarm, then stir in the yeast.

  7. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours (and up to 48 hours), or until the surface begins to bubble slightly.

  8. Strain the liquid into clean glass bottles, quart jars, or plastic containers.

  9. Add 5 to 6 raisins and 1 teaspoon sugar to each bottle.

  10. Seal tightly and refrigerate for two to five days, or until the raisins float to the top of the bottles.

  11. Keep refrigerated and serve cool.