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Barley Water


Very dilute wash of cooked barley with lemon and sugar. Served cold.

Known at least since the early 18th Century, especially as a restorative drink for children and the sick, as in the Newcastle Courant - Saturday 08 May 1762; "the Sick to drink plentifully of Barley-Water sweetened with Lisbon or coarse sugar." Horatio Wood's 'Treatise on therapeutics' (1879) says that "Barley-water is used as a nutritious, demulcent drink in fevers." See also: Chaddesden Barley Water

Original Receipt in 'The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy' by Hannah Glasse, 1747 (Glasse 1747);

To make Barley-Water
PUT a quarter of a pound of pearl-barley into two quarts of water, let it boil, skim it very clean, boil half away, and strain it off. Sweeten to your palate, but not too sweet, and put in two spoonfuls of white-wine. Drink it luke-warm.

For an ancient version, see: Tyssan and 'Queens Barley Cream'.

The best-known brand of barley water concentrate, Robinsons, now part of Britvic, developed from the business established around 1818 by Matthias Robinson at Red Lion Street in Holborn, London producing barley flour as a thickening agent and for preparing baby and invalid foods, and, of course, as an easy way of making your own barley water at home.

Robinsons have associated their drink with the Wimbledon tennis championships and have promoted a story that "In 1934 a gentleman steward at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships mixed the barley flour with iced water, lemon juice & sugar for the 1st time." But lemon barley water is very well known from long before then, as in these...

How to make Lemon Barley Water
Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper - Sunday 17 May 1891

Original Receipt in 'The Cook and Housekeeper's Dictionary' by Mary Eaton (Eaton 1822);

BARLEY WATER. Wash a handful of common barley, then simmer it gently in three pints of water, with a bit of lemon peel. Or boil an ounce of pearl barley a few minutes to cleanse it, and then put on it a quart of water. Simmer it an hour: when half done, put into it a piece of fresh lemon peel, and one bit of sugar. If likely to be thick, add a quarter of a pint of water, and a little lemon juice, if approved. This makes a very pleasant drink for a sick person; but the former is less apt to nauseate.

Wartime restrictions meant a return to home-made barley water
Western Daily Press - Friday 21 May 1943

Advertisement for Mitre Drinks by W Heath Robinson
Chelmsford Chronicle - Friday 17 July 1936

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