About one gallon of syrup with which to make Sekanjabin:
Mix the sugar with the water in a large pot. Set this on to simmer, and stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Then add the wine vinegar and spices or herbs, and simmer well, stirring, for one half hour.
It may seem on first glance that this amount of time simmering is not necessary, but on the contrary it is vital to producing a drink that does not taste like sweet salad dressing. During this simmer, much of the acetic acid of the vinegar is driven out of the syrup.
That said, there is some evidence that the Bisantines and Andalusians preferred their Sikanjabin to have a vinegary taste. The Andalusian recipe he quotes calls for simmering one part (by volume) of strong vinegar to two parts of sugar, with no added water (or other flavorings). Lord Barak claims this is actually quite refreshing served cold on a hot day, though the author has yet to try this.
The cinnamon variation is an idea from Aiden Elfeadur of the Midrealm. When the author asked Master Aiden how much cinnamon to use, he replied ``Enough.'' ``How much is enough?'' ``It is very hard to use too much.'' So we used 6 oz. of fresh, ground, good quality cinnamon from the local food cooperative. Similar reasoning can be used for the mint.
Dissolve 4 cups sugar in 2 1/2 cups of water; when it comes to a boil add 1 cup wine vinegar. Simmer 1/2 hour. Add a handful of mint, remove from fire, let cool. Dilute the resulting syrup to taste with ice water (5 to 10 parts water to 1 part syrup). The syrup stores without refrigeration.
Note: This is the only recipe in the Miscelleny that is based on a modern source: A Book of Middle Eastern Food, by Claudia Roden. Sekanjabin is a period drink; it is mentioned in the Fihrist of al-Nadim, which was written in the tenth century. The only period recipe I have found for it (in the Andalusian cookbook) is called "Sekanjabin Simple" and omits the mint. It is one of a large variety of similar drinks described in that cookbook-flavored syrups intended to be diluted in either hot or cold water before drinking.
Syrup of Simple Sikanjabîn (Oxymel)
Andalusian p. A-74
Take a ratl of strong vinegar and mix it with two ratls of sugar, and cook all this until it takes the form of a syrup. Drink an ûqiya of this with three of hot water when fasting: it is beneficial for fevers of jaundice, and calms jaundice and cuts the thirst, since sikanjabîn syrup is beneficial in phlegmatic fevers: make it with six ûqiyas of sour vinegar for a ratl of honey and it is admirable.
This seems to be at least two different recipes, for two different medical uses. The first, at least, is intended to be drunk hot. In modern Iranian restaurants, sekanjabin is normally served cold, often with grated cucumber.
Tofi Kerthjalfadsson, guildmaster, BMDL Brewers' Guild.