Some flavors take things from ordinary to exotic with just a few drops, let’s call them exoti-fying ingredients. One such ingredient is rose water, a distilled concoction of roses with a perfumed flavor that’s common in Middle Eastern food. My history with rose water dates back to my childhood when I’d visit my Persian friends for play dates. Instead of gorging on junk food, our snack time was much more refined with tea and rose water-perfumed sweets making a regular appearance. At first I couldn’t stand the distinct aroma of rose water but, with time, I came to adore the subtle yet distinct exotifying twist it adds to food. These days I use it throughout my kitchen in dishes like lassi, cheesecake, and lemon bar filling.
But the best way to use rose water this time of year? To liven up lemonade. The Lebanese serve mint and orange blossom-laced lemonade – lemonada in the Middle East — and I became a fan of the drink when I was traveled there. This summer lemonada has become my summer drink of choice though I’ve riffed on it slightly by swapping rose water for orange blossom water and add in some sparkling water. Here’s my take on the classic cooler:
Sparkling Lemonada Recipe
The addition of mint and rose water make this drink go from ho-hum to showstopping. I make mine less sweet that normal because I detest overly sweet things and I top it with some bubbly water or soda to lighten it up a bit. It is traditionally made with orange blossom water (sometimes labeled orange flower water), but it is very hard to find, so I use rose water. Not to sound like a lush, but it’s great spiked with some vodka, rum, or even a dash of limoncello.
Makes: 2 drinks
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
3/4 teaspoon rose water
8 mint leaves plus more for garnish (or basil leaves)
6 ounces lemon mineral water or bitter lemon soda
Combine lemon juice, zest, agave, and rose water, stir to combine and divide between two glasses.
Place the mint leaves in the palm of one hands, hit or smack them once with the back of your hand, then add to the glasses. Add enough ice to fill glasses halfway then divide mineral water or soda between glasses.
Garnish with a few more mint leaves (or a whole sprig if you’d like) and serve.