Recipe: Lemon Drink with Orange Flower Water

This is based on the recipe from Abla’s Lebanese Kitchen (speaking of Lebanese restaurants which I really must visit), but it’s inspired by the amazing lemon drink we had at Sabas on Saturday.  It’s quite quick to make, and an excellent use for all those lemons you have on your tree at this time of year.  Also, like many of these rather sweet, perfumed, Middle-Eastern drinks, it’s just the right thing to refresh and restore you after an afternoon spent digging in the garden and getting it ready for your Spring planting…  So it’s seasonal in every way.

Your shopping list

100 ml white or caster sugar
500 mls hot water
500 mls cold water (or you can just use 1 litre of cold water, but it does make it a bit harder to dissolve the sugar)
250 ml lemon juice
15-20 ml orange flower water (or rosewater, if you want to do this Abla’s way, or 10 ml each of rosewater and orange flower water), or to taste

Now what will you do with it?

Stir the caster sugar into the hot water until dissolved.  Add the cold water, and set aside until the syrup is cool.  Add the lemon juice and orange flower water and stir well.  Taste, to see if it needs more sugar, but be aware that things tend to taste sweeter as they get colder.

Serve cold.


This might be nice with lime juice and rosewater, or with blood orange juice and orange flower water (use a little less sugar) but it would also be an entirely different drink.

Instead of variations, I am going to discourse briefly on the subject of orange flower water and rosewater, because the hardest thing about this recipe is finding those particular ingredients.  Though if you live close to Sydney Rd, it’s actually ridiculously easy, and sometimes you can even get rosewater at the supermarket.   Middle Eastern shops are generally your best bet for these ingredients, and I strongly recommend the Al Rabih brand of orange flower water and rosewater – they smell like real roses and orange blossoms, and given that a little of either flavouring goes a very long way, you really don’t want something that tastes synthetic.

Also, this is the part where I channel the protagonist of “The House of the Rising Sun” and tell you all, my sisters and brothers, don’t do what I have done when it comes to flower waters. I mean it.  You’ve probably gathered that my usual approach to herbs, spices, chocolate, garlic, raspberries, and flavouring ingredients generally is a generous one that might best be described as “When in doubt, double the quantity”.  Do not do this with flower waters.  I can’t overstate this enough – too much rosewater or orange flower water in a dish is a very, very bad thing.  There’s a character called Florentino in a book by Gabriel Garcia Márquez who drinks a bottle of perfume and survives.  You will feel like Florentino, only worse, because drinking perfume is only a good thing in magical realism, and even then, I have my doubts about it.

Seriously, I’ve only created a handful of dishes in my adult life that were inedible, and the common factor in all of them was me deciding to increase the amount of rosewater or orange flower water.  I have done this so you don’t have to.  They really are flavours which are delicious in moderation and truly horrible in excess.  Truly.  So use with caution, and don’t go blithely doubling the quantities because a teaspoon or a tablespoon doesn’t seem like a lot.  It really, really is.

Just say no to food that tastes like a crime scene in a perfume shop.

(Yes, I know, I’m repeating myself. A lot.  But you have no idea just how awful a recipe can taste if it has too much rosewater in it.  Believe me, when even I am telling you to stick to the recipe… you should probably stick to the recipe.)

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5 comments for “Recipe: Lemon Drink with Orange Flower Water

  1. Iestyn
    September 15, 2011 at 1:10 am

    In addition, if making a Middle Eastern recipe, and you have Indian Rosewater: halve or quarter the quantity. This mistake I have made… the Indian is far stronger.

    • September 15, 2011 at 9:27 am

      Definitely worth knowing – thank you!

  2. Jacki
    September 19, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    Hmm. Queen make a Rosewater Essence in their range – how does that compare to the genuine article?

    • September 19, 2011 at 10:40 pm

      Not well, from memory. It manages to be both insipid and too strong – I definitely wouldn’t use it here.

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