On my first trip to Lebanon we stayed with friends in Beirut and they made it their mission to show me as much of the food culture as possible. And from wine tasting in the gorgeous but tumultous Bekaa Valley to visiting the amazing Souk El Tayeb farmers market and cooking with local chefs at the cozy farm-to-table cafe Tawlet, I got an amazing perspective on how rich the local food culture is.
Our friends took every single chance to show off the food scene, stopping on our way to dinner to get me rose petal ice cream from famous Oslo, ordering Fattoush salads at every meal so I could compare and contrast, pausing on our way back from the beach to tell me about the street vendor whose yellow watermelon was amazing, and dragging me after clubbing to the famous but now defunct Marrouche for some amazing manouche or flatbreads.
But what I couldn't stop ordering was a sort of Lebanese lemonade called Limonada. Lighter than an American lemonade, more akin to a French citron presse, and flavored with mint and rose water it was the first recipe I wanted to recreate upon returning home. And, now, as soon as the weather heats up, I mix up a batch.
plus more for garnish (or basil leaves)
Combine lemon juice, zest, honey or superfine sugar, 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.
This recipe is less sweet that normal so add more sweetener as desired. Here it's topped with some bubbly water 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.