“It’s like drinking sunshine,” said my 11 year old cousin when she tried my orange blossom scented lemonade. Although her unexpected and poetic compliment made my day, I can’t take any credit. First of all, the idea comes from my friend Muna (whom you’ve met before). Second, it’s all in the lemon and orange blossom pairing.
Some combinations in perfumery are considered absolutely perfect. There are classical ones like coumarin and lavender, personal innovations like Jacques Guerlain’s bergamot and vanilla in Shalimar, or modern discoveries like cotton candy and patchouli in Thierry Mugler Angel. And then, you have natural marriages like orange blossom and citrus that are so harmonious than after you try it once, you know that these two are meant to be together.
Orange blossom essence comes from the citrus flowers, but the scent is not zesty and bright like that of citrus peel. If, as I suggest here, you experiment with orange blossom water, you will find it sweet, green and floral. It smells like a handful of white, soft petals. But add it to citrus–be it sharp lemon, peppery bergamot or candy-like clementine orange, and the petals sparkle. The lemon and orange blossom combination in particular is pure joy.
To experience this transformation, I suggest a simple lemonade recipe. There are as many ways of making lemonade as there are families, and it seems that everyone has their own absolute favorite recipe. I’m always ready to try new versions, but I’m partial to the Middle Eastern variation, which calls for macerating lemons and sugar. Much of the citrus flavor is in the peel, and by letting fruit and sugar meld together, you unlock the full potential of lemon and find that it too has a delicate floral sweetness.
I also love the hands-on experience of making this lemonade: plunging my hands in a bowl of cut up lemons and sugar, squeezing the daylights out of spongy yellow peels and letting the thick, tart syrup run down my fingers. I splash orange blossom water liberally, crush mint leaves and in the end, everything, myself included, smells like orange flowers and lemons. It’s like wearing Serge Lutens Fleurs de Citronnier but even better.
Plus, how can I resist a taste of sunshine?
Orange Blossom and Mint Lemonade
The longer you macerate lemon in sugar, the more flavorful the lemonade becomes, but it also acquires a slight bitter note. If you don’t like any bitterness in your lemonade, 2 hours of maceration would suffice. The lemonade lasts for several days in the fridge, so two people battling the summer heat can easily go through this quantity within a reasonable time. Feel free to cut the quantities in half though.
Another sunny variation: substitute one lemon with one orange or two mandarins and reduce the sugar slightly.
Makes 8-9 cups
2 lb lemons (about 8 large ones)
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
2 Tablespoon orange blossom water
4 sprigs of mint
8 cups cool water
Cut lemons in quarters. In a large bowl, crush lemon pieces with sugar, squeezing out the juice. Cover and let macerate for 2 hours or overnight in the fridge.
Once the lemon and sugar have macerated, add water, mix well and strain. Add orange blossom water and lightly crushed mint leaves. Chill in the fridge and serve.
For my favorite brands of orange blossom water and where to buy it, please click on the orange-blossom-water tag.
How do you make lemonade?
Photography by Bois de Jasmin