Recipe: Lemon Verbena Lemonade

Lemon Verbena leaves and flowers
Lemon Verbena leaves and flowers

With summer approaching, we are entering lemonade season. A glass of lemonade is a welcome drink most times of the year, of course, but there is something about drinking fresh lemonade from a dew-coated glass on a hot day that makes it even better.

My standard lemonade is whole lemon lemonade , a recipe I found in Cook’s Illustrated. The lemon juice is extracted by mashing thin slices of whole lemon with sugar before adding the water, a technique that releases the oils from the zest and makes an intense and complex drink.

Lemonade can also be infused with herbs. Lemon verbena (Lippia triphyllo, in the same family as Mexican oregano, Lippia graveolens) is a great choice for its floral aroma and delicate flavor. To extract flavor and aromatic compounds from the leaves, I steep them in mixture of hot water and sugar for at least ten minutes (this also helps to dissolve the sugar), let it cool, then add lemon juice to the “tea syrup” to complete the recipe. A recipe is below.
One of the more delicious appearances of lemon verbena is in a chocolate ganache made by San Francisco-chocolatier Michael Recchiuti (available by mail or at his Ferry Building shop).

Lemon Verbena Lemonade

2 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. lemon verbena leaves (about 10-15)
4 T. lemon juice

Make the lemon verbena syrup:
Bring the water to a boil, then turn off the heat. Add the sugar and lemon verbena leaves. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Let it steep for 10 or more minutes. Pour through a strainer and chill.

Finish and serve:
When the verbena syrup is chilled, add the lemon juice, stir, and serve.

The ratios of the ingredients can easily be adapted to your preferences.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

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