Exotic Lemonada

One of the favorite non-alcoholic drinks in Mexico is Lemonada (lemonade). Here in Cuernavaca, where we enjoy mild, tropical weather year round, it is always in fashion. There are many variations of lemonada and I would like to share my favorite recipe for turning this often too common of a drink into an exotic, albeit unconventional drink that may become your favorite. It is sure to please your guests at your next soiree or other event.

Often a drink can be transformed from common to exotic with a slight extra ingredient. Rose water is such an ingredient. It is distilled from the petals of roses to create a flavorful hit to many drinks and dishes. I learned of rose water during my trips to India where a drop or two are added to tea to liven it up a bit. It quickly became a favorite for adding a subtle flavor to not only tea, but dishes of chicken and desserts, as well as lemonade.

But the best way to use rose water this time of year? To liven up lemonade. In India they serve mint and orange blossom-laced lemonade 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 tablespoons agave nectar, brown rice syrup, or honey (or 4 tablespoons simple syrup or superfine sugar)
  • 3/4 teaspoon rose water
  • 8 mint leaves plus more for garnish (or basil leaves)
  • Ice
  • 6 ounces lemon mineral water or bitter lemon soda


  1. Combine lemon juice, zest, agave, and rose water, stir to combine and divide between two glasses.
  2. 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.
  3. Add enough ice to fill glasses halfway then divide mineral water or soda between glasses.
  4. Garnish with a few more mint leaves (or a strawberry on the rim for more color and a snack as well) and serve.