Friday, January 16, 2015

First recipe - Tunisian Spiced Lemonade

In the last days of cleaning up the Cleonice space at The Maine Grind a customer called, she told me about some favorite meals with us and reminisced about eating take out in the hospital after giving birth to her daughter. Sad that she couldn't use her gift certificate before we closed, she generously offered to accept a recipe for our spiced lemonade. 

I had started a blog before for Cleonice and gotten about as far as setting up an address and picking a format. But life was too hectic then, and there was always someone telling me that I should never reveal our recipes - then everyone would make them at home and not come in. I would argue that coming to Cleonice was not just about the food, it was about the experience, and you can't get that at home. Still, it was enough to keep me from writing.

Well, in an effort to bring a little bit of Cleonice to your home and keeping the spirit alive, I'd like to share some of our recipes, and maybe some Cleonice stories. 

Tunisian Spiced Lemonade

Rich's sister Jude told us about this lemonade a few years before we opened Cleonice. She had it in a Middle Eastern restaurant in Cambridge. Starting with the restaurateur's description of the ingredients, we worked on our own version adding hibiscus to give it a beautiful hue and a little more vitamin C. 

For the syrup:

Cinnamon Stick, Damascus Rose Blossoms, Orange Zest, and Hibiscus Blossoms

  • Orange zest, remove a piece of zest from a fresh orange with a paring knife about 4 inches long and nearly an inch wide.
  • 3 Damascus rose blossoms (we sourced these from Oriental Pastry and Grocery shop on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn). Savory Spice Shop online looks to have them.
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of hibiscus blossom (available at health food stores, locals to Cleonice can find it at John Edwards in Ellsworth)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water

Spices, sugar, and water in saucepan ready to boil.

Staining the spices into the pitcher
Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir to incorporate the sugar. When sugar has melted, take off heat and allow to sit and steep for at least a half hour.  (Over cooking will lose the bright color and likely vitamin C from the hibiscus). After steeping strain out the zest and spices.

For the Lemonade:

To a half gallon container add strained syrup above and 1/2 to 3/4 cup lemon juice. Fill with water and mix well. You can adjust tartness by adding more lemon juice.

Pour into a tall glass over ice and garnish with a lemon or orange slice. Enjoy.

A bit of summer on this wintry day 


  • When we made this at Cleonice, we'd often start the syrup with hot water and let it steep like tea while we did other work, this extracts even more flavor from the spices. When I taught our wonderful Meg how to make this I stirred it with Cleonice's (Rich's mom's) wooden spoon. For years she would go in search of that particular spoon because that was the only correct way to make it. 
  • We made this with regular white sugar at the restaurant. Making a tea (omitting the sugar entirely) instead of a simple syrup would allow you to choose a sweetener of your choosing either adding it to your own glass or sweetening the whole pitcher to your liking. Taste, always taste!
  • This syrup is also what we used to make one of our original cocktails, "The Cleo" a half teaspoon along with 3 oz of Stoli Orange shaken and strained into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with orange zest.


  1. Thank you for sharing this! We always ordered your spiced lemonade when we had lunch at the restaurant.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing! We found your restaurant while I was working in Bangor but with home being in Vermont, it was not possible to come in very often. Best wishes to you in your next endeavor.

    1. Thank you, Laurel, stay tuned more to come.

  3. Thanks all, now I should take suggestions on the next one. Anyone have something they are wishing they knew how to make at home?

  4. i've been thinking about the chick pea fritters. mmmmm...

    1. Thanks Julie, I'll put that on the to do list. Next up Htpiti.