Kahoo va Sharbat ‘e Sekanjabin | Persian honey vinegar mint cooler. It’s also a lettuce dip! Avicenna’s recipe!

Note: This post was originally a print and online publication for Brownbook, and is reprinted here with their permission.

Give me a sun, I care not how hot, and sherbet, I care not how cool, and my Heaven is as easily made as your Persian’s. — Lord Byron ,1813

That Lord Byron! What a Romantic! And he sure seems to have liked sipping sharbat. And who can blame him? But for the uninitiated, let’s first review what sharbat means.

Persians make and bottle various types of sweet, fragrant, colorful syrups by cooking fruits or flowers or herbs in dissolved-sugar water. When ready to serve, a bit of the syrup is diluted and stirred with ice cold water and one ends up with a pretty and refreshing drink that is a popular Persian beverage generically known as sharbat. In Iran, offering guests a tall glass of some type of sharbat (with ice cubes) to ward off the heat of the summer is a standard of good housekeeping and an expected trademark of up-to-par hospitality. At least amongst the old-school Iranians.

A couple of sharbat recipes have already been posted here: the Cornelian cherry (sharbat ‘e zoghal akhteh) and the more recent sour cherry sharbat (sharbat ‘e albaloo.)

But sharbat comes in many more wonderful flavors: quince, pomegranate, lemon, rhubarb, strawberry, mulberry, blackberry, raspberry or even key lime are each enchanting in their own particular way. One can also savour sharbats made with mint, rosewater, saffron, chicory, musk willow, sweet briars, palm pods, citron and orange blossom – ingredients that reflect the poetic nature of Persian cuisine. Whatever the flavor, sharbat hits the spot during the dog days of summer, reviving the body and soul, and in some instances even offering some type of medicinal benefit.

 What is the work of the thirsty one?

To circle forever ’round the well,

‘Round the stream and the Water and the sound of the Water,

Like a pilgrim circling the Kaa’ba of Truth

God’s wrath is His vinegar, mercy His honey.

These two are the basis of every oxymel.

If vinegar overpowers honey, a remedy is spoiled.

The people of the earth poured vinegar on Noah;

the Ocean of Divine Bounty poured sugar.

The Ocean replenished his sugar,

and overpowered the vinegar of the whole world.

The Mathnawi of Jalalu’ddin Rumi

Our featured Persian beverage, Sharbat ‘e sekanjabin, is perhaps the oldest type of Persian sharbat, tracing its roots at least as far back as the 10th century, as noted and praised in the canons of medicine written by Ibn Sina (Avicenna) the Persian polymath.

The name ‘sekanjabin’ is an Arabized version of the original Persian term, ‘serkangabin’, a combination of the Persian words ‘serkeh’ (vinegar) and ‘angebin’ (syrup, sweetness), literally meaning ‘honeyed vinegar’. True to its name, sekanjabin is made with vinegar and honey.

Sweet and sour and infused with the heady scent and flavor of fresh mint, this sharbat was not only popular with the Persians, but also copied and favored by the ancient Greeks and Romans who knew it as oxymel.

The recipe is satisfyingly simple: after boiling honey and water, vinegar is added and the mixture is left to simmer. Fresh mint leaves are then added and the syrup is left to cool for at least an hour, or up to 24 hours for a stronger minty flavor. Sekanjabin, like all types of sharbat, is shelf-stable for a good year if stored in a cool, dark place.

Like all types of sharbats, sekanjabin is served diluted with ice water in a glass or pitcher — as a perfect sweet and sour palette tickling summer cooler cordial. (For a modern twist, sparkling water can substitute flat water.)

‘Kahoo ‘va Sekanjabin’ | Crispy Lettuce with a Sekanjabin Dip

A distinct  feature of sharbat ‘e sekanjabin — rendering it unique amongst all the other types of sharbat — is that it can also be served undiluted as a dip and eaten with crisp fresh romaine lettuce leaves. This combo of crunchy lettuce and minty sweet and sour sekanjabin — known as “kahoo va sekanjabin” — is a delicious and healthy snack perfectly suited for hot weather. The very embodiment of summer for most Persians.

Kahoo sekanjabin is also among the traditional foods of sizdah bedar, the outdoor picnic that takes place on the last day of the Norooz (Persian New Year) celebration.

To make this, undiluted sekanjabin syrup is poured into a dipping bowl and lettuce leaves are arranged, petal by petal, around it. To eat, dip the lettuce into the sharbat – just as you would dunk a cookie in coffee.

Try it! But beware:  Heads of lettuce will vanish fast!

 “The one who tastes, knows. The one who tastes not, knows not. Don’t speak of a heavenly beverage; offer it at your banquets and say nothing. Those who like it will ask for more; those who don’t aren’t fit to drink it. Close the shop of debate and mystery. Open the teahouse of experience.”

Mawlana Yusuf Hamadani

Thankfully, the tradition of making sharbat (while perhaps somewhat old-fashioned) survives and even thrives in Iran, at homes and in cafes. And many families continue to gather and enjoy the summertime pleasure of munching and crunching on Kahoo ‘va sekanjabin.

For the Iranians in diaspora, making and enjoying sekanjabin, the most ancient of Persian sharbats, to sip as or with lettuce as a dip, could be a delicious way to pay homage to and assuage their nostalgia for their ancient heritage. For everyone else, it’s just a sensible thing to experience as one of the fun pleasures of summer.

Sharbat ‘e Sekanjabin – Persian honey vinegar & mint cooler

Yields enough syrup to serve 4-6.


  • 1 1/3 cup honey (or use sugar instead, but that’s not the Avicenna way, and it’ll be far less healthy for you)
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 2/3 cup white wine or apple cider vinegar (I used and prefer apple cider vinegar)
  • fresh mint sprigs (1-2 cups or a bunch)

And also:

  • 1-2 heads of crisp Romaine lettuce (if making the lettuce-sekanjabin-dip snack)

  1. Combine water and honey. With a wooden spoon stir and dissolve honey. Bring liquid to a boil and gently boil for 10-15 minutes. Skim foam as it appears.
  2. Add vinegar, bring back to boil, and simmer for 30 minutes or longer until the syrup somewhat thickens.  Note: honey-based sekanjebin does not get quite as thick as sugar-based sekanjebin.
  3. In the last 5 minutes, add the fresh mint.
  4. Allow syrup to cool for at least an hour. If you prefer a stronger mint infusion, allow mint and syrup to diffuse longer, up to 24 hours.  Remove mint leaves and discard.
  5. Pour syrup into a sterilized, airtight, dry bottle. Store syrup in a cool dark place (it will be shelf-stable for a good year) until ready to serve.

To drink:

Pour 3-4 tablespoons of sharbat syrup in a drinking glass (ideally a tall, frosted one)  Add a few ice cubes, dilute  with 1 cup (or more, to taste) of cold water. You can substitute flat water with sparkling water for a modern twist.

You can adjust the amount of sweetness, adding more or less water as desired. You can experiment with adding a bit more vinegar or lemon juice if you prefer a more tangy taste.

Stir till syrup has entirely dissolved. Garnish with a lemon slice, or a mint leaf and serve!

To enjoy as a dip with lettuce – the classic “kahoo Sekanjebin”:

Pour sekanjebin into a dipping bowl placed in the center of a big serving tray.  Arrange clean and dry lettuce leaves, petal by petal, around the dipping bowl. To eat, dip the lettuce into the bowl of sharbat – just as you would dunk a cookie in coffee. Crunch and munch!

Noosheh Jaan!

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Comments (48)

  • theunmanlychef 10 years ago Reply

    I was just going to say that I hope you did a sekanjeh bin post! perfect!

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    🙂 It’s perfect for this time of year, no?

  • Darya 10 years ago Reply

    Azita, as always, it is a great pleasure to read your stories and the recipes that go with them. I am quite intrigued by this sharbat, and I’d love to try it, eventhough somebody in my house (not me) dislikes vinegar and will probably refuse to taste it. But if that means I get to keep it all to myself, including the lettuce, then why not?

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    Darya jan, a little someone I knew also dislikes and couldn’t be persuaded to try it but if your somebody is a grownup who’s willing to at least take a sip, he/she might be pleasantly converted! No guarantees though, in which case,as you said, more for you. Win win! xo

  • jonabouchard 10 years ago Reply

    This seems terrific! Very curious about it!

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    It’s a classic Persian drink and I feel confident in recommending that you do check it out. You could always adjust the sweet/sourness balance to taste by adding more or less honey and vinegar and also you can adjust taste when diluting water, depending on how much syrup you use. Try to make with as fresh-as-possible mints if you can! Anyhow … long story to say: try it! 🙂

  • tinywhitecottage 10 years ago Reply

    Azita…what a wonderful post. I’ll have to try it! Both as a drink and a dip. Lovely to see your blog today.

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    I was thinking of you! (fondly!) Thank you for visiting and making me feel very happy 🙂

  • polianthus 10 years ago Reply

    Azita what a wonderful post – poetic photography 🙂 -beautiful and Lord Byron quotes as well 🙂

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    Thank you!! 😀
    And: I know, what a dude! Do you think we have a modern equivalent of Lord Byron in our era? If so, I’d like to seduce and snare him! 😉

  • What a lovely tradition! And I love the double use as a dipping sauce – we have a bed full of cos lettuce we need to use up, and you’ve given me some lovely ideas, thank you! 🙂

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    Cool Celia! I really hope you’ll try it. The lettuce has got to be crisp and crunchy for this to be good, just a note …

  • Coco in the Kitchen 10 years ago Reply

    Beautiful post + pics!
    This is my dad’s fav late-night snack, so refreshing. I prefer it as a beverage w shredded Persian cucumber. Is there anything better for summer?

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    Thank you Coco jan. It’s even better with shredded Persian cucumber, you are so right! Your dad has good taste! 😉

  • Bonnie Eng 10 years ago Reply

    Wow, this is such a unique recipe…and the photos are so gorgeous!

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    woohoo, thanks Bonnie, really appreciate it

  • ladyredspecs 10 years ago Reply

    Cool post Azita! I love sweet/sour flavours and I love mint. Once the weather warms up, I think this will be the perfect refresher for me to sip, and dip.

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    Sandra, keep forgetting our seasons are opposites. Envy you waiting for spring to arrive … the days are already getting perceptibly shorter … and yes, do try this on a particularly hot summer day. Nooseh jan in advance!

  • Liz Posmyk of Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things 10 years ago Reply

    What an interesting dip for the lettuce… love it!

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    Hi dear Liz, it is the unique feature of this one sharbat. It is pretty cool, I agree, and yet an ancient recipe.

  • Bizou 10 years ago Reply

    Ok. This one really really takes me back home & after all these years can make me home seek. It was a ritual after watering the garden & setting the table for “Asraneh” platters of romain lettuce, bowls of sekanjebeen, and vinegar would adorn the table. (which the later was my preferred choice) I know it was so unlikely for a kid to go for something SO sour rather than sweet. But it is this whole notion of asraneh w/ kahoo-sekanjebeen which we don’t have here(right??) AND THESE PICTURES that do the trick. You did wonder Azita. Specially that as I’m writing this it is SO un summery here in Berkeley ca. Great post Azita joon. Merci.

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    Ah, what a scene you paint! Just the word “asraneeh” has the sweetest ring in my ear too. even as it intensifies deltangi. I’m delighted that you liked this post dear “Bizou”
    ( btw it’s cooler than usual here in NY too)

  • ahu 10 years ago Reply

    This is amazing, I echo the other comments. I was immediately transported back in time! I will be making it this weekend. Merci Azita jan!

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    crunch crunch munch munch and nooshe joonet basheh Ahu joon!

  • apuginthekitchen 10 years ago Reply

    I do love Sharbat this is the original Shrub as they are called here in the US, a concoction using some sort of vinegar, sweetener and fruit or herb. They are quite popular now and I doubt that most know the origin, I love the idea of dipping lettuce in the syrup. YUM.

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    You’ll love it Suzanne! try it, just make sure you have really good crispy crunchy lettuce, that’ll do the trick otherwise it’ll be a miss xo

  • What beautiful, beautiful photos and narrative Azita! Makes me crave the summertime, sunshine and refreshing drinks such as your traditional Sharbat. How fabulous to be able to serve it as a syrupy dip as well!

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    Do try it Margot jan, I can see it being a fun novelty at a summer BBQ party. Re the photos, thank you, and totally got lucky, as it was my first outdoor food photography on what turned out to be the hottest day of the summer (last year) not kidding it was maddeningly hot!

  • Middle East Moments 10 years ago Reply

    Yet again another beautifully descriptive post that takes me on a journey into Persian traditions. I’m going to give this one a go for sure and I love sweet and sour combinations so it’s destined to become a regular feature in our house. Any tips on what kind of honey to use to achieve the best results? And the mint you use is it a spearmint of peppermint or does it not matter? Thank you for sharing xx

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    You won’t go wrong with any honey. I used Trader Joe’s clover blossom honey and was very happy with the results. And yay, Andrea, let me know how it turns out!

  • Sophie33 10 years ago Reply

    Yum yum yummm! What great recipes! That drink sounds really refreshing! Waw even, Azita! 🙂
    I think lavender blossom honey would be great in here too!

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    Ooh, lavender blossom honey sounds like a lovely choice

    Sophie33 10 years ago

    yep, yep! 🙂

  • Mary Frances 10 years ago Reply

    The syrup sounds so interesting. The lettuce dip looks like a super-easy hor d’oeuvre.

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    super easy (once you have the sekanjehbin dip) and fun and tasty!

  • Fae's Twist & Tango 10 years ago Reply

    I enjoyed and drooled the fist time I saw this post, and this time too. 😛

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    double drool! Yes! That’s the sign of a good thing

  • Francesca 10 years ago Reply

    I love everything about this post! The gorgeous peonies, the icy glass, Lord Byron’s citation, the story. So I know exactly what I’m going to have when I come to visit you. I can’t wait to taste your wonderful sharbat. I’m sure I’ll love it and it sourness. After all, since the Romans copied and favored it, it should run in my veins too! 😉

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    Dear Fancesca, as they say in Faris, “it is because your eyes are beautiful that you find this beautiful” 🙂
    This sharbat shall be served when you come to visit! And errr … I should have said when the Romans were ‘inspired’ by it instead of using the “c” word. And yes, there’s a good chance a taste for it then runs in your veins

  • michaelawah 10 years ago Reply

    just discovered your blog through some random surfing and wow! i must go read your other posts. We have many Iranian friends and they’re some of the nicest and most hospitable people. I remember seeing sharbat in Iranian stores- i think they were for medicinal, digestive purposes, but I didn’t know they were eaten with lettuce!! How terribly healthy! While we have our English tea and biscuits, you lot dip lettuce in syrup ;)) What a delicious and clever idea for a hot day!

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    Hi & thank you! I’m delighted that you somehow or other found your way here (hearing positive/nice testimonials about Iranians is music to my ear, needless to say) and I’m glad you like this sharbat recipe. I heartily recommend you try both as a drink and as dip for lettuce.
    I take it that with the many Iranian friends you mention, you must have already tasted tadig, correct? If not, your friends owe you a big one! 🙂

  • Hello! Beautiful as always… I am about to link to this refreshment in a round-up of links, and have decided I am going to make it with my Japonica Quince scrap vinegar. Really really wish we could share it together 🙂 http://kitchencounterculture121.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/japonica-quince-chanomeles-vinegar-a-splash-of-perfume/

    Fig & Quince 10 years ago Reply

    Oh, I would have love to have been able to share it together! 🙂

  • […] I shouldn’t have been surprised since Iran is after all the birthplace of sharbat (enchanting syrup-based drinks) and the Persian word for beverage — nooshidani – has its roots in the word ‘noosh’ […]

  • […] I shouldn’t have been surprised since Iran is after all the birthplace of sharbat (enchanting syrup-based drinks) and the Persian word for beverage — nooshidani — has its roots in the word ‘noosh’ which […]

  • […] purposes, from asthma to arthritis to the common cold. Sekanjabin, sometimes infused with mint, is still enjoyed in Iran today, either as a dip for lettuce or an addition to cool drinks (sharbats). But in Europe, […]

  • Lisa Khonsary-Margalith 7 years ago Reply

    Love this post, thank you.
    My grandmother’s recipe for this refreshing summer sharbat would be to add finely chopped 🥒 cucumber.

  • […] to this Persian cooking and culture blog, Sekanjabin is also praised in the canons of medicine written by […]

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