Carmelite Water

Ektoras Binikos, Sugar Monk | New York

Carmelite Water, an herbal infusion featuring aromatic lemon balm, was created in the 14th century by Carmelite nuns for King Charles V of France. At Harlem’s Sugar Monk, proprietor Ektoras Binikos spritzes the fragrant elixir in cocktail glasses, creating an effect similar to an absinthe rinse. Compared to the anise flavor of absinthe, however, Carmelite Water offers a citrus-forward option that’s particularly harmonious with white spirits, such as gin or unaged agave spirits. Binikos suggests trying it in a classic Paloma.

In addition, “our bartenders love to set it on fire on top of a drink,” Binikos says, as it “creates a beautiful blue blaze and a cloud of wonderful caramelized herbal flavors, right on top of the cocktail.” At the beginning of the pandemic, Sugar Monk began making its own Carmelite Water, which is available for purchase. For those who have access to plenty of lemon balm, he offers this DIY recipe.

Ingredients

Yield: 2 1/2 cups

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon balm leaves
  • 1/2 cup dried organic lemon balm 
  • 1/2 cup dried fliskuni (Greek water mint) or Egyptian mint
  • 1/2 cup dried white sage
  • 1/4 cup dried organic angelica root,crushed with a spice grinder
  • 1 tablespoon dried organic coriander seed,crushed with a spice grinder
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Meyer lemon zest (from about 1 small organic Meyer lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Seville orange zest (from about 1 orange)
  • 1 teaspoon Cassia bark (crushed on a spice grinder,crushed with a spice grinder
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated organic nutmeg
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) high proof vodka (151 proof)

Directions
  1. In a glass quart jar with a lid, stir together all the herbs and spices with the vodka. Cover with lid, and steep for 36 hours.
  2. Strain through several layers of cheesecloth or a coffee filter. (Binikos recommends composting the spent herbs).
  3. Place the infused spirit in an airtight container and keep it in a cool place for 3 days.
  4. To use, decant into glass spray bottles. The infused spirit keeps for up to one year.