Thirst-quenching sharbats set up shop in Soho

The aromatic Asian sharbats at Soho’s Berenjak offer alternative summer coolers – with or without alcohol

Image: Chris Burke

When the temperatures rise, people all over western Asia and India order a thirst-quenching sharbat. This non-alcoholic cooler – which gives us the word “sherbet” – is usually based on a cordial, and there are often herbs stirred through it too. But depending where you are in the world, a sharbat can be flavoured with all sorts of things: basil, rose water, hibiscus, citrus fruits, tamarind, pomegranate, mint, sandalwood. In India there is even a tradition for sharbats laced with vetiver (more commonly used in perfume).

At Berenjak – a bustling Persian kebab house in Soho – they’ve created a menu that celebrates this mouth-watering drink. “As a child I remember my auntie making sharbats from sweet-and-sour cornelian cherries, blackcurrants, mulberry, quince, pomegranate,” says chef-founder Kian Samyani, whose parents were born in Iran. “The reason I opened this restaurant was to bring some of those flavours here.” His menu includes sharbats made from dried black lime and mint; apple and saffron; and a crisp non-alcoholic “G&T” made with bittersweet quinine cordial flavoured with sabzi, the jumble of palate-cleansing herbs served with an Iranian meal. The traditional Iranian drink sekanjabin – a sweet‑and-sour mix of honey and vinegar – gets a showing in a tart sharbat made from blackcurrant sekanjabin, scented with orange-blossom water and garnished with lemon thyme. 

Most of the sharbats at Berenjak can be ordered with a shot of booze too. A lemon and parsley sharbat can be paired with vodka and Italicus bergamot liqueur; the blackcurrant sekanjabin with tequila and cherry eau-de-vie. But there are so many flavours going on already you may not feel the need.

Samyani and his colleague James Stevenson developed these recipes in collaboration with Square Root, a brilliant little company in Hackney that makes delicious, all-natural sodas. “They have access to the best fruit,” says Samyani. “Their preserved lemons are from Iran.”


Most of Square Root’s recipes are seasonal – at the time of writing, soda flavours included rhubarb, Seville mandarin and bergamot. Its limited edition less-than-0.5 per cent abv shandies are also very good. I recently enjoyed a delicious Earl Grey Pale Shandy made with bergamot, a blend of Darjeeling and Assam tea, and a dash of pale ale from Orbit Beers in London.

So, whether you decide to go for sharbats at Berenjak or sin-free shandies from Square Root, you know you can go dry this August without dying of thirst.

Alice Lascelles is Fortnum & Mason Drinks Writer of the Year 2019. @alicelascelles.


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