February 09, 2010

Sekanjabin: A Sweet and Sour Ancient Persian Syrup and Drink

Sweet and Sour Ancient Persian Drink

سکنجبین Sekanjabin is one of the oldest sweet and sour syrups in Iran, dating back to the ancient times. It's a combination of vinegar (serkeh) and "angabin," which refers to honey and the natural honey-sweet. Sekanjabin and its drink (sharbat-e sekanjabin) are usually served during the summer. Now, the reason that I'm writing about a well-known ancient syrup that's perfect for the summertime in the middle of winter, is because of a reader's request asking if I had a recipe for sekanjabin a couple of weeks ago. Being from the south of Iran where summers are long and hot, eating sekanjabin and lettuce was an afternoon ritual in our home. Usually, my mother would place a bowl of sekanjabin in the middle of a large round tray, surrounded by several heads of fresh and crisp lettuce in the middle of the table or on the picnic blanket under the shade of a tree, where we would take a piece of lettuce and dip it into the bowl. Almost every time we had sekanjabin we were reminded by our mother that sekanjabin is not just food but it also has medicinal values with healing powers and a good source of vitamins. Of course, back then she would make sekanjabin with homemade grape vinegar. There are many different recipes for sekanjabin/sekanjabin. Some like it more on the sweet side and some like it sour, it all depends on your taste.

1- Sekanjabin with Sugar and Vinegar:


1/2 cup white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
A small bunch of fresh mint washed
2 small seedless cucumbers, washed, peeled, and shredded (for the drink)
Lime rind *optional

  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot combine sugar and water, place on medium heat, stir until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and gently boil for 10-15 minutes. 
  2. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar, simmer for 30 minutes or until the mixture slightly thickens. Taste and adjust the level of sweetness of the syrup. I usually add an additional 2 tablespoons of vinegar since I like it a bit more on the sour side. 
  3. In the last couple of minutes add a small bunch of fresh mint to the syrup. 
  4. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Remove the mint leaves before serving.
Pour sekanjabin into a small bowl and serve with fresh lettuce on a platter. Just to remind you, sekanjabin is quite sticky!

Iranian Vinegar Mint Syrup

Sekanjabin Drink:

To make sharbat-e sekanjabin:
mix sekanjabin with 2-3 small seedless cucumber, grated
a few drops of rosewater (optional)
ice and water
garnish with fresh mint leaves and lime rind.


2- Sekanjabin with Honey and Vinegar: 


1 1/3 cups honey (clover or orange blossom)
1 cup water
2/3 cup vinegar (white or apple cider vinegar)

  1. Follow the same directions used in recipe #1 for sekanjabin and its drink (sharbat). 
  2. Remove the foams with a spoon as they form on top. Taste and adjust the sweetness. The aroma of the honey gently simmering on the stove fills up the entire house and is quite intoxicating!
Sekanjabin can be preserved in a glass jar and kept in a cool place for a long time.



  1. Azita jan, another gorgeous post! i was in awe when i read this as someone has been asking me for a recipe for sikanjabeen (which is how we call it in Pakistan, must be a corrupt version of the real Persian name) but I never got around to doing it. I love that you have written about it- i like how you use honey and white vinegar, in Pakistan, we use sugar, salt and pepper. so lovely to read about the way you make it and how it evokes memories of your mother. i love that part a lot :) do you do the same for your little ones? :) x shayma

  2. Thanks Shayma jan. Sikanjabeen with salt and pepper! I've got to try this. Yes, I do the same for my kids, I think I'm turning into my mother!x

    Chow and Chatter, Thank you!

  3. Azita

    I enjoyed your article tremendously. I love reading especially about the family ritual! I was wondering if the vinegar your mom used to make is the same as the verjuice we make in Lebanon with sour grapes.
    What a refreshing drink with cucumbers and mint! I love sour taste especially wit the undercurrent sweetness and the crisp cucumber

    1. verjuice is also made in iran.

  4. oh, what a unique and refreshing drink! I would love to try this!

  5. Two very interesting and refreshing drinks!



  6. Taste of Beirut, As I remember it, verjuice is made with sour grapes but grape vinegar is made with ripe grapes.

  7. My mother is 73, she was 13 when she left Iran. She asked me today to find a sekanjabin recipe as she was very pleased with the gormehsabzi I cooked lately following some internet recipes. Well, gormehsabzi is a famous dish, easy to find a recipe, but sekanjabin? I wasn't sure. But here you are with your great post. Thank you very much. Best wishes from Istanbul.

  8. Morad, Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. What a nice thing to do for your dear mother and I hope she likes it! Best wishes,

  9. Hey Azita,
    My name is Reza and been l cooking persian food for a while now, love your blog it's a great Idea and hey its my idea but you came up with it first :)) jokes aside loved this recipe, just tired it and turned out quite well, just a tip, if you like to serve as an alcoholic drink in parties, little bit of spiced rum turns this drink into something WAY better than a mojito with many more layers and flavours than mojito has to offer :)
    Thanks for sharing this recipe my mom always had a bottle or 2 of this concentrated juice in the fridge and only used to bring it out for guests so I have always looked at it as a very special drink, but now that I make it myself, I'm sure I will be taking advantage ALL the time :)

  10. I never knew Sekanjabin could/would be eaten with lettuce the way you've described - it sounds delicious, I've only had it as a drink. I love the perspective you've given here! My friend's mom makes sekanjabin syrup for us to take on camping trips during the summer, she uses apple cider vinegar and chocolate mint from her garden and it's delicious :)

  11. I fell in love with this drink in an old artist café in Teheran. Thank you so much for the recipe!

  12. Wonderful post. I've had Sekanjabin before (I do medieval recreation and it is a favorite at events) but never got around to finding a recipe. I'm going to be making this tomorrow.

    How much syrup does the recipe make?

  13. Back in the late 70s/early 80s I had many Iranian friends at college. Often when I visited their homes I would receive this delicious drink in the summer (and much sweet tea in the winter)but I don't remember cucumber in it. Yesterday I was reminded of those times so I'm searching for a recipe and yours sounds great.

    Growing up in America my own mother used to mix vinegar, sugar, and water, and then add sliced white onions and peeled cucumber with salt and pepper. It is very delicious and must be related somehow. I can't wait to try to make some Sekanjabin of my own and see how my kids like it. Thanks so much for the recipe.

    Persian culture is so wonderful!

  14. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I tried this drink last week and loved it!

  15. Have you ever used lemon juice instead of vinegar? Just exploring the options. : )

    1. Tracy, No, I have not. I think that the combination of lemon juice and sugar will make it taste more like lemon sharbat/sherbet.

  16. Is the second recipe more sour than the first one? It has quite a bit more vinegar, proportionally.

  17. The honey version of this recipe is delicious!! I will be sharing this post for others to enjoy.

  18. I also remembering having this with many family members during summer nights in Iran.
    Brings back the memories.