Shiso Lemonade

We moved to a new house over the summer. My mom visited, carefully carrying 2 small green Japanese shiso plants with her on the plane. She planted them in our yard and they’ve thrived all summer, exploding with leaves—almost to the point where I can barely keep up. My mom suggested making preserved shiso or shiso miso, but instead I went with something sweet: lemonade with shiso infused simple syrup. Fresh shiso is pungent and beautifully bright but steeping them in boiled syrup mellows those flavors out.

Now, what to do with the simple syrup? After a quick survey on Facebook (out of which came some fantastic ideas like strawberry shiso sorbet!), I went with my friend Gena’s suggestion of shiso lemonade. Using lemons is brilliant because it brings back some of the brightness the steeped shiso had lost.

An interesting fact I learned about shiso is most of the flavor and fragrance comes from the back side of the leaf. Be careful when handling and washing—don’t wipe the scent off before using!

Shiso Infused Simple Syrup
Adapted from Spilled Milk
Makes about 2 cups

2 cups water
1 cup sugar
20 large green Japanese shiso leaves, roughly sliced into medium strips

Bring the water and sugar to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Continue to boil for 10 mins. Add the shiso, gently stir, cover, and let sit for an additional 10 mins. Fish out any shiso bits and chill in a container.

Shiso Lemonade
Adapted from Spilled Milk
Makes about 2 quarts

1.5 cups shiso infused simple syrup
1 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups ice cubes
4 cups sparkling water, plus more to taste

Mix together all ingredients, taste and adjust, then pour over ice (a splash of vodka also wouldn’t hurt).

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  1. Posted September 21, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    What a great idea to infuse simple syrup with shiso. It sounds like it makes for a refreshing spin on lemonade. I have an abundance of shiso growing on my backyard, so I will need to try your recipe. Thanks for the inspiration. :)

  2. Posted September 21, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Tiffany, I hope you try it! My shiso plant has flowered and I’m afraid its season is almost over. Enjoy the lemonade!

  3. Posted September 22, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    I too have an exploding shiso plant. I now call it Friendship Shiso because all my Japanese friends come over to get plants. It is all over the Boston area. Try making shiso pesto – shiso, pine nuts, soy sauce, canola oil and lemon juice. I make a great shiso soba with it! Oishii!

  4. Posted September 22, 2011 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Debra, that’s a great suggestion! I’ll have to try that—yum!

  5. Posted September 23, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    I am so happy to see you back blogging! The lemonade sounds fabulous! I am sure I would love it. I love everything with shiso and make your shiso and tomato salad at least twice a week.
    I am using more and more shiso in my kitchen. I am lucky to have it all year round, but imported from Thailand, so probably not as good as the Japanese one.
    The one I have on my balcony became so light (burnt?), I had to put it inside my flat (now the leaves are a bit darker).
    I made some shiso infused vodka last year. It was undrinkable for several months, but now it’s becoming a really sophisticated drink.

  6. Posted September 23, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Sissi, thank you so much. You and I see eye to eye when it comes to shiso! I really can’t get enough of it—and I’m jealous you get it year round. Your shiso infused vodka sounds amazing!

  7. Posted September 25, 2011 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    Just found your blog on Foodgawker. You have a very beautiful blog. Every dish I have looked at so far makes me want to try it. I know I will visit often.

  8. Posted September 25, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Hyosun, thank you for visiting! The recipes on your site look delicious, too… I had strong Korean influences when I was in high school and miss all the home cooked meals. I’m looking forward to trying some of your dishes.

  9. Mark
    Posted May 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Could you provide more info or source on using shiso such as the preserved shiso or shiso miso? I planted some seeds a few years back and it comes back every year. I’ve never taken the time to figure out how to use it, too many interest my wife tells me. I’m definitely making lemonade with it, thanks.

  10. Posted May 21, 2012 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Mark, you’ll need A LOT of shiso for shiso miso. I found a recipe here:, if you can read Japanese. Let me know if you need help with translation. Thanks for reading!

  11. Jo
    Posted October 25, 2016 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    I have some dried perilla/shiso leaves. How can I use them to make the simple syrup?

  12. Posted October 27, 2016 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Jo, I’ve never used dried shiso…I imagine you can steep the leaves in a simple syrup but the flavors will be muted. Let me know if you try it.

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