Here's a great summer drink: the almond delight at Shouk, the plant-based pita shop that recently arrived in Mount Vernon Square. Don't think almond milk -- it's closer in kin to almond extract, with a true nutty flavor that's sweet but not cloyingly so.
"It is a drink that goes back a long time, and you can find it in various countries around the Mediterranean rim in various forms," said Shouk founder Ran Nussbächer, who recalls seeing it sold at markets, mostly during the summer, in his home country of Israel.
Making it takes a lot of work.
The first step is blanching almonds to remove their skins. Then the almonds are crushed to release their flavorful oils. The crushed almonds are boiled with sugar and water and left to steep and flavor the syrup. They're strained out and crushed again before being combined with more water and sugar. The process gets repeated several times.
The result is a concentrated syrup that's mixed with water individually for each order. Nussbächer said not all diners are intrigued enough by the somewhat exotic beverage to order it, but for those who are, it can become habit-forming.
Shouk's line of house-made drinks also includes a best-selling lemonade, sodas and iced tea, but Nussbächer considers the almond delight "the jewel in the crown," complicated process or not.
"It's truly a labor of love," he said.