In a recent Ask Metafilter question about undrinkably bitter lemonade, I gave a few quick tips on keeping the tart, zingy flavor from the lemon zest without extracting the pith’s bitterness, and some quick instruction on making infused simple syrup.

To my surprise, my off-the-cuff comment was added to the sidebar on the main page of MeFi.

Wow. People like lemonade.

The admins labeled my comment as “perfect lemonade recipe,” but it’s not a proper recipe with measurements and proportions, just a few hints for tarting up your favorite lemonade. Here’s the proper recipe, along with a recipe for ginger iced tea, and a few hints for cooling summer drinks:

Lemonade: a proper recipe
a fleshing-out of my AskMe comment

1 cup sugar
3 cups water
at least 2 lemons
Strip the zest from two lemons. I use a sharp knife, since it’s easier to control than a vegetable peeler. Then with the edge of the knife, trim off any residual patches of pith from the zest. Now you have all the rich gorgeous lemon flavor without any of the vile pith.

Put 1 cup sugar in a saucepan. On top, dump 1 cup water. Don’t stir. Mark a cross in it with your finger or a wooden spoon; this lets the water permeate the sugar a bit. Put over medium-high heat; boil (not a raging boil, and do not stir) about five minutes. This dissolves the sugar crystals into the syrup, and they’ll stir right into the water and juice to make a smooth lemonade.

When the simple syrup has cooled a bit, toss in the strips of lemon zest. The heat releases the fragrant essential citrus oils into the syrup, and when you add the lemon juice and water, your lemonade will be like a glass full of summer.

Juice the lemons. You will need at least 6 TBS juice. Augment with another lemon if necessary.

Some tips for getting the most juice: Choose lemons that are heavy for their size. Room temperature lemons provide more juice than chilled lemons. You can pop a cold lemon in the microwave for a moment to zonk it through, but don’t overdo it. Rolling the lemon firmly against the counter under your hand before juicing helps, too, by breaking up the fibers and releasing juice.

Mix with remaining 2 cups of water. Add lemon-infused simple syrup to taste; depending on the sharpness of the lemons, I usually like a generous half-cup to a scant 3/4 cup for a nice tart balance.

Chill. Serve over ice. Garnish if desired with fresh lemon slices, but don’t store lemonade with lemon slices; the bitterness of the pith can leach out into the drink. After a few days, the bright lemon flavor will fade. Revive your lemonade with fresh-squeezed juice to taste.

This recipe works equally well with limes, though you will certainly need more than two. Use all the zest and probably all the juice from three limes, and have another on hand just in case. I often need to add an extra squirt of syrup as well, though I like my citrus drinks tart as a rule.

Or you can make a zesty citrus-ade with half lemon juice and half lime juice. I have one Harry Belafonte record I keep around for days like this.

For a change, substitute seltzer or other carbonated water for the still water added at the end, and enjoy homemade fizzy lemonade!

Store the extra infused simple syrup in the fridge. I keep mine in an old honey container with a cheery red flip-top, so it’s easy to squeeze out into a glass. Try this: in a tall glass, squeeze a bit of lemon syrup, a splash of vodka or gin, a squirt of lemon juice, and fill the rest of the glass with ice and seltzer or club soda. Perfect for the veranda, or wherever you can stretch out to escape the heat.

I also use lemon syrup in iced coffee, where it sweetens and brings an extra tang to my morning pick-me-up. Of course, lemon syrup is a natural in iced tea. I’ve also been adding it to simple fruit-based cocktails: cranberry juice and seltzer with a tiny squirt of lemon syrup and generous dram of gin or vodka cools and calms the frayed tempers of a summer evening.

ginger iced tea
as I described here.

In a large glass jar, put one large hand of ginger, scrubbed, coarsely chopped, and bruised. (Mashing it into the jar with a wooden spoon is both effective and kinda fun.) Add 4 to 6 tablespoons of loose tea of your choice. I like plain black tea.

Cover with 1 quart water. If you’re using filtered water, draw a fresh batch. Cover tightly and place outdoors in direct sun for about five hours.

Remove cap, strain tea through a fine sieve, dilute with up to 1 quart cold water, and decant into a covered pitcher. Sweeten with simple syrup if desired. Chill thoroughly. Sun tea does not keep well, so drink it up within three days.

Watch this space for an account of my recent experiments with homemade ginger ale (very satisfactory so far, sharp and crisp and not too sweet, though I find its beery undertone a touch too pronounced), and my proposed plan for homemade fizzy grape juice. That one has the potential for disaster on a grand scale, so stay tuned.

7 thoughts on “lemonade

  1. In Egypt they make a lemonade called “lemon juice” with local Egyptian lemons which for all extent and purposes are limes. The recipe is something like 2 Egyptian “lemons”, cut in half, plus sugar to taste and around a cup and a half of water. This is all blended together in a blender with a small amount of ice until frothy. Then it’s strained.

  2. Wah. You post this now that I am moving to a house with no lemon trees, and more importantly, no pool by which to enjoy my refreshing beverages.

  3. HB!!! It’s on my calendar (-: Why don’t you make cake & lemonade for the WORLD?!? Love you, TR

  4. T.R.! Thank you! I was thinking about you with great affection just last night as I was washing out the big green enameled cast-iron pot you salvaged from my old home and shipped to me, no doubt at great trouble and expense.
    Love you! Love love love you!

  5. That BIG green enameled pot was sitting on top of the refrigerator, just waiting for you! I thought of you when I sent it and KNEW how joyed you would be when it popped out of the brown paper-wrapped box (-: And, I think of you when I am cleaning my same brand, big yellow enameled pot!

  6. I knew there was a reason I loved you…not only do you make making lemonade sound like art, but you also are a MeFite! I’m a horrible lurker there, but I visit daily. I’m zylocomotion & I linked to you!

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