When life gives you lemons...

With Labor Day weekend creeping closer, we think it’s fair to say that this year, everyone has earned a break. However, the ongoing pandemic means that traditional Labor Day weekend activities, like group cookouts, will unfortunately have to be postponed. So while we can’t sanction a big grill out this year, we still think you deserve something refreshing to get you and your closest loved ones through the summer heat. And there’s nothing that can make a small gathering feel more like a special party than freshly made lemonade.

If you’re used to store bought lemonade, the delicious, citrusy drink may not seem that special. The beauty of making your own lemonade, however, is that you can end up with a far fancier product than you could ever buy. Sure, the convenience of commercial lemonade is sometimes worth the money, but there’s not many companies out there who can provide you a lemonade float or a pitcher infused with fresh rosemary. And as any kid who has run a sales stand can tell you, the best part of lemonade is that it’s incredibly simple to make. So if a custom thirst-quencher sounds like it’s worth adding to your menu, feel free to consult our guide on how to make the best lemonade possible. You’ll find it useful whether the pitcher you’re making is your first or your fortieth.

Step One: Make Your Base

Lemonade, at its simplest, is made up of three ingredients — lemon juice, sugar and water. The most complicated step is making a simple syrup, which will make it easier to mix the sugar thoroughly with the lemonade. And for that, you simply need to heat a cup of sugar and a cup of water on the stove, stirring occasionally until it becomes a thick, viscous liquid. If you’d like, you can always double your portions and bottle the rest of your simple syrup for later use.

If you want to make future lemonade making all the easier, try using a cup of lemon juice in your simple syrup mixture. That lemon flavored simple syrup, when added to water, can make a quick lemonade, or it can be used to punch up the citrus flavor in your fresh-squeezed lemonade. You can even use it in some baked goods (more on that later).

Of course, if you’d rather not use granulated sugar, you can always use an alternative sweetener like honey, agave, or maple syrup. Just mix the sweetener directly in with the lemon juice and water, since there’s no need to make a simple syrup.

Once you have a simple syrup, pour the syrup into a pitcher containing ice. Stir, and then add lemon juice and water until the pitcher is filled. Taste frequently along the way to determine whether it’s too sweet or sour and adjust accordingly. Chill, or serve immediately over ice.

Whole Lemonade image
Whole Lemonade image
| Credit: Time Inc. Video Studio

Whole Lemonade image Time Inc. Video Studio

Step Two: Choose Your Add-Ins

Now that you have a basic lemonade, you can play around with other added flavors. Pretty much any fruit, when juiced, can make for a fantastic addition to lemonade, although some are a bit more easy to mix in than others. More fibrous additions, like honeydew and watermelon, may need to be processed so that they mix well with the lemonade.

Adding fruits to your lemonade is also a great opportunity to play around with garnishes. Topping your lemonade with a few blueberries or a sliced strawberry can make the drink look more inviting without you having to put in much effort.

Step Three: Choose Your Presentation Style

With your lemonade completed, it’s time to figure out how you want to serve it. If you just want a glass of lemonade over ice, then you’re basically done. However, if you’d like to take a few extra steps, you could always take the time to add carbonation to your lemonade by mixing some spritzer to the drink. You can also make your own Arnold Palmer by mixing in tea. Frozen lemonade can be a fantastic at-home treat on hot days. And if all else fails, there’s no shame in topping a delicious lemonade with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a delicious, citrus-filled float. Playing around lemonade presentation styles can keep the drink fresh while also giving you the chance to try out new flavor combinations.

Additional Lemonade Styles

How to Spike Your Lemonade

What’s better than fresh lemonade, other than fresh lemonade with a bit of booze? For this variation, feel free to reach for whatever liquor you love the most; if you’re feeling adventurous, though, try making one of the mixed drinks above. For example, frozen lemonade pairs great with rum, and if you like bourbon, then our Kentucky lemonade might be for you. Just as with other add-ins, spiking your lemonade a bit can dramatically change up your flavors.

How to Spice Your Lemonade

Fruits and teas aren’t the only flavors that can make your lemonades more delicious. Spices and various herbs can also make for a delectable addition to your drink. If you’re uncertain which herbs or spices you might like in your lemonade, try pairing a fruit you enjoy with the component in question. Ginger lemonade, by itself, may sound too strong, but with the addition of raspberry, it may just become your new favorite drink.

How to Bake With Lemonade

Lemonade may be a delicious drink, but there’s no reason to limit it to the beverage category. If you’re a particular fan of lemonade, try adding it as a flavor to your baked goods. You can do this by making a lemon simple syrup (described above) or by using lemonade concentrate. Some recipes, like the lemonade chicken, even call for powdered lemonade drink as a flavoring component. By playing around with how best to add lemonade flavor to food, you might just find the perfect dish to pair with your next custom-made lemonade pitcher.