Your new main squeeze for summer.
Fact: Fresh-squeezed, homemade lemonade is hands-down the best and most refreshing drink of summer. Better still, homemade lemonade takes less time to make than running to the store for the (inferior) pre-bottled variety.
Fresh-squeezed lemonade tastes vibrant, tart, and sweet. Bottled supermarket lemonade, on the other hand, tastes . . . meh. A little off. I picture people at the juice factory standing around in lab coats and goggles fussing with beakers saying, “Hmm . . . add .5 grams citric acid, perhaps, and heighten the yellow color by .0351%.”
Anyway, all you need for homemade is sugar, water, lemons, a pitcher, and about five minutes.
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To make this recipe, you will make a quick simple syrup of equal parts sugar and water. The goal here is to simply dissolve the sugar so that it combines best with the lemon juice and the rest of the water. You can make simple syrup in the microwave in about 30 seconds.
Pastry chef pro tip: The pinch of salt is the lemonade’s “secret ingredient.” The salt acts similarly to other secret ingredients, like lemon juice in fruit desserts, or espresso powder in chocolate desserts. These secret ingredients are not in there to be tasted; they simply heighten the main flavors. In this case, salt makes the lemon and sugar “pop” a little more, and cuts the sour edge of the lemon while leaving a nice, vibrant flavor.
Homemade lemonade keeps for at least a week in the fridge, though I doubt that it will realistically last more than a day or two.
Variations on Homemade Fresh-Squeezed Lemonade
Pink Lemonade: Add 1/4 cup of unsweetened cranberry juice to the lemonade and stir. Taste. You may want to add a little more sugar. Garnish with a fresh berry.
Muddles: Fresh rosemary goes great with lemonade, as do mint and thyme. Add a fresh sprig to a glass, and gently muddle before adding ice and lemonade.
Spike it: If you want it in cocktail form, try bourbon, vodka, tequila, or St. Germain elderflower liquor.
Fresh-Squeezed Homemade Lemonade
- 4 cups cold water, divided (3 1/3 cups and 2/3 cup)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- Pinch kosher salt
- 2/3 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice, from 5 to 6 lemons, plus one more to slice for garnishes
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cranberry juice (optional)
- Muddling garnishes, such as fresh rosemary, thyme, or mint sprigs (optional)
- Make a simple syrup by combining the sugar with 2/3 cup of the water. Heat in a small pot or in a microwave-safe bowl or cup until the sugar has fully dissolved.
- Combine the rest of the water, the lemon juice, and the simple syrup into a pitcher with a good amount of ice. Also add the cranberry juice if making pink lemonade.
- Stir well and serve ice cold with thin slices of lemon or other garnishes.