When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. When the hot summer sun threatens to wilt your summer fun, do the same.
Lemons may pucker your mouth, but add some sugar water to the juice, pour it over ice and the result is one of summer's most pleasurable thirst-quenchers.
From lemonade stands staffed by 7-year-old entrepreneurs to bars where grown-up refreshment choices include lemonade martinis, our favorite yellow citrus is a welcome gift to sippers of all ages.
Let's begin with some ground rules for classic lemonade. Make sure you use fresh lemons, or at least frozen lemon juice. Stay away from the reconstituted stuff and please try not to resort to powdered instant lemonade. This is one beverage you should be willing to put a little work into.
Choose lemons with thinner rinds and smooth skins, and expect to use about half a dozen medium-sized lemons for 1 cup of juice.
It's easier to get juice out of any citrus fruit if it's room temperature, not chilled. If you've just taken lemons from the refrigerator, a few seconds in the microwave won't hurt. It also helps to roll them on the counter a few times to begin releasing juices.
Lemons are tart, so sweetening is important. The best way to sweeten lemonade is to make simple syrup by heating equal parts water and sugar, or perhaps a little more sugar if you don't want too much pucker.
Stir the mixture as it boils gently and dissolves the sugar. For a more intense flavor, add the zest of a couple of lemons before heating. Let the syrup cool, then strain to remove the zest.
Good lemonade doesn't really need to be fancied up, but it does lend itself to some fun variations. You can add mint leaves, slices of ginger or the zest of oranges or limes to the syrup. Add a splash of cranberry juice to make pink lemonade. Try sparkling water instead of regular water, or spike it up with your favorite spirit.
Wicked Pink Lady Lemonade
Makes 1 drink
1 1/2 ounces good-quality gin
1/2 cup freshly made lemonade
dash of grenadine or splash of cranberry juice cocktail
2 teaspoons heavy cream
In a cocktail shaker or jar with a lid, combine the gin, lemonade, grenadine or cranberry juice cocktail and cream. Add ice and shake until chilled and frothy. Strain into a champagne or martini glass and serve.
- Recipes from "Lemonade: 50 Recipes for Classic, Flavored, and Hard Lemonades and Sparklers," by Fred Thompson (Harvard Common Press, 2002, $10.95)
Makes a little less than 2 quarts
grated zest of 2 lemons
2 cups granulated sugar
5 cups cold water, divided use
2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 12 lemons), 5 or 6 of the rinds reserved and roughly chopped
lemon slices for garnish (optional)
Make a sugar syrup by combining the zest, sugar and 2 cups of water in a medium-size saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for 15 minutes.
Pour the sugar syrup into a 2-quart container. Let cool, then add the lemon juice, chopped rinds and remaining water. Stir well.
Chill until very cold. Serve over ice, garnished with lemon slices, if desired.