A refreshing balance of sweet and tart, this storable concentrate allows you to simply add water and mix up a glass or two whenever the mood strikes. Because personal preference varies, adjustments are provided for sweeter and tarter variations.
The lemonade stand is one of the most iconic summertime images, and for good reason.
Generations of kids have had their first lessons in business, teamwork, and–most importantly–fun at the side of the road on a hot summer day. In turn, millions upon millions have a had their thirst quenched for a handful of pocket change.
Of course, an ice-cold cup of lemonade need not be saved for a curbside sale. And though worthy store-bought options exist, mixing your own has its merits.
Homemade lemonade offers an opportunity to capture the sweet and tart notes of this generational favorite, which store-bought varieties often lack. It can also be a fun project–and a good arm workout!
The following recipe has the added benefit of creating a concentrate. That way, you can enjoy the refreshing drink by the pitcherful or one glass at a time.
Once the concentrate is made, it can be stored in the refrigerator for at least three weeks or frozen in smaller containers for many months. When thirsty, simply mix one part concentrate with two parts water, adjusting to taste, and serve over ice.
The trick to the extra bright, lemony flavor is the use of strips of lemon zest. Though you may remove them before serving, my family loves it when they get a few in their glass. As the zest steeps in the concentrate, the thin slices take on a candied flavor.
I often add a few fresh mint sprigs, which complement the lemon flavor beautifully. That said, the lemonade is equally delightful as is.
As mentioned, sugar is added at a level that allows the tart notes to shine through. Those who prefer a sweeter or tarter drink may adjust as desired.
To help you hit the ideal flavor for your tastebuds, I’ve run several rounds of comparison testing with all-too willing tasters. (Yes, this is the hard work that sometimes happens in the Fountain Avenue Kitchen!)
To keep things “official,” nobody was told what the difference was. I added the descriptions shown in the following photo later.
The balanced, sweet-tart flavor of the recipe as written (the medium cup) has appealed to most people. It also happens to be my personal favorite.
Generally speaking–and as one may expect–kids more frequently lean towards the sweeter variation while some adults enjoy a more puckery glassful.
Interestingly, in separate side-by-side comparisons, my younger son chose the tart option, my older son was torn between the sweet and medium cups, and my husband was squarely in the middle ground.
Over time–and in the absence of a side-by-side comparison–they’ve enjoyed all three renditions. Ultimately, the middle-of-the-road lemonade is what I return to again and again.
I’ve had lots of willing taste-testers, but John graciously tolerated the photos. 😉
John also helped me juice the lemons for the most recent batch. I have found that my boys squeeze out the juice far quicker than I do!
The more opinions the better… Donovan took some home to his family, who got in on the action.
Lemonade stand from 2013. The kids usually talked me into baking something, in this case Congo Bars. They always donated their profits to a local organization, which I loved. (Christian, in the center, adored that red plastic cash register!)
This quintessential summer beverage hits the spot on a hot day and offers an ideal project for an enterprising youngster. Lemonade stand, anyone? The sweet-tart drink also serves as a refreshing mixer for a variety of seasonal cocktail and mocktails. (Summer Shandy, perhaps?)
Homemade Lemonade Concentrate
Yield:5+ cups syrup (16-20 servings; recipe easy to halve or double)
A convenient concentrate allows you to enjoy an ice-cold glass of lemonade whenever the mood strikes. And because personal preference varies, a range of sugar measurements allows for sweet, sweet-tart, and tart options.
2½ cups (20oz/567ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 13-15 medium lemons)
Zest from 2 of the lemons, peeled into strips
In a medium pot, bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, stirring just until the sugar is dissolved, and then add the strips of zest. Let cool for about 5 minutes, and then stir in the lemon juice
Transfer the concentrate to a large jar or another airtight container or covered pitcher for storage.
To serve: mix 1 part syrup with 2 parts water, diluting with additional water to taste. Serve over ice. (Tip: On hot days, I like to start with lemonade that’s a touch on the strong side to account for melting ice.)
Notes & Tips
*This amount of sugar creates a balanced, sweet-tart lemonade. If you prefer a sweeter drink, use and additional ¼ cup of sugar (for 1½ cups/480g total). If you prefer tart lemonade, reduce the sugar by ¼ cup (for 2 cups/384g total).
The lemon zest increases the bright, lemony flavor in the concentrate. I use a vegetable peeler to remove thin strips, avoiding as much of the bitter white pith as possible. While you could strain these out of the concentrate, I leave them in and people seem to think they make the lemonade special. If you’d prefer to strain them out, however, allow the zest to steep in the concentrate for at least an hour or so for best flavor.
For a minty variation, add 2-3 fresh mint sprigs to the concentrate when adding the lemon juice. To enhance the flavor, I gently tear the edges of some of the leaves—just enough to release the essential oils while keeping the sprig intact.
Storage: The concentrate will keep in the refrigerator for at least 3 weeks or in the freezer for 6 months or more. When freezing, you may wish to divide the mixture into several smaller containers for convenient use over time.