Fresh Lemonade, With a Twist

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The ultimate summer drink isn’t a cold beer, pink wine or even a frosty iced tea. No — in my mind, the ultimate summer drink is lemonade. And making a fresh pitcher of it couldn’t be easier. And there’s a reward:?It’s so much better tasting than anything you mix up from a powder.

The key to making drinks on the fly is to always have a batch of simple syrup in your fridge. There are lots of ratios and recipes for simple syrup — which is essentially sugar water — but I like to make it even: 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Put them both in a saucepan and heat over medium until just before it boils. Whisk to combine and remove from the heat to cool. Place in a glass bottle and you can store it in the fridge for months.

The ratio for lemonade is just as simple: 1-1-4, meaning 1 cup lemon juice, 1 cup simple syrup, 4 cups water.

After that, the possibilities are endless. Like your lemonade a little tart??Hold back on the syrup. Feel like pink lemonade??Muddle a few strawberries in the bottom of your glass before filling it. Want to enjoy an adult beverage mixed with lemonade??Bourbon and vodka are idea candidates.

So cool off with a fresh pitcher of lemonade, and use these variations as inspiration to make an ultimate summer drink you can call your own. After the jump, you’ll find a bunch of great recipes — including for Blueberry Mint Lemonade and Bourbon Peach Lemonade!

Simple Syrup

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Combine in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to just shy of a boil. Let cool and store in a glass bottle in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Watch the stored liquid to see if it gets cloudy streaks in it; then you will know it’s time to make a fresh batch.
Yield:?4 cups.

Homemade Lemonade
The easiest way to remember how to make this without a recipe is the ratio: 1-1-4. 1 cup lemon juice, 1 cup simple syrup, 4 cups water. But, as I explained above, I like to tweak that. You can too. Like your lemonade sweet? Add a little more sugar.
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 6 to 8 lemons)
A scant 1 cup simple syrup
4 cups filtered water
Combine lemon juice, water in pitcher and stir.
Add ice to a glass and pour. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

Fizzy Lemonade
Make Homemade Lemonade as above, but use 3 1/2 cups regular water. Fill glass 3/4 full of lemonade, then top with seltzer.

Pink Lemonade
Make Homemade Lemonade as above, but muddle 2 strawberries and a pinch of sugar in the bottom of each glass. Stir in lemonade, then fill glass with ice. Garnish with a strawberry.

Sour Cherry Lemonade
Make Homemade Lemonade as above, but muddle 2 teaspoons of sour cherry preserves in the bottom of each glass. Stir in lemonade, then fill glass with ice. Garnish with a lemon wedge and float a bing cherry with the stem still attached on top. (This is especially nice with bourbon or rye.)

Blueberry Mint Lemonade
Make Homemade Lemonade as above, but muddle a tablespoon of blueberries, a few leaves of fresh mint and a pinch of sugar in the bottom of each glass. Stir in lemonade, then fill glass with ice. Garnish with a mint sprig. (For a mojito-like kick, add 1 1/2 ounces rum.)

Arnold Palmer
Make Homemade Lemonade as above. Fill a high-ball glass with ice, then fill the rest of the glass with half iced tea and half lemonade. Garnish with mint and a lemon wedge.

Mommy’s Lemonade
This name comes from the special way of keeping kids from poking around the wrong glass. “No, no, darling,” you should say. “That’s Mommy’s lemonade.” Same thing with Daddy’s Lemonade, (“No, no, darling.”), though its special ingredient is vodka.
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
Homemade Lemonade
Mint sprigs
Fill a high-ball glass with ice and pour the bourbon in it. Add the lemonade and stir. Garnish with mint.

Daddy’s Lemonade
1 1/2 ounces vodka
Lemonade
Mint sprigs
Fill a high-ball glass with ice and pour the vodka in it. Add the lemonade and stir. Garnish with mint.

Nice Tea
1 1/2 ounces vodka
Homemade Lemonade
Sweet tea
Mint sprigs
Fill a high-ball glass with ice and pour the vodka in it. Fill the rest of the glass half with iced tea and half with lemonade. Cover with a cocktail shaker or another glass and shake. Garnish with mint.

Summer Peach Bourbon Lemonade
Concocted by Chicago mixologist Todd Appel and published in the Chicago Tribune.
8 ripe, medium-size peaches
1 bottle (750 milliliters) bourbon
1 quart (32 ounces) Homemade Lemonade
2 lemons, thinly sliced into wheels
Fresh mint sprigs
Remove stones from peaches, leave the peel. Chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Combine bourbon and peaches in a large nonreactive container. Cover; let steep, at least 1 hour or overnight. Add lemonade; allow to rest, 20 minutes.
For each serving, pour bourbon lemonade into a chilled, ice-filled Collins glass. Add some of the bourbon-soaked peaches. Garnish with lemon wheel and mint.
Yield:?12-16 servings

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About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and lohud.com, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

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