Lemons, sugar, water. That's it. Homemade lemonade is easy, delicious, and endlessly customizable. The key to perfect lemonade every time is taking those few extra minutes to make a simple syrup, in which sugar is completely dissolved in water by heating it. This keeps the sugar from sinking to the bottom of the pitcher or your glass.
This recipe yields about 2 1/2 cups (about 20 ounces) of lemonade—that's 2 to 4 servings depending on how big your glasses are. Feel free to double, triple, and beyond if you have a thirsty crowd to quench or a lemonade stand to supply.
Scroll down for ideas on how to dress up your lemonade with variations of all sorts.
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 1/2 cups fresh water
- Put the sugar and 1/2 cup of the water in a small saucepan. Heat to a simmer and cook until the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour into a measuring cup or metal bowl to let cool. If you're in a hurry, nestle the metal bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice—the sugar syrup
- Combine the lemon juice, 1/3 cup of the sugar syrup, and remaining water. Stir to combine and taste. Add more sugar syrup to taste. Serve over ice, of course.
Variations—Let the Customization Begin!
Using the recipe above as a starting point, making the lemonade of your dreams is at your fingertips. Here are a few ideas to get started.
Mix Up That Lemon Flavor: Add up to half Meyer lemon juice, white vinegar, or fresh orange, lime, or grapefruit juice to the lemon juice.
More Lemon More Flavor: Cut off or grate the zest (the thin bright yellow outer part of the peel) of the lemon and add the zest to the sugar and water while you make the syrup and let it sit in the syrup while it cools. This will imbue the syrup with lemon flavor. Strain the syrup before mixing with the lemon juice.
Give It a Bit of Kick: Swirl in some fresh ginger—peel off the thin beige skin and use a fine grater for an intense ginger flavor or simply add a thin slice or two to each glass for a subtle ginger twist.
Herbs Are Your Friends: Muddle in a few mint leaves, use a rosemary sprig to stir everything together (watch out, rosemary flavor can get intense), or add a fresh basil leaf to each glass to add a decidedly grown-up edge to a glass of the cool stuff.
Make It Sparkle: Use sparkling water instead of regular water for a lovely bit of refreshing fizz.
Go the Cocktail Route: Add a shot of gin, vodka, tequila, or rum to each glass to make an instant hard lemonade. Consider adding an herb (see above) to give it more of than true cocktail feel.
Try a Different Sweetener: Honey, maple syrup, or molasses can be used instead of granulated sugar to give lemonade a deeper, more complex flavor.