Our Best Lemonade Making Tips, from the Most Efficient Way to Juice Lemons to the Pros and Cons of Different Sweeteners
One of the best ways to quench your thirst on a hot summer day is with a big glass of lemonade. The citrusy beverage is usually made with just three ingredients—freshly squeezed lemon juice, your choice of sweetener, and water—and it doesn't require heating the stove, a definite plus during the warmer months. Whether you have a cookout coming up or want to keep a batch of the drink in your fridge to enjoy at your leisure, there are some steps you can take to ensure your lemonade is extra delicious. To help, we consulted two cooking teachers, and ahead, they share their best lemonade making tips. Here, learn how to properly juice lemons and discover some of the best methods and sweeteners for making lemonade, per the experts.
Choose Your Lemons
The most important ingredient in your lemonade is, of course, lemons. For that reason, you'll want to do your due diligence while you shop at your local grocery store to ensure you're buying fresh citrus. Ronna Welsh, a cooking instructor and the author of The Nimble Cook ($14.94, amazon.com), says it can be difficult to discern which lemons will yield the most juice, so she looks for ones without any blemishes. Other signs you've found citrus ready for juicing? They're fragrant and yield to pressure.
Pick Your Sweetener
Another key part of making lemonade is the sweetener, which cuts the tartness from the lemons and makes the beverage more enjoyable to drink. There are a few different sweeteners you can use in lemonade and Welsh says the one you choose is a matter of personal preference. White sugar is the most common iteration—and it's what Welsh likes to use, since it is neutral and "does not add caramel notes, like brown sugar or honey or syrup might." Jay Weinstein, chef-instructor of Health-Supportive Culinary Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education, notes that options like honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar are tasty, but won't make for an attractive beverage (they turn the lemonade brown). "Only agave nectar would give the taste and eye-appeal expected of lemonade without refined sugar," he notes.
Juice Those Lemons
When you make lemonade, you want to maximize the amount of juice you get from the lemons. There are a few ways to do this. Welsh says to invest in an electric juicer that will squeeze all the juice out for you. If you don't have an electric option or are making a smaller amount of lemonade, both Weinstein and Welsh recommend using a reamer. If you have one on hand, all you need to do is halve the lemons, plunge the reamer into the fleshy part of the fruit, and twist it until the juice is extracted. If you don't have either of these tools, Weinstein recommends using your hands. "Place the halved lemon between the heels of your clasped hands and bring your elbows together to press," he explains. "Like the precious beverage itself, it is simple, but effective."
Make a Lemonade Simple Syrup
One way to make lemonade, which Welsh explains in the video above, is by creating a lemon simple syrup and using it as your beverage's base. You'll need lemon juice and zest, as well as white sugar for this, Welsh explains. (Always zest your lemons before you juice them.) Start by combining one cup of juice, one cup of sugar, and the zest from the lemons in a small pan over medium heat; add a few sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary for extra flavor if you wish. Stir the mixture constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Then remove the pan from the heat, cover, and steep for 15 minutes. Next, pour the lemonade simple syrup into a pitcher to help it cool down. When the mixture is cool, top the pitcher with six to seven cups of cold water and ice cubes and mix well. If you want to keep extra lemon syrup handy to make more batches of lemonade throughout the summer, freeze it in ice cube trays and thaw individual portions as needed, Welsh advises.
Two Other Good Methods
Beyond lemonade simple syrup, Welsh notes there are several additional ways to make lemonade. Which one you choose depends on how you want to dissolve your sweetener. Both methods start by juicing the lemons and straining the juice to remove seeds and pulp. The first technique requires mixing about one cup of warm water with one cup of lemon juice and one cup of sweetener until well combined. Next, add in about five more cups of ice-cold water to make the drink ready to serve. For the second method, mix one cup of juice, one cup of sweetener, and five to six cups of ice-cold water. Welsh says this method takes more time as you need to let the sugar slowly dissolve over time. No matter which technique you choose, Welsh says the lemonade will last for about five days in the refrigerator.