Upgrade your summer lemonade

Posted June 23

There’s nothing quite like a cold glass of lemonade to help beat the heat of summer. Whether it comes from the neighborhood kids’ stand on the corner, or served in a fancy glass on the patio, lemonade is the official drink of summer that we all love to sip.

This month, you can spruce up your lemonade by adding some favorite, or unique ingredients, beyond the typical. Just a little something extra will elevate your barbecue or pool party to spectacular.

Basic lemonade is a simple mixture of fresh-squeezed lemon juice, sugar and water. I have a simple recipe on for the proportions and then you can let your creativity take over. If you've never made your own, you'll want to invest in an electric citrus juicer. To make 2 quarts of lemonade you'll need juice from about 20 lemons. An electric juicer makes easy work of the little fruit and you can even get the kids involved.

If you're more of the semi-homemade type of cook, feel free to use lemonade concentrate from the freezer section, or already prepared drinks from the store. Either way you have a simple drink that is begging for a little pizzazz.

My best lemonade tip is to make it a little stronger than you’d think. I always serve my lemonade over ice and on a hot summer day the ice will dilute the drink. Whether you’re making your own or mixing from a concentrate, use just a little less water. When you pour the lemonade over ice, you’ll get the perfect balance.

Ultimate Strawberry Lemonade

For the ultimate strawberry lemonade, I like to add fresh berries and limes. The limes add a great dimension of citrus with the typical bright lemon. Mix 1½ cups sliced strawberries and 2 sliced limes into 2 quarts of lemonade. To make it a classic pink lemonade color, add a splash of cranberry juice.

This recipe also works for pink raspberry lemonade. Just swap the strawberries for fresh raspberries.

Cucumber Mint Lemonade

For a sophisticated lemonade, make a cucumber and mint infused drink that will totally surprise your guests. To 2 quarts lemonade add ¾ cup sliced cucumbers and 1 small bunch fresh mint leaves. I like to muddle, or crush the mint just a little with the ice before adding the lemonade. Use a wooden spoon to mash the mint with the ice, then add the remaining ingredients.

The kids will have a blast running a lemonade stand that has mix-ins for their classic lemonade. Don’t be limited to strawberries and limes. I love to toss in watermelon pieces, mashed mangos or blueberries. Muddle different herbs with the ice before adding sweet lemonade; I like a sprig of thyme, basil or even rosemary.

For the mix-in stand, simply have bowls of the fresh fruit and ingredients with spoons for passers-by to add their own. Your kids will be the hit of the neighborhood!

Keep fresh lemons on hand all summer long and keep your creative juices flowing. For easy entertaining, serve your lemonade with my Seven Layer Dip, or at the pool in to-go cups along with my Sweet Chili Spiced Popcorn.

Tara has been a food editor for Martha Stewart and Ladies’ Home Journal. She contributes delicious recipes to websites and cookbooks from her home in New York City. She has appeared on the "Today" Show. Find more great ideas on


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