Lemonade: sugar, water, lemon juice. Easy, right? Well, the problem is that if you just stir all of these together the sugar will sink to the bottom. So the best way to make lemonade is to make a simple syrup first, by heating water and sugar together until the sugar is completely dissolved, and then mix that with the lemon juice.
The proportions will vary depending on how sweet and strong you like your lemonade, and how sour your lemons are to begin with. Late season lemons are less sour than early season lemons. Meyer lemons are sweeter than standard lemons. Start with the proportions of 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, 1 cup of lemon juice. Reduce the sugar amount if you are using Meyer lemons or if you like your lemonade less sweet. (I usually use 3/4 cup of lemon juice.)
Make the simple syrup, combine with the lemon juice, and then add more water (and ice) to dilute the lemonade to your taste.
Simple syrup you can easily make ahead and chill for later use. If you have a bunch of lemons you need to process, you can juice them and freeze the juice too.
Updated from the recipe archive, first posted in 2006.
For more intense lemon flavor, grate the zest from one fresh lemon and add the zest to the simple syrup as you are making it. Once the sugar has dissolved in the water remove from heat and let the zest seep in the simple syrup for several minutes, then strain out the zest when you add the simple syrup to the lemon juice.
- 1 cup white, granulated sugar (can reduce to 3/4 cup)
- 1 cup water (for the simple syrup)
- 1 cup lemon juice
- 2 to 3 cups cold water (to dilute)
1 First make a "simple syrup". Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir so that the sugar dissolves completely and remove from heat.
2 While the water is heating for the simple syrup, juice your lemons. Depending on the size of the lemons, 4 to 6 of them should be enough for one cup of juice.
3 Pour the juice and the simple syrup sugar water into a serving pitcher. Add 2 to 3 cups of cold water and taste. Add more water if you would like it to be more diluted (though note that when you add ice, it will melt and naturally dilute the lemonade). If the lemonade is a little sweet for your taste, add a little more straight lemon juice to it.
Refrigerate 30 to 40 minutes.
Serve with ice, sliced lemons.