When life gives me lemons I’ll crack open the gin, unless I’m entertaining al fresco in which case I’ll make lemonade. The home-made version, with its knife-edge balance of tart, fresh lemon juice and soothing sugar, sparkling water, jangling with ice, is to shop-bought lemonade what freshly-ground coffee is to instant granules.
Try these suggestions for grown-up soft drinks
How to make your own lemonade
- 1 cup water
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 1 cup white sugar
- Juice of 4 - 6 lemons
The secret to homemade lemonade is to exclude as much of the bitter white pith as possible, which is why I sidestep recipes involving blitzing lemon wedges in a food processor. I prefer to begin with a sweet lemon cordial, enlivened with just the zest then shot through with piercingly sharp juice.
To make a simple cordial, bring to the boil one cup of water with the zest of two lemons, then lower to a simmer, add one cup of white sugar and stir until the crystals dissolve. You can, of course, substitute the lemon zest with any fruit that takes your fancy to make a wide array of lemonade spin-offs such as raspberry lemonade or rhubarb and ginger lemonade (see below). Set the cordial aside to cool before refrigerating.
Pour the juice of four to six lemons into your cordial. If tiny bits of fruit offend your sensibilities, you might want to pour the juice through a fine strainer, though nothing beats cloudy lemonade on a sunny day.
You now have enough lemon cordial for at least two 1-litre jugs of lemonade, depending on how strong you like it. Dilution is a matter of personal taste; one cup of cordial with two cups of still or sparkling water (or prosecco) works for me. Garnish with thin lemon slices and/or mint.
To make pink lemonade
To make vivid pink raspberry lemonade, which is sweeter, fruitier and my absolute favourite, substitute the lemon zest with a punnet of raspberries to your cordial at the boiling stage and strain through a sieve. Add the juice of 4-6 lemons and dilute. Garnish your drink with plump berries.
To make rhubarb lemonade
For tarter rhubarb lemonade, substitute the lemon zest with two stalks of rhubarb chopped into one-inch pieces and continue as before. Maybe spice it up with a thumbnail of sliced fresh ginger or star anise. Wait for the rhubarb to soften before setting aside to cool.
You’ll need to strain through a sieve, coaxing it through with the back of a spoon. Now add the juice of four to six lemons and dilute with water as before. Blackberry and mint Lemonade also works very well.
Find out how to make mint cordial
Turn into cocktails
These cordials can make the base for some stunning summer cocktails. Mix one shot (25ml) of fruit cordial, one shot of gin, a dash of lime juice and top up with prosecco.
Cool ways to garnish
Freeze thin slices of lemon, lime or orange to chill/garnish.
Make ice cubes out of the lemonade itself by pouring some into an ice tray. This means zero dilution when the “ice” melts.
Mix chopped fruit and water in an ice tray.
Or make strawberry ice: blitz 2-3 cups of strawberries, half a cup of water, one-third of a cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice in a blender and pour the mixture into an ice cube tray.