Sunday, June 16, 2024

This summer, hydrate the fun way — with endless variations on lemonade

One of my favorite memories is about helping my kids set up a lemonade stand at the entrance to the beach down the street where we lived in California. This particular beach was a favorite for runners, with a long, flat stretch of sand and a steep set of stairs for an added workout.

For a restaurant to succeed, they say “location, location, location” is one of the most important factors. In this case, we were right on point. On Saturday mornings, droves of weekend warriors would run (or stagger) up the 100-and-something stairs at the end of their beach run and encounter a trio of cute tow-headed kids selling fresh-squeezed lemonade from a little red wagon. It was win-win for everyone.

Fast forward to my life now, living in a tropical climate, and lemonade — or more often limeade — is a regular part of my diet. I almost always have a pitcher of it in the fridge, sometimes made into a “citrus-ade,” with orange, grapefruit and lime juices mixed together with a little sugar. (We grown-ups also add other things to our lemonade, things like fruit and fruit syrups, fresh herbs, chia seeds and of course, alcohol, to create (ahem) special “adult beverages.”)

The truth is, though, that fresh citrus drinks are almost a necessity for hydration during the hot summer months; we’re sweating and losing nutrients constantly, even when we don’t know it.

With limes and lime juice so prevalent in Mexican cuisine, it should come as no surprise that Mexico has been the world’s biggest lime producer for decades. Those cute little limes, so ubiquitous in the markets, are most commonly the sweet, smooth-skinned Mexican or Key limes, and sometimes Persian limes — more tart and a little bigger with a slightly bumpier skin. Use whichever ones you have on hand, or limones amarillos (yellow lemons), to make any of the lemonades listed below.

grilled lemons
Grill lemons with sugar and you’ll get a lovely caramelized sweetness to your lemonade

Ultimate Best Limeade

Macerating the rinds releases their natural oil, creating a more aromatic drink. Be sure to use nonreactive (i.e., not metal) utensils and containers so as not to influence the lime’s flavor.

  • 3 lbs. (1.3kg) limes (12-16)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups cold water

Bring limes to room temperature, then roll firmly on the counter to soften. Halve and juice; set juice aside.

Cut rinds into 1-inch chunks. Toss with sugar in a large nonreactive mixing bowl, cover tightly with plastic, and let stand at room temperature, stirring once every 45 minutes or so, until sugar has completely dissolved, about 3 hours.

Add water and ¾ cup of reserved lime juice to rinds. Stir well.

Strain through a plastic fine-mesh strainer or piece of cheesecloth into glass pitcher or jar. (This concentrated limeade can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.)

When ready to serve, pour limeade over ice and adjust to taste with additional water or lime juice, depending on personal preference.

Basic Lemonade / Limeade

  • 1 cup fresh juice (10-12 lemons/12-16 limes)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 cups cold water
  • Ice

Combine juice and sugar. Whisk until sugar dissolves, add salt and water.

Pour into pitcher with ice.

Vodka Lemonade

  • 1 cup fresh lemon/lime juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 cups ice water
  • 12 oz. vodka (1.5 oz. per drink)
  • For serving: lemon/lime slices, crushed ice

In a large pitcher, add sugar and water to lemon/lime juice. Whisk well to dissolve sugar completely. Add ice to highball glass, then vodka. Pour in lemonade, stir well. Garnish with fresh lemon/lime slice.

Brazilian Lemonade

  • ½ cup fresh lemon/lime juice
  • ¾ cup sweetened condensed milk
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 cups cold water
  • 1 quart ice

Combine citrus juice, condensed milk, salt and water in a blender. Process until thoroughly mixed and frothy, about 30 seconds. Transfer to pitcher, add ice. Serve immediately.

Honey-Basil Lemonade

  • 1 cup fresh citrus juice (10-12 lemons/12-16 limes)
  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 cups cold water
  • 1 quart ice

Combine juice, honey, basil and salt in a blender. Process on high until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher. Discard solids. Whisk in the cold water, add ice. Garnish glasses with basil leaves.

Fizzy Ginger Lemonade

Tastes like ginger ale, only better!

  • 2-inch knob ginger, peeled, cut into small chunks
  • 1 cup fresh lime/lemon juice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2 cups (1 pint) club soda
  • 1 quart ice

Combine ginger, juice, sugar, salt and water in a blender. Process on high speed for 1 minute. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a pitcher. Stir in club soda and ice. Serve immediately in ice-filled glasses.

Watermelon lemonade
Got too much watermelon? Cut up some chunks, and with a lemon or lime juice base — voilà, lemonade perfection.

Watermelon Mint Lemonade

  • 2 quarts 1-inch seedless watermelon chunks
  • 1 cup fresh lemon/lime juice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • Cold water as needed
  • 1 small bunch fresh mint
  • 1 quart ice

In a blender, process watermelon, juice, sugar and salt on high speed until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into 1-quart liquid measuring cup. Add cold water to equal 1 quart.

Place mint in the bottom of a pitcher and muddle lightly with a wooden spoon. Stir in watermelon mixture. Add ice. Serve immediately in ice-filled glasses garnished with mint sprigs.

Grilled Lemonade

Read the instructions all the way through before beginning.

  • 16 lemons or 24 limes, halved
  • 1 cup sugar, plus more as needed
  • 5 cups water, divided
  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Ice

Preheat grill for 5 minutes; clean and oil grilling grate. Pour sugar onto small baking tray or 8×8 inch pan, then dip each of the lemons or limes, cut side down, into sugar. Cook citrus on grill, cut side down, until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

In the same pan of sugar, add 2 cups of the water, honey and rosemary. Place pan on hot grill and whisk or stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from grill. Discard rosemary.

Squeeze grilled citrus into a large bowl. Pour in the honey and sugar syrup and three additional cups of cold water. Stir to combine. Add additional water or sugar to taste. Transfer to pitcher, add ice and serve.

Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, featured on CNBC and MarketWatch. A retired journalist, she has lived in Mexico since 2006.

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