I can't think of many things more refreshing on a hot summer day than an ice-cold glass of lemonade. I was raised on powdered mix, but as I've matured, I've graduated to the real stuff. Making your own lemonade obviously gives you far better flavor than you'd get from a powdered (or even bottled) formula, but it also lets you control the all-important sweet-sour balance.
Plain old lemonade is only part of the story, though, since lemonade is a wonderful base for other flavors. I especially like the combination of fruit and herbs, like peach-thyme and blackberry-sage. And, of course, there's limeade, which gives you a somewhat different canvas with a distinctly tropical note. To keep cool this summer, break out the citrus squeezer and try out these 18 lemonade and limeade recipes—we've got a classic lemonade, Brazilian limeade sweetened with condensed milk, Thai-inspired lemonade with basil and lemongrass, and more.
Before we get to the variations, we've got to establish a baseline. Our classic lemonade is made with three cups of water, one cup of lemon juice (freshly squeezed, of course), a half cup of sugar, and a pinch of salt. The relatively low volume of water is meant to compensate for the pitcher of ice we serve the lemonade in—the ice dilutes the drink as it melts, leaving you with a perfect sweet-sour balance.
This lemonade is kicked up just a little bit with the incorporation of basil and honey. The basil adds some fresh, herbal flavor, while the honey gives the drink a rich depth that ordinary sugar lacks.
Grilling lemons gives them a complex sweetness, adding an extra layer of flavor to your cup of lemonade. We sweeten our grilled lemonade with a subtly floral syrup made with maple syrup, sugar, and rosemary. Never mind the brown color—it just makes it easier to add a shot of bourbon without anyone noticing.
Who says that lemonade has to be made with water? This recipe gets most of its liquid from cooling watermelon juice, while a bunch of mint adds an extra bright touch. Muddle the mint to release its flavor, but don't overdo it, since over-muddling can turn it bitter.
Sweet fruit is great for balancing out tart lemon, and this recipe accomplishes that by adding ripe summer blackberries. We also muddle in a little sage—the savory, aromatic, slightly minty herb is a good complement to the sweet drink.
Blended fresh peaches give this lemonade not only a fruity summer sweetness, but a thick, frothy texture as well, while thyme adds a whiff of herbal warmth. This is another recipe that's begging for some booze—a splash of vodka would be nice.
This blueberry lemonade gets a slightly floral character from the addition of dried lavender. We blend and strain the drink, but, if you don't mind seeds in your lemonade, you could just muddle some berries at the bottom of each glass. Blueberries are our favorite, but this would be tasty with strawberries or raspberries, too.
Get the recipe for Blueberry-Lavender Lemonade »
Cucumber-Basil Lemonade With Lemongrass
If you're looking for something a little less sweet-focused, this is your recipe. Mixing both basil and lemongrass gives this lemonade variation an unusual Thai edge; for another ingredient that pairs well with basil, we add some cooling cucumber, too. The resulting drink is tart and savory, but still a great thirst-quencher.
Spicy Strawberry-Jalapeño Lemonade
Just mixing macerated strawberries into lemonade produces a delicious drink, but it's quite sweet. For more balance, try macerating sliced jalapeños along with the strawberries—they add just enough heat to keep you coming back for more.
Lychee-Thai Chili Lemonade
Another sweet-and-spicy drink, this lemonade combines fresh, aromatic lychees with fiery Thai red chili. These peppers are seriously hot, so we use only half of one for an entire quart of lemonade. You can garnish the drinks with whole chilies if you like, but warn your guests against eating them—I know from experience how painful that can be.
Orgeat, an almond syrup that's a staple of tiki bars, is good for more than just Mai Tais; it also lends a complex sweetness to lemonade. Look for a good-quality orgeat for this recipe, preferably one containing orange-flower water.
Fizzy Ginger Lemonade
Adding bubbly club soda to lemonade makes it even more refreshing, and blending some ginger in gives this drink just a hint of spice. Effervescent drinks are great for clearing your palate, so this would be a lovely choice to accompany a spicy meal.
Sparkling Sumac Lemonade
I grew up knowing about sumac only in the context of za'atar, a spice blend popular in Middle Eastern cooking. Turns out there's a lot more you can do with the puckeringly tart spice. Here, we make it into a syrup to sweeten a fizzy lemonade.
Ultra-Flavorful Fresh Limeade
The key to the most flavor-packed limeade is a strong lime syrup, made by allowing the residual moisture and citric acid in the fruit's rinds to dissolve sugar over time—it requires no cooking, meaning the lime flavor remains pure and undiminished. In this recipe, we mix that syrup with fresh lime juice and water into a concentrate that's intense enough to keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. When you're ready to serve, just pour it into a pitcher of ice (which will start the dilution process) and adjust to taste with a little more water if desired.
Panela is an unrefined cane sugar with a flavor similar to that of molasses. Once chopped up and dissolved in water, it can be used just like any other simple syrup. Unlike a normal simple syrup, though, panela gives this limeade a caramel-like depth and rich body.
Black Peppercorn Limeade
Steeping crushed peppercorns in simple syrup results in a spicy, complex blend. It's a great addition to limeade, since the fruit complements the citrusy notes of the pepper. Between the pepper and the lime, this drink offers a considerable kick, perfect for cooling you off on a hot day.
This super-fruity limeade is made with a full quart of ripe, sweet raspberries, a half cup of sugar, and a pinch of salt, just to bring out all the flavors. Resist the urge to add too much sugar—the raspberries themselves will go a long way toward sweetening the drink. It's good as is, but honestly, a little gin would make it even better.
Brazilian Lemonade (With Limes and Condensed Milk)
Despite the name, we actually prefer to make this drink with limes, though lemons will also work. It's sweetened with an ingredient you probably wouldn't expect to see in limeade: condensed milk, which works with the lime juice for a drink that's simultaneously rich and refreshing. For an adult beverage that keeps the Brazilian theme going, try adding a shot of cachaça.