Up until yesterday, I believed that July was National Lemonade Month. After Googling it, I discovered there likely isn't any such thing as "National Lemonade Month." July is just another hot month that needs a good, refreshing beverage. It is also, apparently, the National Month of blueberries, horseradish, baked beans, grilling and hot dogs. But lemonade should get the honorable mention.
I drink oceans of the stuff in the summer, so I started looking for ways to spruce it up. I'm over the lemon-juice-and-sugar equation, and all those powdered flavor packets you're supposed to mix into bottles of water are dead to me. So I've compiled my five favorite lemonade recipes.
1. Spiced lemonade When I tried Prometheus Springs Elixir, a tea heightened with capsaicin last spring, my first thought was, "This feels like Velcro." Then I realized that the tea's unexpected, lingering burn was what made it so refreshing, not the flavor or the coldness.
The same works for lemonade, only better because the heat cuts the sweetness and the citrus balances the burn. I found a recipe that uses crushed red pepper flakes to add heat and another that uses cinnamon for subtle spikiness. There is a lemonade recipe that calls for spiced gin and Dijon mustard, which causes much nose wrinkling followed by thoughts of, "I can't believe I've never tried mustard in my drinks before. All those wasted pretzels."
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2. Lemonade with herbs As Alice Laussade discovered last week, adding a few herbs to lemonade complicate the flavor in a miraculous way. Mint and basil yield a beverage that is often described as "some delicious-ass shit." Try adding sprigs, or teaspoons of chopped of basil, mint, rosemary, citrus thyme, ginger or lavender. If you want to make it fancy, you can try making simple syrup with these flavors -- just bring a cup of water and a cup of sugar to a boil. Reduce the heat and stir until the sugar disappears and take it off the heat. Add the herbs or flavors and let the concoction cool, and you're finished. Just don't forget to strain all the plant life out before using.
3. Lemonade with aloe vera In my quest for new lemonade recipes, I learned all sorts of things. Another was that aloe vera is not toxic and is good for something besides burns. When added to lemonade, the result is a vague tang, but it's supposed to be good for your insides (again: not toxic! ) According to this recipe, wrangle yourself a stalk of aloe vera and scrape out the gel and blend it together with the usual lemonade ingredients.
4. Vanilla and molasses lemonade This recipe is delicious, but it's more indulgent than refreshing. It's a great drink if you have somewhere cool to sit and stay. The citrus modestly cuts the thick, decadent sweetness, but it's not something I would reach for after a hot afternoon plowing fields. Not that I plow many fields, but you know.
5. Fizzy lemonade Did you know there is no reason to buy lemon-flavored soda ever, ever again? Not if you have a box of baking soda and a spoon. Fizzy lemonade provides the same stinging refreshment as the spicy recipes, just in a less abrasive dose. An easy recipe for fizzy lemonade is just the regular stuff, mixed with a half teaspoon of baking soda per cup. An alternative is sparkling water is club soda, but that hardly has the same science-experiment appeal.