pink lemonade

For reasons I cannot adequately put my finger on, if you show up to a potluck or picnic this weekend with carafes of freshly-squeezed lemonade, you will be welcomed and adored, but if you show up with the same carafes of freshly-made pink lemonade, people will actually freak out. Why is pink lemonade so much more exciting than the pale yellow that accurately depicts the lemons from which it is derived? It’s a mystery to me as well but I — a person who does not own a single pink garment and likes to consider myself immune to pastel-tinted charms — will always reach for it first.


auditioning many types of pink
a model of lemon-juicing efficiency

Also fun is to ask a roomful of a people what makes pink lemonade pink, well aside from the Red Dye #40 in most bottled versions, and to realize that none of use really know. We’ve discussed it here a couple summers ago and while many of the suggestions are sound and probably delicious — grenadine! hibiscus! pink lemons! — I tend to gravitate instead to the fresh berries that hit the markets during the peak lemonade season ahead. Or, uh, distant-origin strawberry, blackberries and raspberries that were on sale this past weekend. Er, it’s not like we were growing lemons in our New York City fire escapes anyhow, as much fun as it would be.

water and sugar, ready for later
lemon juice

As I tend to do, I got a little carried away with my pink lemonade studies, curious to see exactly how much of each berry one would need to make a carafe of charmingly tinted lemonade and now my fridge looks like a flower patch or bridal shower. If that’s not an auspicious start to lemonade season, I don’t know what is.

strawberries raspberriesblackberries strained berry purees

pink lemonade, three ways
pink lemonade, three pinks

One year ago: Carrot Salad with Tahini and Crisped Chickpeas
Two years ago: Lobster and Potato Salad
Three years ago: Rhubarb Snacking Cake
Four years ago: Spring Salad with New Potatoes
Five years ago: Strawberry Brown Butter Bettys
Six years ago: Strawberry Shortcakes
Seven years ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, plus the updated version
Eight years ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble (still the star of the Memorial Day weekend show, along with this lemonade)

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Twice-Baked Potatoes with Kale
1.5 Years Ago: Cauliflower with Brown Butter Crumbs2.5 Years Ago: Dijon-Braised Brussels Sprouts
3.5 Years Ago: Cauliflower-Feta Fritters with Pomegranate

Pink Lemonade

Yield: 1 generous quart or 4 to 4 1/4 cups

3 cups cold water
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
1 cup (about 5 ounces) fresh raspberries, blackberries or sliced strawberries
1 cup lemon juice (from 4 to 6 lemons, depending on size and juicer efficiency)

In a 1-liter carafe, combine water and 1/4 cup granulated sugar and shake it several times. Set this aside in the fridge to chill and dissolve while you prepare the other ingredients.

Combine your berry of choice with remaining tablespoon of sugar; it’s best to let the strawberries sit with the sugar for 10 minutes to get the color and juices flowing; blackberries and raspberries can be used right away. Blend the berries and sugar until fully pureed, and then a minute longer. Press through a fine-mesh strainer if you, like me, prefer your lemonade without seeds. You should have a generous 1/4 cup of each puree.

Remove sugar water carafe from the fridge; if sugar hasn’t fully dissolved, give it a few more shakes and it will. Add lemon juice and berry puree. For the pink hues you see above, use 1 tablespoon blackberry puree, 2 tablespoons raspberry puree or 4 tablespoons (or all) of the strawberry puree. If you don’t mind a dark red/purple color and want a stronger black- or raspberry flavor, you can use all of the puree. Extra puree makes an ideal yogurt or yogurt popsicle stir-in, or can be used for additional batches of pink lemonade, because this will go on repeat.

Give the carafe another shake, and drink right away or chill until your next picnic.

A whole bunch of things about lemonade, from an obsessive:

  • My magical lemonade formula: Despite the fact that we are shameless, unequivocal lemonade junkies around here, it has still taken me forever to find what I consider the ideal lemonade formula, one that was neither too sweet or diluted, and is in fact strong enough to hold up when poured over a glass of ice or finished, as I prefer it, with glugs of seltzer. I’ve auditioned it [3 cups water to 1 cup lemon juice and 1/3 cup granulated sugar] on lots of people this summer with little complaint, but I could also see some people enjoying it with as little as 1/4 cup or as much as 1/2 cup sugar. If you are not going to put yours on ice, you might like a splash or two of extra water.
  • Down with simple syrup! I also insisted that it be as quick to make as possible, and I did this by omitting the process of making simple syrup because who wants to cook and then cool down syrup when you could just sweetened the ‘ade directly and give it 15 minutes to dissolve with a couple shakes? Not me.
  • Gadget love: I realize that most people don’t invest in such ridiculous single-use devices as an electric citrus juicers, especially people with tiny kitchens, but ours has paid for itself ten times over in grapefruit, orange and lime juices as well in four years we’ve had it. Plus, it’s so effective, I routinely get a full cup of juice out of 3 1/2 juicy lemons. We have this one (because I had fond memories of my grandmother’s in Florida growing up, with the spout you could place you glass under and say “more please!”) but if I were buying it again today, I don’t think I could resist the price of this well-reviewed one instead.
  • Choosing lemons: I often find lemons on sale in netted bags that seem a little soft but are perfect inside. These are ideal for lemonade as the price is often reduced and I get a lot of juice out of each, more so than with the firmer ones that often tend to have thick skin and little flesh within. I also get more juice out of them if they’re at room temperature.
  • What to do with extra lemon peels: I love cooking with whole lemons (i.e. juice, flesh and peel) and there are a few recipes in the archives that highlight this: a Shaker Lemon Pie, a Whole Lemon Tart, Whole Lemon Bars (in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook), and this absolutely-due-for-a-refresh crazy good Strawberry-Lemon Sorbet. Alas, what you’ll have leftover is just the peels, which means there’s no time like the present to make gobs of candied lemon peels. This technique will work just fine with lemons, and if you don’t want to dip them in chocolate, just roll them in sugar when you’re done.
  • Planning ahead: If I know I’m going to want to make lemonade but am busy with other things, I’ll go ahead at put a carafe with just the water (3 cups) and sugar (1/3 cup) in the fridge to dissolve and chill whenever I think of it, and simple pour in the fresh juice at the last minute… or, you know, whenever I’m done putting the kid to work. [Another bonus of those electric juicers: a cinch of little hands to use. And fun. And less work for us!]
  • Carafes: Finally, those are 1 liter Weck juice jars. I love the charming double-clamp old-school jars for canning, but for actual food storage, I always buy additional plastic “keep fresh” covers. Perhaps less Pinterest-ready, but a lot less fussy for regular use, too.