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How to Make Fresh Lemonade

Updated March 19, 2020
What’s more refreshing than a cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day? From choosing, cutting, squeezing and serving, we share the best way to make fresh lemonade.


Ahhh. That sound you make when a cold glass of lemonade quenches your thirst. There are plenty of powdered and concentrated products out there to make lemonade as easy as adding water, but it’s far more rewarding (and delicious!) to make fresh lemonade from scratch. And believe it or not, homemade lemonade requires just three simple ingredients and no time at all to come together.

What is Lemonade?

Lemonade is a simple beverage characterized by its lemon flavor. The main ingredients consist of lemon juice, sugar and water.

There are two distinct types of lemonade: cloudy vs. clear. Classic American-style lemonade is considered cloudy lemonade whereas clear lemonade is a carbonated soft drink with lemon flavor typically found in the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. You can make your own clear lemonade by adding carbonated water to American-style lemonade to make it fizzy.

Is lemonade healthy? It depends on your definition of healthy. Fresh lemon juice contains high levels of vitamin C and is often considered a detoxifying food that’s good for digestion, but adding it to the large amounts of sugar used to make lemonade, in my opinion, sort of nullifies that. You could use honey, an unrefined sweetener, in place of the sugar as it is sometimes considered a healthier option, but our bodies see all forms of sugar the same. If you’re truly looking for something healthy, you may just want to stick with adding lemon to water, which is, in fact, quite healthy!

Peak lemon season is during the winter months, so making lemonade from scratch is probably freshest during the winter—not ideal for Midwesterners and others with cold winters, who often see lemonade at potlucks and picnics during the summer, but even off-season lemons can make delicious homemade lemonade.

Different Types of Lemonade

There are several variations that can be made by adding additional ingredients to a classic scratch lemonade recipe. Pink lemonade is made by adding red juice to such as cranberry, strawberry or syrup like grenadine to traditional lemonade. Ginger lemonade can be made by adding a few slices of fresh ginger root—you can even make lavender lemonade by adding in dried lavender.

Other tasty add-ins include:

  • Fresh herbs (rosemary, basil or mint leaves)
  • Fruits (blackberries, melon or kiwi)
  • Fresh fruit juices (watermelon juice, or peaches that have been blended or juiced)

How to Choose the Perfect Lemon

The lemon itself is a magical ingredient. It has endless uses in the kitchen and the home, from brightening up savory dishes to bringing out a tart sweetness in desserts—it can even be used to keep your home fresh and clean!

In order to choose the perfect lemon, simply squeeze the fruit gently. Lemons that give a little when squeezed will contain more juice than their firmer counterparts. You also want lemons with smooth, bright yellow skin. When lemons are underripe, they may contain some green patches. Overripe lemons are dried out and have dull, wrinkly skin and harden quite a bit.

Pro Tip: You can make a lemon easier to juice by microwaving it straight out of the fridge for 20 seconds. Let cool 1 minute before slicing into it.

How to Store Lemons

If you plan to use your lemons a few days after purchasing, it’s safe to store them on the countertop. However, if you need them to last more than a few days, Cook’s Illustrated recommends putting them in a resealable plastic bag and storing them in the refrigerator. In their tests, Cook’s Illustrated found the lemons they stored this way lost no moisture for four weeks, keeping them much fresher than the one week they lasted in the crisper without a plastic bag.

How to Cut, Prepare and Squeeze Lemons

In order to get the most juice out of your lemons, there are a few tips to remember.

1. After storing your lemons in the refrigerator inside a resealable plastic bag, remove one and microwave it for 20 seconds. Let cool 1 minute before slicing. If you’d rather not microwave your lemon, you can roll it on the countertop with the palm of your hand and push gently to soften it.

Roll lemon with the palm of your hand

2. If you don’t have a citrus press or reamer, there are a few methods to follow. You can slice the lemon lengthwise to create more surface area to squeeze with your hands.

Slice the lemon lengthwise

You can also cut in half crosswise and use a fork as a citrus reamer to help get more juice out when you squeeze the lemon halves.

Use a fork to squeeze the lemon

3. A citrus press is my favorite way to press lemons with minimal effort. It also perfectly catches the seeds and allows to the lemon juice to pass right through.

Use a citrus press to juice a lemon

If you’re squeezing lemons with your hands, you can hold a lemon half in one hand upside down to keep the seeds in the rind, or you can turn it right side up and hold your other hand underneath to catch the seeds.

Squeeze a lemon with your hands

You can also try removing many of the seeds before squeezing. When all else fails, simply fish the seeds out of the juice with a spoon or clean fingers.

How to Make Lemonade



  • 3 1/2 cups water 
  • 2/3 sugar 
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (from 4 to 6 lemons) 
  • Lemon slices, berries, fresh herbs and/or ice, if desired

Step 1:

In 1-quart saucepan, heat 1 cup of the water and the sugar to boiling. Stir until sugar dissolves. Allow to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Heat water and sugar to boiling

Step 2:

In pitcher, mix sugar-water mixture, lemon juice and remaining 2 1/2 cups water. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Add ice; serve with lemon slices, berries, and/or fresh herbs if desired.

Mix water, sugar-water and lemon juice

Get Recipe: Lemonade

How to Garnish Lemonade

An easy way to dress up lemonade is to garnish the glasses or the pitcher. Garnish glasses by slicing the ends off each side of the lemon, slicing the lemon in half lengthwise and then making small, half-moon slices to perch on the side of each glass. We love to garnish the pitcher with extra lemon rounds.

Slice lemons

Our Favorite Lemonade Recipes