Summer is not the same without lemonade. Squeezing dozens of lemons isn't something I'm going to do every day - but every now and then, it's so worth it. This is the best homemade lemonade, and the basis for one of my favorite simple summer cocktails.
It's not quite summer yet, but we sure have had some lovely spring weather around here. The kind of weather that makes you think of cold, refreshing lemonade!
One of my kids has recently decided that she doesn't want to drink much. It's a whole long story about night wetting, and really trying to stay dry, and her making the connection about drinking = wetting, and so refusing to drink. But refusing to drink much also leads to some other problematic stopped up type bathroom issues which aren't too fun for a little kid (which actually contribute to wetting), which I don't need to go into any more than that (because bathroom stuff = TMI on a food page!).
So anyway, long story made even longer... I have been trying to get creative about coming up with things that she really wants to drink. And she LOVES lemonade. But store bought lemonade has so much sugar! Even the good brands, and the organic brands, it's just so much processed sugar. And it gets expensive after a while. And most recipes you read call for cups and cups of white sugar too.
I wanted to come up with my own that didn't have as much highly processed white sugar in it - so I created this recipe that is sweetened mostly with honey. Of course it's still sugar in some form, but at least it's not so much of the white stuff. I did try this with all honey, but in order to get the right balance of sweetness with the lemons I personally thought it ended up with too strong of a honey flavor for a child's palette. So I balanced it out with a little organic sugar.
5-6 cups of water (or more)
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 pounds of medium lemons)
1 cup of honey
1/2 cup raw or organic sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a small saucepan, combine honey, sugar, salt, and 1 cup of water.
Don't let the salt worry you - it does not taste salty. Just a little salt brings out the flavor in everything -it's the secret ingredient in a lot of sweet treats.
Let this simmer until all the sugar and honey are dissolved and well combined. You're basically making a honey simple syrup here.
Once you get that going, squeeze your lemons.
After you've got a few lemons squeezed, put a few of the squeezed out halves in your pot of simmering syrup. This will give your syrup an extra little kick of lemon flavor.
Watch that pot carefully, honey can boil over really quickly! Just keep it on very low so the heat can help extract that lemon flavor, while you work on squeezing the rest of your lemons.
Take the syrup off the stove, strain out the lemons, and add 1 1/2 cups of fresh squeezed lemon juice.
Now - STOP!
What you have is an amazing and wonderful lemon honey syrup mixture.
This right here is the basis for a fabulous cocktail! So set aside a quarter cup or so of this mixture and save it for later. Mix a tablespoon of this with an ounce of your favorite bourbon or other liquor, shake with ice, pour into a glass and top with a splash of soda (We make ours in a SodaStream, and we love it!). It's a fabulous cocktail and you surely earned it after squeezing all those lemons!
Or for something a little different - you can use that lemon syrup mixture to make an awesome lemon soda! Just mix to your liking with sparkling water for a super refreshing and slightly more sophisticated thirst quencher, without alcohol.
OK. Back to the lemonade...
After you've set aside a bit for yourself, you should have about 3 cups or so of the lemon honey syrup mixture. You'll notice that this is not a pure yellow color like most lemonade, because the combination of the honey and the organic sugar are going to give it a more golden color. I personally think that looks really pretty!
Pour this in a big pitcher or jar and add 4 or more cups of cold water - this is the part that is really up to your personal taste. If you want a very strong and sweet lemonade, add less water. If you want it more diluted then add more water.
For my kids I serve it pretty diluted and they still love it - it helps get them hydrated and actually isn't all that much sugar when you do the math (a cup and a half of honey + sugar, diluted across 6-8 cups of water).
It's so refreshing over ice! Enjoy!