Kirk Spencer thought he could post a lemonade recipe and I wouldn’t notice. But I most certainly did and that’s why I’m reposting it here in continuation of our summer of refreshing beverage recipes. Take it away Kirk:
An old fashioned sports drink
I speak, of course, of lemonade. No, there’s no salt in the basic recipe. But there is a host of electrolytes from the lemon, lots of water, and sugar. At first, it seems to not be a perfect sports drink. As a summer thirst quencher, however, it’s pretty good.
Let me start with the classic recipe. (Yes, I’ve got this in my grandmother’s book, but I’ve seen it in civil war period recipe collections as well. I suspect we can chase it further back than that, but I’m not going there right now.) The classic is simple: six lemons, six cups of water, one cup of sugar. (My grandmother’s recipe: juice of six lemons, equal part sugar, another six parts water.)
First things first – this is too sweet for me. My very first change is to reduce the sugar to 3/4 cup. I also add a quarter teaspoon of salt.
When I make this, I make a simple syrup of the sugar and one cup of water. As soon as the water’s dissolved, I add the lemon juice. (Another side note – I don’t usually use fresh lemons. I’ve discovered that unless I keep the pulp and use some of the zest, nobody seems to be able to tell the difference in a blind taste test.) Once the juice is added I pour it over two cups of ice. (I fill pint containers with water and keep them in the freezer for this and for iced tea making as it cools the hot liquid down FAST.) Once the ice has cooled the liquid I add another three cups of water, stir, and serve.
Now, I’m going to take the rest of this post in two different directions. First, I’m going to play with variations for taste. Then I’m going to pursue this as a sports drink, noting its strengths and weaknesses. So go with the part that interests you.
As I said, I add that quarter teaspoon of salt. Nobody seems to be able to taste the salt itself, but it plays its catalytic role quite well. I’ve used both cloves and peppers for this as well, and while they both work they also get noticed more than salt.
Wait, peppers? Yep. ONE jalapeno, seeded, crushed, and added to the sugar and water while making the syrup. Add the lemon juice, remove the pepper. Along with the bit of heat (that seems to unlock the taste buds for everything else) you get this hint of a fruitiness.
I’ve also used an addition of a bit of ginger and cinnamon sticks and mint leaves. Partial (or full) replacement of lime or grapefruit also works. If you add a touch of grenadine to the regular lemonade you get “pink” lemonade – yes, it’s that simple. You can use a bit (or a lot) of milk for part of the water. In Brazil, sweetened condensed milk is used in place of the simple syrup. If you have it, try using a cup of coconut milk in place of a cup of the water. Maybe a juice (cranberry? peach? mango?) as partial swap for the water could be tried. The point is there is no reason to be wedded only to lemon and sugar. It makes a great base — don’t be hesitant to try something different. Remember that in the end it is YOUR taste buds that matter.
Here’s the big deal, though, and why it works so well. First, it’s cold, it’s wet, and it tastes good, which means people are willing to drink it and drink a lot of it when their hot and sweaty. Replacing the water lost through sweat is The Big Deal. But lemonade does a bit more. Yes, we’re headed into sports drink regions.