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Nothing says “summer” quite like a glass of old-fashioned, freshly-squeezed Homemade Lemonade! With just 3 simple ingredients, this refreshing drink is the perfect balance of sweet and tart flavors. Stir up a pitcher for your next picnic — with one taste, you’ll never go back to the store-bought version again!

Two glasses of homemade lemonade garnished with fresh mint

Don’t let the summer pass you by without enjoying a glass of homemade lemonade from scratch! Once you understand the simple process and the easy lemonade ratio, you can adjust the quantity to serve a crowd, and you can tweak the ratio to suit your tastebuds. Sweet, tart, cold and thirst-quenching. What could be better on a hot day?

Why is it called lemonade?

Different versions of lemonade have been enjoyed around the world for centuries. The first known beverage of its kind originated in India with a drink made from lemons and sugarcane called nimbu pani. In the United States, we typically prepare “cloudy lemonade” or old-fashioned lemonade, which is non-carbonated and made with fresh lemon juice.

The term “lemonade” can refer to any variety of sweetened or unsweetened beverages, all of which are characterized by a predominantly lemon flavor. Lemonade is called “lemonade” (rather than “lemon juice” like “orange juice”) because it is a mixture of lemon juice, sugar and water. Similarly, when orange juice is mixed with water and sugar, it’s often called “orangeade.”

How to Make Homemade Lemonade from Scratch:

This post will show you how to make lemonade step-by-step, so that you can sip on your own icy cold glass of the sweet treat any time you like!

Ingredients for a Homemade Lemonade Recipe:

  • Lemons
  • Sugar
  • Water

The Lemonade Ratio:

A standard ratio of 1 cup of lemon juice to 1 cup of sugar added to 1 quart (4 cups) of water yields a perfectly sweet lemonade. Once you prepare this recipe, however, you can easily adjust the measurements to figure out your perfect ratio. I’ve included some suggestions for tweaking the drink in the notes below.

Step 1: Prepare the Simple Syrup

We use a traditional simple syrup to sweeten lemonade, because just dumping sugar into lemon juice will cause the sugar to fall to the bottom of the pitcher. If you want the sweetener blended smoothly into the rest of the beverage, a simple syrup is your best bet!

A classic simple syrup is made from one part water to one part sugar (1:1). White granulated sugar is the standard sweetener, but you can feel free to experiment with other sweeteners (like honey), keeping the ratio the same.

Here, you’ll make a lemon-flavored simple syrup by adding a couple of strips of lemon zest to the water and sugar mixture. Use a vegetable peeler to scrape off two strips of lemon zest, being careful to only remove the outer layer (where you’ll find all of those fruity, flavorful essential oils). Do not scrape off the white pith, which is very bitter!

Zesting a lemon on a cutting board

Place 1 cup of the water, 1 cup of sugar and the two lemon zest strips in a small saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat; cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Then remove the lemon zest from the pan and allow the lemon simple syrup to cool completely.

Simple syrup for lemonade

Step 2: Juice the Lemons

You need 1 cup of freshly-squeezed juice for this homemade lemonade. I like to use this citrus juicer to easily squeeze all of the lemons with no effort in about 1-2 minutes. It’s so sturdy and strong! The handy tool is also great for salad dressings, marinades, and any other dishes that call for fresh citrus juice. It’s easy to throw in the dishwasher when I’m done, too!

You can strain the pulp from the juice if you like, but I really enjoy the old-fashioned touch of pulp in my glass.

Freshly squeezed lemon juice in a glass measuring cup

Step 3: Stir

In a large pitcher, combine the remaining 3 cups of water, the lemon juice and the simple syrup.

Mixing a pitcher of lemonade
Square shot of two glasses of homemade lemonade with mint and lemons nearby

How to serve Lemonade:

Pour the lemonade over ice, garnishing the individual glasses with lemon wedges or sprigs of fresh mint. Some colorful straws add a touch of fun, too!

How to Properly Store Homemade Lemonade:

The fresh squeezed lemonade is good for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Do not leave a pitcher out at room temperature for more than a couple of hours (and definitely not overnight), because harmful bacteria may grow. That’s right — lemonade can go bad! Just keep it cold in the fridge, and give it a good stir or shake before serving each time.

To extend the life of your homemade lemonade, you can store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Remember that the liquid will expand when frozen, so allow a little bit of extra room in the container.

Two glasses of homemade lemonade with pink and white striped straws in each glass

How many lemons make a cup?

It can be helpful to know how many lemons you’ll need for 1 cup of juice. Unfortunately, there’s no specific answer! Different lemons yield different amounts of juice. A good rule of thumb is approximately 5-6 large lemons, 8 medium lemons, or 10-12 small lemons for 1 cup of juice.

Is it good to drink lemonade?

It’s good for the soul! While lemonade includes quite a bit of sugar, the lemon juice is also full of vitamins and minerals. You’ll get a good dose of Vitamin C (to strengthen your immune system and aid digestion and mineral absorption). When making homemade lemonade, you can control the sugar in your glass, which makes this recipe healthier than what you’ll typically find in restaurants and grocery stores.

Close up shot of a glass of homemade lemonade with two pink and white striped straws

Recipe Variations:

  • Add Water: if the lemonade tastes too sweet or too tart with the standard ratio, you can add at least 1-2 cups of water (or more) to the pitcher, until it reaches your preferred taste. I always start with less water, since you can easily add more if necessary.
  • Less Sugar: make the simple syrup with just ¾ cup of sugar for a slightly less-sweet glass of lemonade.
  • Homemade Lemonade with Honey: make the simple syrup with 1 cup of honey instead of granulated sugar. Since honey is sweeter than sugar, you may need to add extra water to your lemonade at the end.
  • Homemade Strawberry Lemonade: substitute 1 cup pureed, strained fresh strawberries for 1 cup water when making the simple syrup.
  • How to make Fizzy Lemonade: Make the simple syrup as instructed with regular water. Then stir together the simple syrup, lemon juice, and 3 cups (or more) of club soda or plain seltzer water.
  • Try a “Mocktail”: I love to mix the lemonade with flavored seltzer water. Try raspberry or strawberry for a fun mid-afternoon “mocktail” on a hot day!
  • Big Batch Lemonade Recipe: To prepare a larger batch of the homemade lemonade, simply multiply all of the ingredients. For instance, double the recipe by using 8 cups of water, 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of lemon juice.
  • Lemonade from Bottled Lemon Juice: while freshly-squeezed lemon juice is always best, you can also make this recipe using bottled lemon juice. It just won’t have quite as fresh a taste, so it’s not my preference.
Pouring a glass of homemade lemonade from a pitcher
Two glasses of homemade lemonade garnished with fresh mint

Homemade Lemonade

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Chilling Time 4 hours
Total: 4 hours 20 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 138 kcal
Nothing says "summer" quite like a glass of old-fashioned, freshly-squeezed homemade lemonade. It's made from scratch with just 3 simple ingredients!

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups water, divided
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 lemon zest strips
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • Optional garnish: lemon slices; fresh mint

Instructions

Make the Lemon Simple Syrup:

  • In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of water, sugar and lemon zest strips to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat; discard lemon zest. Allow to cool completely.

Stir together Lemonade:

  • In a large pitcher, combine the remaining 3 cups of water, lemon juice and simple syrup. Taste and add extra water, if necessary. Serve over ice and garnish with lemon slices and fresh mint.

Notes

  • Add Water: if the lemonade tastes too sweet or too tart with the standard ratio, you can add at least 1-2 cups of water (or more) to the pitcher, until it reaches your preferred taste. I always start with less water, since you can easily add more if necessary.
  • Less Sugar: you can make the simple syrup with just ¾ cup of sugar for a slightly less-sweet glass of lemonade.
  • Homemade Lemonade with Honey: make the simple syrup with 1 cup of honey instead of granulated sugar. Since honey is sweeter than sugar, you may need to add extra water to your lemonade at the end.
  • Homemade Strawberry Lemonade: substitute 1 cup pureed, strained fresh strawberries for 1 cup water when making the simple syrup.
  • How to make Fizzy Lemonade: Make the simple syrup as instructed with regular water. Then stir together the simple syrup, lemon juice, and 3 cups (or more) of club soda or plain seltzer water.
  • Try a “Mocktail”: I love to mix the lemonade with flavored seltzer water — such as raspberry or strawberry — for a fun mid-afternoon “mocktail” on a hot day!
  • Big Batch Lemonade Recipe: To prepare a larger batch of the homemade lemonade, simply multiply all of the ingredients. For instance, double the recipe by using 8 cups of water, 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of lemon juice.
  • Lemonade from Bottled Lemon Juice: while freshly-squeezed lemon juice is always best, you can also make this recipe using bottled lemon juice. It just won’t have quite as fresh a taste, so it’s not my preference.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/6 of the recipeCalories: 138kcalCarbohydrates: 36gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 1mgPotassium: 42mgFiber: 1gSugar: 34gVitamin C: 16mgCalcium: 2mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: easy lemonade recipe, Homemade Lemonade, lemonade recipe
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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