Summer is the time for fresh-squeezed lemonade, and spiking it transforms the refreshing beverage into an adults-only delight. This spiked lemonade recipe is best with light rum or vodka and features a homemade lemon zest syrup for extra flavor. It's made by the pitcher, too. You'll have plenty to share or keep in the fridge for a quick cocktail.
Some people like a stronger lemonade while others prefer it slightly alcoholic, so this recipe is adaptable. As you fill the pitcher, you can build a balance of flavors that perfectly suit your taste. In general, lemonade is made with 1 part each of simple syrup and lemon juice and 2 to 3 parts of water. When spiking lemonade, the liquor replaces a portion of the water (in the recipe, it's about 1/2 part).
Lemon wheels are great, but you can also get creative with the garnish and give your lemonade a pop of color and flavor. Lime slices, fresh berries, and seasonal fruits are easy and fun additions. Or add a herbal sprig to each glass: basil, lavender, and rosemary are perfect for lemonade.
- 5 1/2 to 6 cups water (divided; to taste)
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 6 to 8 lemons
- 1/2 to 1 cup light rum or vodka (chilled; to taste)
- Garnish: lemon slices and seasonal fruits
Gather the ingredients.
In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add the sugar and lemon zest and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Heat for about 5 minutes in total, then remove from heat and let the lemon syrup cool completely.
While the syrup cools, juice the lemons. Remove the pulp and seeds by pouring the juice through a fine-mesh strainer. Chill until ready to make lemonade.
Blend the lemonade in a pitcher. Add 1/2 cup of rum or vodka, 1 cup each of the lemon syrup and lemon juice, and 2 cups of cold water: stir and taste. Add more liquor, syrup, juice, and water in proportionate intervals as you fill the pitcher and adjust the sweet, sour, and strength to your taste. Chill the lemonade for at least 1 hour, or until needed.
When ready to serve, pour the spiked lemonade into ice-filled glasses. Garnish with lemon slices and seasonal fruits. Enjoy.
- The recipe produces 2 cups of lemon syrup which is a little more than you may need for the lemonade. Store any excess in a jar or bottle in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Top it with soda for a quick homemade lemon soda. It also works as the syrup for a lemon drop martini and a sour mix substitute in cocktails.
- Six average-sized lemons yield about 1 1/2 cups of juice. It's a good idea to have a few extra lemons around so you can add more juice if needed.
- Make the lemonade's flavor a little strong because it will dilute slightly when served over ice.
- When the pitcher of lemonade is out of the fridge, keep it cold with large ice cubes. These will dilute more slowly than smaller pieces of ice.
- Switch to your favorite type of sugar; raw or coconut sugar creates a more richly flavored syrup. Agave nectar can replace the syrup, and honey syrup works well, too.
- If you want to make a pitcher of nonalcoholic lemonade and spike it by the glass, use about 1 1/2 ounces of liquor for 4 to 5 ounces of lemonade.
- Muddle fresh berries in each glass then top it with the spiked lemonade.
- Make sparkling lemonade by topping each glass with soda water. You can add it to the pitcher but it will go flat over time; add any carbonated mixer just before serving.
Which Liquors Go Best With Lemonade?
Rum and vodka are the best liquors for a neutral-flavored lemonade that will appeal to various tastes. They're not your only options. As the Lynchburg lemonade and other cocktails prove, some whiskies work as well. Stick with Tennessee whiskey, bourbon, or blended whiskey; scotch is not a great choice unless it's in a more complex mix like the witch hunt. Tequila will work, but you might want to switch to limeade or a mix of lemon and lime juices. Liqueurs are another option: Try a brandy-based orange liqueur (e.g., Grand Marnier) or split the main liquor with hazelnut liqueur. For a flavored rum or vodka, all types of berries, coconut, and ginger pair best with lemons.
How Strong Is the Spiked Lemonade
This spiked lemonade is not very strong at all. If you blend a full cup of 80-proof liquor into a 60-ounce pitcher, the lemonade's alcohol content will fall around 5 percent ABV (10 proof). That's equivalent to the average beer.