Got lemons? Like to be happy? Lemonade is often the answer. Summer’s quintessential drink gets even more interesting and flavorful when infused with herbs. If you haven’t yet attempted to spruce up your lemonade, you must give it a try. Almost any of your favorite herbs will do; you can also combine them with your favorite floral notes or summer fruit—peach and thyme, strawberry and hibiscus, rosemary and… you see where I’m going! The possibilities are endless. A few of my favorite combinations include sage with mint, tarragon with basil, lavender with rose, berries with mint, and strawberries with basil.
1 cup cane sugar
1 cup water
¼ cup (or more) choice of fresh herb(s), plus more for serving
2-3 cups lemon juice
5 cups (or more) water*
Thin lemon slices (optional)
To make simple syrup, bring sugar and water to boil. Simmer and stir until all sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow herb(s) and/or flowers to steep for 30 minutes to an hour and allow to cool to room temperature. If you won’t be using it immediately, cover in an airtight container or jar and refrigerate until ready to use.
Remove infused leaves from simple syrup and combine cooled syrup with lemon juice and water. If you’re only making a small pitcher of lemonade you likely will not need to use all of the syrup. In a large pitcher, start with about ½ cup simple syrup, 1 cup lemon juice and 3 cups water. Then adjust sweetness and tartness to your taste preference by adding more syrup, lemon juice or water. Note that when you add ice it will dilute your drink.
Serve over ice and garnish with herbs and lemon slices, if desired.
To add fruits, you can either steep whole berries or fruit pieces in simple syrup then add to lemonade; or purée fruit, strain and add to lemonade; or simply add fresh pieces of fruit to your lemonade.
For example, strawberry-basil lemonade can be made a few different ways. In the past I’ve always made my lemonade then added fresh strawberries and basil leaves to my pitcher. Now, however, I prefer to infuse the basil leaves in the simple syrup and then add fresh strawberries to the pitcher. Another way could be to infuse the syrup with basil and strawberries, then add the simple syrup and strawberries to the lemonade. At this point I’d discard the basil leaves that were infused and add fresh leaves to the pitcher.
To make lavender and rose lemonade, infuse a teaspoon lavender with a teaspoon of food grade rose petals into simple syrup. For hibiscus lemonade, infuse 1-2 teaspoons hibiscus petals into simple syrup.
*Try making infused lemonades with sparkling water.