You know the phrase “When life gives you lemons make lemonade?” Well, it’s bullsh*t. We did the research and it turns out some carnival barker just really liked lemonade and tried to scam everyone around him into making it, in some weird display of carnival social-hierarchy dominance. We also learned that the politics of Carnival socialization are quite complex. Now, partaking in your own google search might yield you different results entirely. You may find that the phrase was actually first used by a Christian Anarchist (sure sounds real) named Elbert Hubbard in an obituary he wrote about an American actor, Marshall Pinckney Wilder. But you decide which sounds more like a real story!
**Narrator: It’s the second one.**
Regardless, today marks the fifth day of summer and nothing compliments rising temperatures like a nice glass of lemonade. And of course, like most beverages we loved to drink as children, lemonade is vastly improved with alcohol. So we thought we’d offer you the five best store-bought lemonades, ranked, and five easy cocktail recipes to go with them. Why only five? Because, believe it or not, a good lemonade is hard to find — probably because of the legal troubles getting involved with the lemonade biz brings about.
These drinks are nothing complicated. They’re designed to be thrown together quickly and once you’ve made them once they’ll be easy enough to eyeball when you inevitably make them again. Here are the lemonades ranked from delicious enough to make you double-take the label to straight up palatal ecstasy. Yes, we are taking it that seriously.
5. Hubert’s Lemonade
Hubert’s has a longer ingredients list than we like and uses a blend of sugar and stevia for a lower-calorie lemonade, but the assault of tart on the taste buds makes for an expressive mixer that pairs so well with the complexities of a good bourbon.
Muddle some peppermint leaves at the bottom of a highball glass, its important to work the oils out of the leaves (its okay to remove the sprigs if you’d like but we find they’re a nice visual addition to the drink). One to two shots of bourbon, a generous splash of lemon-lime soda, ice, and fill it up with Hubert’s, garnishing with lemon slices and mint!
This is a nice sweet and fizzy drink that balances well with the oakey earthy tones of bourbon and the overwhelming tart of the Hubert’s. The mint gives it a refreshing after taste that lingers on the palate, but feel free to get more adventurous has Hubert’s also makes a good Blackberry, Peach, and Watermelon lemonade that would pair just as nicely.
- In a highball glass
- 1 1/2 oz – 2 1/2 oz Bourbon
- 1/2 a cup of lemonade
- generous splash of Lemon-Lime Soda
- Garnish with mint
4. Newman’s Own Virgin Lemonade
Newman’s Own has a simpler ingredients list than Hubert’s giving it a cleaner, more citrusy taste. The addition of lemon oil is an interesting touch that give this particular lemonade that “worked-for” homemade taste. We are going to use that oil to our advantage!
Pair this lemonade with 1-2 shots of mezcal (you can use tequila but the smokiness of the mezcal adds an interesting complexity) some lime juice, and a splash of ginger beer. The higher quality ginger beer, the better. I like to use Bundaberg but really any ginger-ale is fine. This drink is sweet, tangy, and smoky and the lemon oil, lime juice, and ginger essence delights both your sense of taste and smell.
- 1 1/2 oz – 2 1/2 oz of Mezcal
- Juice of one lime
- splash of ginger beer
- 4-6 oz of Newman’s Own Virgin Lemonade
- Combine in a shaker with ice and shake and pour into glass.
- Garnish with a lemon or lime slice
3. Simply Lemonade with Blueberry
Simply Lemonade is one of the most visible brands at the market and one of the best. The ingredients are simple: pure filtered water, cane sugar, lemon juice, blueberry puree, and natural flavors. When shopping for a lemonade it’s best to make sure the ingredients list is as short as possible. It doesn’t have the lemon oil or pulp of Newman’s Own, or the overwhelming tart of Hubert’s, but Simply Lemonade takes a less-is-more approach and, as a result, you’re left with a lemonade that tastes less artificial.
With this particular lemonade, a gin punch with cucumber is a nice fit. The simplicity of ingredients balances well and the flavors all have their moment to shine as they mingle together on the palate.
Grab a rocks glass, muddle some sliced cucumber in it and fill it up with ice. Add one to two shots of gin (depending on how strong you want it) and fill the glass up with Simply Lemonade with Blueberry. Garnish it with a nice lemon or cucumber slice.
You should be able to taste the oils of the cucumber giving each sip a crisp aftertaste that lingers perfectly with the sweetness of the blueberry and tart of the lemon. This works nicely with the light floral taste of Bombay Sapphire Gin but feel free to use your favorite.
Blueberry Cucumber Gin Punch
- 1-3 slices of cucumber muddled
- 1 1/2 -2 1/2 oz of gin
- Fill Glass with Ice
- Blueberry Lemonade
- Garnish w/ cucumber slices and/or lemon
2. Me & the Bee’s Lemonade
Remember when I said good lemonade was hard to find? This is what I meant. Me & the Bee’s is hands down the best lemonade you’ll ever drink from the bottle. It’s also only in a few markets and online, making it the most difficult lemonade to find on this list. They sweeten every bottle with local honey and cane sugar and add mint and flaxseed, making it probably the healthiest lemonade you’ll ever drink, too — gotta get those Omega-3s. Every bottle sold has a portion of the proceeds going directly to organizations that are helping to save the honey bees.
The flavor of Me & the Bee’s is so unique for a commercial lemonade, you can taste the care and love in each bottle, and this gives it the edge over the aforementioned brands.
Because we are dealing with rich and bold flavors we need to make an equally bold cocktail. In a 16 oz glass, muddle a few thin slices of jalapeño — make sure you remove the seeds, add a dash of cayenne pepper, a shot or two of vodka and about 8 oz of lemonade. Stir the ingredients together and pour over a glass of ice for a refreshingly bold summer cocktail that will have you salivating between each spicy drink. The strong flavors of this drink will dance on your palate long after your last sip, but chances are the spice will encourage you to mix another. The perfect party day-time drink for bbq’s, hanging out pool-side, or relaxing in the shade.
Spicy Vodka Lemonade
In a 16 oz glass:
- muddle 3 slices of Jalapeño
- 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 oz of vodka
- Dash of cayenne pepper
- 8 oz of Me & the Bee’s Lemonade
- Stir ingredients together and serve in another glass over ice. Garnish with pineapple, or lemon.
1. Homemade Lemonade
Okay so we are clearly cheating with this one, but technically you’re buying lemons and sugar at the market, so this IS store bought lemonade. Right?
Listen, nothing beats the homemade flavor of lemonade, the oil from the peels, the pulp, the satisfaction of putting the work in for such a delicious result! Homemade lemonade has none of the artificiality of the store bought brands and you can always elevate your home-brew with whatever ingredients you’re feeling in the moment.
Remember what we said earlier, simple ingredients make a good lemonade. This one couldn’t be easier, all you need is: 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups of lemon juice, 1 1/2 cups of sugar dissolved in about a cup of boiling water, and 6-8 cups of water depending on how tangy you want it. It’s that easy, three ingredients. And it’ll be some of the best tasting lemonade you’ll ever have, we promise. Throw in some flax seeds and mint and you’ll be rivaling Me & the Bee’s!
Since we made our lemonade from scratch, we might as well keep mixing. Grab a bottle of white wine (go for a drier wine) and pour it into a pitcher along with a can of lemon-lime soda. Add about 12 oz’s of your freshly squeezed lemonade and a cup of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, and lemon and orange slices. Stir all the ingredients together and let it marinate in the refrigerator overnight for the perfect summer drink: a berry-lemonade sangria.
Berry Lemonade Sangria
- 1 bottle of White Wine
- 1 can of lemon-lime soda
- 12 oz’s lemonade
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup blackberries
- 1 cup raspberries
- Lemon slice and orange slices
- Stir and marinate over night.