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When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

lemonade stand

Every summer the best of American capitalism is reborn when our children set up shop to sell lemonade. These youthful entrepreneurs seem to catch on to the spirit of things by the ripe old age somewhere not quite ready for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. It bodes well for their future, and ours too.

My own daughter Gillian was 11 years old when she and her friend Dana established their lemonade stand for the July 4th holiday one year. They wanted the best possible stuff, so they made real, from scratch lemonade rather than an instant drink made from packaged crystals.

They used my recipe. My old standby lemonade recipe, once written on paper tattered and lemon juice spotted, but now happily safe in a file on my computer.

At first, sales weren’t so good. They placed their stand in our driveway. Unfortunately, our driveway was down a hill, way off the road. The only cars that passed by belonged to our three neighbors. And after all, how much lemonade can three neighbors (plus two parents and a sister) drink?

So I said it would be okay for them to go to the end of the road. I had to keep an eye out for them there, but it was worth it of course. Not only did they sell lemonade to actual customers, not just the people you know who want to be supportive, but they felt encouraged and successful. It was a happy day all around.

They tried it a few more times and must have learned a thing or two. Today, both are successful businesswomen. Dana Rywelski owns Doodle Doo’s, a haircutting salon for children (in New York and Florida). Gillian has launched Lalalunchbox, an App designed for parents and children to pick lunch items to pack for school.

But business considerations aside, who -- child or grownup -- doesn’t love a glass of good lemonade? For kids it’s a sweet treat, a break from milk or juice. For us, cold, sweet-sour lemonade is at once quenching and refreshing and also stirs memories of days gone by, in lazy summers, when we were kids.

It has to be good lemonade to be all that though.


Old Fashioned Lemonade

That’s really easy to do, fortunately. You can make a quick version by pouring some fresh-squeezed lemon juice into a glass, stirring in sugar to taste, then adding water and ice cubes.

The better way is to cook lemon-sugar syrup, keep it in reserve in the fridge and mix some syrup with water to make “instant” lemonade when you need it.

In our family, we love lemonade simple: lemon syrup with water. But you can tinker with such a straightforward recipe, and I have done that many times over the years. I’ve made this recipe using honey, agave and maple syrup instead of sugar. I’ve substituted seltzer, black and green tea and fruit juice for at least some of the water I use to dilute the drink. And a couple of times I mixed the syrup with buttermilk – which makes a vibrant, tangy, refreshing beverage that is perfect for a scorching day. I’ve jazzed up the syrup by infusing the cooking liquid with a chunk of fresh ginger. And spiced the drink with a shake or two of cinnamon or freshly grated nutmeg. When the kids come I might add a touch of pink using a teaspoon or two of maraschino cherry juice. For after hours, for the adults, well, spiked lemonade is a big winner – just add tequila, white sparkling wine or a nice red Burgundy.

Lemonade Cupcakes with Lemonade Frosting

Lemonade Cupcakes with Lemonade Frosting

Get in the spirit this summer! Make your own lemonade stand in the fridge. These recipes are here to help. And by the way, lemonade syrup can go a long, long way beyond beverage. I also use it as a base for moist, tangy cupcakes and creamy lemon-flavored frosting.

For those who like a slushy, frozen beverage-as-dessert, there’s frozen lemonade, sort of like sorbet. After you cool and strain the lemon  syrup mixture, place the liquid in an ice cream maker and freeze it choice for a hot summer day.

Old Fashioned Lemonade

Lemonade Cupcakes with Lemonade Frosting