Photo: Hector Sanchez

Dreary winter days? Not around here.

It is a Southern paradox: while the weather outside may be completely uninspiring and bleak, the most bright and cheery fruits of our region are in season. Citrus, like little orbs of all-natural Prozac, hang heavy on trees in groves and backyards from Texas to Florida in winter, and January is peak time for many varieties that grow here—one of those being Meyer lemons.

Related: 21 New Ways to Enjoy Sweet Tea

Smooth with an almost surreal sunny gold color, Meyer lemons make for a more mellow lemon taste in everything from vinaigrettes to sweet tea. When they make an occasional appearance in markets up North, people go just about as nuts over them as when Lilly Pulitzer's budget line debuted at Target. Luckily, they aren’t so rare of a find at grocery stores and farmer’s markets down here. But don’t take them for granted right when they’re at their best. While they may cost a smidge more than conventional lemons, used the right way, they’re well worth it.

Try these easy, no-recipe-required ways to make the most of Meyer lemon season.

Mix a Meyer Lemon Gin and Tonic
Add a few tablespoons of Meyer lemon juice to your gin and tonic. If you want to follow our favorite ratios, try 2 oz. of Bristow Gin, .75 oz. of Jack Rudy Tonic, and 4 to 5 oz. of soda water. Take it one step further and add a sprig of mint or a teaspoon or two of grenadine or El Guapo’s rose cordial. You can also try using Meyer lemon juice instead of regular lemon juice in a Tom Collins.

Related: Meyer Lemon Sponge Pudding Recipe

Whip Up a Whole Lemon Vinaigrette
The next time you make a lemon vinaigrette, emulsify half a Meyer lemon with the rind still on. It will add even more flavor from the oils hiding in the rind. Just make sure to discard the seeds beforehand.

Spread on a Meyer Lemon Relish
The perfect topping for fish or chicken, just dice up 1 peeled Meyer lemon with shallot, garlic, fresh herbs, and season with red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper.

Serve Roasted Veggies and Meyer Lemon Slices
Once you’ve roasted a sheet pan full of veggies like cauliflower, potatoes, and/or broccoli until almost done, turn on your broiled and throw a lemon’s worth of slices in with them. The broiler will create some nice caramelization on both the veggies and lemons, and the Meyers will add a bit of brightness.

Pour on Meyer Lemon Simple Syrup
Make your sweet tea all fancy by sweetening it with a syrup made of equal parts sugar and Meyer Lemon juice the way you would make a regular simple syrup.