How to Make the Best Southern-Style Lemonade
Next to sweet tea, a tall glass of lemonade is one of the most refreshing ways to cool off during the South's hot and humid summer months. And just like sweet tea, the best lemonade starts out with hot water.
Everyone knows that lemonade is made with water, sugar, and freshly squeezed (yes, you've got to use fresh lemons!) lemon juice. But you can't just put all of those ingredients in a pitcher and stir them up. Sugar doesn't dissolve easily in cold water. No matter how hard you stir, you will still be left with a layer of sugar at the bottom of the pitcher. Why is why you have to make a simple syrup. Combine equal parts sugar and very hot water and stir until the mixture is clear, then let it cool.
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For an extra hit of lemon, you can add a pinch of fresh lemon zest to the simple syrup. You can also add a few sprigs of fresh herbs (rosemary, basil, or mint are all nice options) to the warm simple syrup and let it steep until the mixture cools. Remove and discard the herbs before using the syrup. Or, if you'd like to make pink lemonade, stir in ¼ cup pureed fresh or frozen strawberries for each 1 cup of simple syrup.
Once the simple syrup has cooled, all you have to do is combine it with your preferred ratio of cold water and fresh lemon juice. Some people love super-sweet lemonade, while others prefer it on the puckery side. However you like it, add the water gradually so you don't overdo it. You want the flavor to be somewhat concentrated so that when you pour the lemonade over ice, it won't become diluted and watery tasting.