Homemade Lemonade

Learn how to make the perfect sweet-tart lemonade recipe for the hottest days.

Southern Living Classic Lemonade in a pitcher to serve with ice and lemon slices

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
25 mins

When the summer sun is beating down and sweat is drip, drip, dripping down your brow, lemonade is the only drink that will refresh you and quench your thirst. This homemade lemonade recipe comes together quickly, calls for just three ingredients, and is easy to make to your tastes. Once you have homemade lemonade, you'll never buy bottled again.

Here, learn how to make homemade lemonade from scratch, including a really flavorful secret for the most lemon flavor in your drink.

Homemade Lemonade Ingredients

Lemonade requires just three ingredients, one of which is fresh lemons that we're using in three different ways for the best lemon flavor.

  • Sugar, water, and lemon zest: Most lemonade recipes call for making a classic simple syrup, then adding lemon juice and water. Our lemonade is going for the most lemon flavor, so you'll add lemon zest to the simple syrup mixture, and simmer it all to pull out even more lemon flavor.
  • Lemon juice: Fresh lemon juice is ideal, as it has the best flavor—and that's important for excellent lemonade. In a pinch, you can use the bottled kind.
  • Lemon slices: Finish the glasses of lemonade with lemon slices. One benefit of having them? As the ice dilutes the lemonade, the lemon slices add a bit more fresh juice to the drink.
Southern Living Classic Lemonade ingredients

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

How To Make Homemade Lemonade

Making homemade lemonade really couldn't be easier. We'll even tell you how to shortcut the process so it's easier and you're never more than a few minutes away from a fresh glass.

1. Make a lemon simple syrup: A simple syrup is the best way to dissolve sugar into water so the lemonade won't have any bits of granulated sugar floating around. To do this, heat equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan until all the sugar is dissolved.

For this lemonade, you'll get more lemon flavor (and use more of the lemon) by adding lemon zest to the simple syrup mixtures. If you don't want the bits of lemon zest in your syrup, you can strain it over a fine mesh sieve.

2. Combine syrup, lemon juice, and water: In a pitcher, combine the lemon simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, and water. This is where you can start customizing the flavor of your lemonade. If you like a stronger flavor, add a bit less water. Planning to add spirits? Vodka would be delicious. Add it here, too.

3. Chill: You can put the pitcher in the fridge and cool the lemonade, or serve it immediately by pouring it over ice.

Ways To Make Homemade Lemonade Your Own

We've already added one unique step to making homemade lemonade with the lemon zest in the simple syrup. But there are other fun ways to personalize your pitcher:

Sweeten To Your Taste

As you're adding the water to the lemon juice and simple syrup, give it a taste. Do you like a stronger flavor, or want the lemonade to remain strong as ice melts? Consider pulling back on the water so the lemonade is more potent.

Add Spirits

For the adults, you can add booze. We recommend vodka or rum. You could use a bit of the lemonade for a lemonade-inspired Texas Ranch Water, too. Just use it in place of the lime juice.

Add Other Ingredients to The Syrup

Lemon zest is a special way to make the flavor of the simple syrup more lemon-forward. You could also add other lemonade-friendly ingredients like lavender and rosemary. Just be sure to strain them from the syrup before adding to the lemon juice.

Make-Ahead Tip

If you want to make this lemonade faster, make the simple syrup ahead of time, and keep it in the fridge. Simple syrup will last up to 2 weeks. (Simple syrup without the lemon zest lasts longer.) That way, when you're thirsty, you need only squeeze fresh juice (which you can also do ahead), add the syrup and water, and serve.


  • 4 cups water

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest

  • 1 1/4 cups fresh lemon juice (from 7 lemons)

  • Lemon slices, for garnish


  1. Make lemon simple syrup:

    Heat 1 cup of the water, sugar, and lemon zest in a medium saucepan over medium, stirring often, until sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes.

    Southern Living Classic Lemonade combining the ingredients to make the sugar syrup

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

    Southern Living Classic Lemonade letting the syrup cool

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

  2. Stir together lemonade:

    Pour lemon syrup into a small pitcher, and stir in lemon juice and remaining 3 cups water.

    Southern Living Classic Lemonade combining the ingredients in a pitcher to serve

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    Serve lemonade over ice and garnish with lemon slices.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is lemonade made of?

    Classic lemonade is made with sugar, water, and lemon juice. For this recipe, lemons are used for both juice and lemon zest, and extra lemons can be used to make lemon slices as a garnish.

  • Is lemonade just lemon juice and water?

    No, lemonade needs sweetness. Most homemade lemonade recipes call for making a simple syrup so that the sugar is fully dissolved in the lemonade.

  • How long does homemade lemonade last in the fridge?

    Leftover fresh lemonade can be stored in the fridge 5 to 7 days. Just be sure to cover the pitcher with food wrap or a lid.

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