Lemonade with a Twist

I move we make lemonade the official beverage of July. And let’s also make it extra-special by adding a hint of herbal delight.

Because lemon itself is such a versatile flavor, almost any of your favorite herbs complement it beautifully. The trick is, how do you get the taste of the herb into the lemonade?

Well, you could of course just float a sprig in the pitcher and hope the flavor trickles down; you see that all the time with mint.

Or you could mince the leaves finely, stir them in, and hope for the best. That might work, but then you’ll end up with all those little green things on your teeth.

There’s a better way.

Make a simple syrup, steep the herb in it, strain out the spent leaves (or flowers), use the now-enriched syrup to make the lemonade.

Let’s take it step by step.

  1. Make the syrup. Simple syrup is equal parts sugar and water. Light syrup is one part sugar to two parts water. Heavy syrup is two parts sugar to one part water. Until you get a good feel for your preferred sweetness, I suggest you start with simple syrup.
  2. Put the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat, simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  3. Meanwhile, crush or roughly chop the herb, to ensure its flavors will readily be released. This is called “bruising.”
  4. Add the bruised herb to the saucepan, turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let it sit. It’s exactly the same as steeping tea leaves. After a few minutes, taste. If you get a strong flavor of your herb, it’s ready. But remember that this syrup is going to be diluted in your big pitcher, so you should get a really strong taste of the herb. If not, let it steep a bit more.
  5. While the syrup is steeping, squeeze your lemons and measure the juice.
  6. Strain out and discard the herb. Let the syrup cool, then refrigerate.
  7. To serve, mix the cold syrup with plain water in your prettiest pitcher; add lemon slices for garnish if you like.

If you have fresh herbs in your garden, that’s best. But in a pinch you can use dried herbs from your pantry. Just remember that dried herbs are much stronger than fresh, and reduce the amount accordingly.

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