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Lavender Lemonade (Naughty or Nice)

July 24, 2011

I’m a big fan of Food52, lavender, and lemonade, so there was no question that I was going to test the Lavender Lemonade Spritzer recipe in Food52’s Your Best Poolside Cocktail contest. But the recipe in question included lemonade as one of its ingredients, which is not how I do things. I seized on the opportunity to make this recipe more bottom-up by refactoring the store-bought lemonade into its constituent ingredients.

Sure, making lemonade from scratch takes more time, but look what you get out of it:

  1. Flavor. Fresh lemonade is much tastier than store-bought lemonade, and a recipe based on fresh lemonade will produce a tastier result than one based on store-bought lemonade.
  2. Nutrition. Fresh lemons have a better nutritional profile because the fruit juice you find in stores has been processed and stored for long periods of time, leading to serious nutrient degradation. This is especially but not exclusively true of juice made from concentrate.
  3. Information. There’s only so much you can know about store-bought juice. How long ago was the fruit picked? What happened to it between orchard and store? You may also neglect to take into account the information that is available, like how much sugar is in the juice.
  4. Control. Making the lemonade yourself lets you decide exactly what goes into it. How much sweetener do you want to use? Will it be sugar or a different sweetener? If sugar, will it be raw, organic, or fair trade sugar? Will you use the zest and pulp of the lemons, or will you throw them away? Will you add water to the lemonade or just add more club soda when you mix the final drink?

In this bottom-up adaptation of the recipe, I substituted for store-bought lemonade the juice, pulp, and zest of organic lemons; raw, organic, fair-trade sugar; and water. I also modified this recipe to enable customization of club soda and vodka content, adding these two ingredients to each glass instead of mixing them into the entire pitcher.

To make this bottom-up lavender lemonade, you’ll need:

  • 1 pitcher
  • 4 organic lemons
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tbsp culinary grade lavender buds (I used lavender from my garden)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 splash of club soda per glass
  • 0-4 glugs vodka per glass (I used Grey Goose)

And here’s what you’ll do with these ingredients:

  • Add 1-2 tbsp of lemon zest to the pitcher.
  • Halve and juice your lemons into the pitcher, fishing out seeds as necessary.
  • Cut or pull pulp from the squeezed lemons and add it to the pitcher.
  • Add 1/2 cup of sugar and 3 cups of water to the pitcher.
  • Put the lavender into a saucepan with 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 cup water.
  • Bring lavender, sugar, and water to boil, then simmer until sugar is dissolved. Let sit for 5 minutes to steep and cool.
  • Put strainer over pitcher and pour lavender/sugar/water combination through strainer into pitcher.
  • Store in refrigerator to chill.
  • Serve glass by glass, with a splash of club soda in each and either no vodka (nice) or up to 4 glugs of vodka (naughty) per serving.

I think you’ll love the results, which are equally delicious in the nice version (it doesn’t taste like anything is missing) and the naughty version (you can’t really taste the vodka).

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