Basil Lemonade

Can I Give Your Lemons a Squeeze

I think my first memory of perfect lemonade was from when I was a kid (I had to have been 7 or 8) at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and in an effort to stave off the DC summer heat, tried a hand-shaken lemonade for the first time.  There’s something about freshly squeezed lemon juice that can’t ever be duplicated with concentrate – after that first taste, I was sold.  Lemon, sugar, water – that was it.

My francophile mom eventually turned me on to the art of the citron pressé – the French imbibe the same drink in cafés as a DIY drink.  You get a glass of ice with the juice of a lemon, a small pitcher of water, and a dish of sugar.  Depending upon how tart or sweet you’d like your drink, you add the sugar and water to your liking.  As my sister would say, “sassy and classy!”  Ok, maybe just sassy in this case.

Basil lemonade is not at all new, but the concept of herbs as sweet versus savory hasn’t caught on as much as it should.  The sweet, sharp flavor is mellowed by a bath in simple syrup, and the whole mixture together is more complex than your run o’ the mill lemonade.  I’ve included the recipe to make a pitcherful, but because every man knows how tart life should be, I’ve given you the instructions to make it as a citron pressé as well.  It’s a fun departure from the usual glass of lemonade, and a novelty for your next summer supper party or gathering.  Also, I like my lemonade to be light (meaning more water), but if you want yours more tart, you can up the lemon juice by an extra lemon or two.  Also, floating lemon slices in the pitcher not only ups the presentation factor, it also imparts even more lemon flavor into the drink.

The simple syrup recipe can be doubled or tripled to make a goodly amount, and then stored in the fridge.  I use it to sweeten teas and cocktails as well – try it with the recipe for Rosemary Hibiscus Tea in lieu of honey.  You can also use other flavors instead of basil – lemon verbena, rosemary, mint, and vanilla beans all make excellent simple syrups.

Basil Lemonade

1 c. of sugar
1 c. of water
handful of basil leaves
6 lemons
5 c. of water

Put the sugar, water and basil leaves in a pot and bring to a boil.  Stirring occasionally, cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.  Pour into a tupperware and chill.

Squeeze 6 lemons into a pitcher.  Add 4 c. of water and 3/4 of the simple syrup and taste for sweetness and tartness.  Add remaining water and simple syrup to your liking.  Serve with lemon wheels as a garnish.

Citron Pressé

1 lemon
2-4 tbs. of basil simple syrup (to taste)
water (to taste)

Fill a 16 oz. glass with water.  Squeeze in a lemon.  Add 2 tbs. of basil simple syrup (as per the recipe above) and stir.  Sip a bit and add more syrup if you’d like.  Enjoy.

4 thoughts on “Basil Lemonade”

  1. Dear Adesinamedia, your basil lemonade and citron presse sound divine. I love lemonade and usually buy the powdered kind at the store which I drink every day. I forgot how good home made lemonade was until I read this post and am inspired to make the basil lemonade now. "Wild Thing", you make my heart sing! Loved and saved these recipes. I shall revisit you soon. Thank you for sharing.
    Cheers, Gaby
    You can always visit me at

    1. It's crazy how a glass of fresh lemonade has become a luxury! I think it's that the powdered stuff is easy to grab (and makes us wax nostalgic for our days at childhood lemonade stands) and a lot cheaper than lemons in bulk. Still, there is truly nothing better than grabbing a lemon, some sweetener and water and making a glass for yourself. Glad you liked the recipe 🙂 If you like things spicy, you should definitely try our the Ginger Limeade too!

  2. This sounds absolutely delicious.  Nothing like a unique glass of lemonade on a hot day =)

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