This weekend we had the pleasure of having dinner with friends. Jon, smoker/grill-master extraordinaire made a ridiculously good pulled pork and we provided dessert. Oh wait, no, we were supposed to provide dessert. Except I forgot, got tied up over an hour away, and was running late. So we brought bread, lemonade, and a bottle of Riesling. Perfectly normal, right?
Luckily the white wine and lemonade combo was a winner and Anna, who is not a big drinker, loved it. Which I consider a compliment - even more so when she mentioned it on Facebook and her blog! I agree - this little gem went straight into heavy rotation once it was introduced to my repertoire.
As for the combination of lemonade and wine: I have to admit the first time I had it I was a little surprised and a lot intrigued. My bridal shower was in the midst of the sweltering Chicago summer and my maid of honor and her husband threw a simply perfect outdoor bash. Our save-the-date cards read like a film script and made mention of (dry) Riesling wine. Fittingly, the main drink was one of my still-favorite Rieslings (Kung Fu Girl) and lemonade. It was refreshing, festive, and delicious. Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Vihno Verde - all work great and add a unique twist to this combination.
Since then we've incorporated the lemonade/pink lemonade/limeade + 1 idea across the board. From the non-alcoholic but always tasty lemonade and iced tea (an Arnold Palmer) to the slightly more unexpected. Here are a few favorites that make for embarrassingly easy summer entertaining:
A natural and fabulous progression from the lemonade and wine arena is lemonade + bubbly. Cava, Prosecco, Champagne, sparkling wine, whatever your preference!
Lemon-, Lime- or Pink Lemonade and Vodka: 1 shot of vodka per highball glass or larger, or adjust to your preferences. I'm not a huge hard-alcohol drinker but I recently discovered a vodka that I actually really like: 360 Organic. The cherry flavor + limeade is a great combo. I will warn you though, chocolate vodka and lemonade? Not a winner.
The quintessential summer favorite around our house, the "Shandy", or Lemonade + Beer: half of each. We prefer it with a summer ale or a wheat beer but hey, it's worth playing around to see what you might like. Stouts I've never tried, and frankly, I probably won't - but if you are adventuresome and want to give it a go you let us know how it turns out!
Lemonade + Lambic: half and half. If you've never had a Lambic before it is essentially a malt beverage with a lot of fruit added. It's usually sold as a beer and is super sweet but surprisingly good. The easiest to find in the US is usually the brand Lindemann's and it comes in a variety of flavors: Framboise (raspberry), Peche (peach), etc.
Lemonade and Fruit-Flavored Ale: half and half. Pretty much the same thing as with a Lambic but the flavor is a bit lighter and the color more like with a beer. Sam'l Smith makes a gorgeous fruit flavored set of ales that are perfect for this application but amazingly drinkable and not overwhelmingly sweet all on their own.
So, if you are entertaining this summer consider a lemonade + one bar. Garnishes are easy, mixing is fast, and everyone is happy.
My lemonade recipe is pretty open to interpretation but is usually 6-8 lemons, 6-8 cups of water and I start with 3/4 cup of sugar, then add more until I get the flavor I like. The best way to achieve a non-gritty lemonade is to dissolve the sugar in some of the water in a pot over about a medium heat - you want to heat the water and sugar enough to melt and dissolve the sugar but not more, then add to the rest of your mix. Essentially, its simple syrup and lemon juice, plus lots of water. For limeade simply switch limes for lemons.
Easy ways to flavor your lemonade:
Add muddled mint (preferably in the hot water/sugar mix)
Add muddled basil (preferably in the hot water/sugar mix)
Add the juice of one blood orange to your lemonade to make it pink.
Add a 1/2 - 1 pint of raspberries and cook until softened/dissolved in the sugar/water mix - will also make it pink - make sure to strain before adding to your lemonade.
Use 1 orange in place of 1 lemon for a less tart and more subtle flavor.
For garnishes consider:
Any citrus - lemons, limes, oranges of all varieties in wedges, peels curled, or in rounds.
Fresh mint, basil, or lavender.
Fresh berries - any kind would be lovely.
Ice cubes made into fun shapes or made of frozen lemonade - or even better, shaved ice!
Add sugar rims to your glasses - for the limeade glass above I used Swedish pearl sugar.
A scoop of lemon sorbet.
Because I like the idea of a lemonade bar and party so much, and I love my readers, I have a freebie label download for you (click file, download original, save and edit from there)! Just change the text to anything you want, print, cut inside the grey line, fold in half and there you go - little table-tent signs for your party!
If you are having problems getting the font to load it is free and downloadable here or here. Download, install, re-open and try again.
Enjoy and cheers!