Last summer, my oldest son participated in Alaska Lemonade Day, which is coming up again this year on June 14. It's a national effort to encourage students to learn entrepreneurial skills by setting up lemonade stands for a single day. Weeks ahead of time, my fifth-grader began building his stand with the help of his father and our nearby Home Depot store. He opted to paint it a sunny shade of yellow and had custom signage made at our local high school. Then, having a food writer for a mother, my son hired me to help him develop from-scratch lemonade recipes because he was convinced that homemade lemonade would be far tastier and would likely outsell any powdered or frozen lemonade mixes. I went straight to work, elbow-deep in lemon everything. We tested recipes for classic fresh-squeezed lemonade, along with strawberry, blueberry and basil versions. While most kids quickly navigate to the reddish-pink or deep purple berry varieties, adults swoon over the unexpected herbal notes of the basil lemonade.
I first learned to put fresh basil in my lemonade at a fun little restaurant called Moo Creamery in Bakersfield, California, that serves up great ice cream sundaes, burgers and house-made lemonade with little flecks of green basil. At first sip, I was hooked. Two quintessential summer flavors mingling together in one cold, icy beverage. The basil is subtle and surprising -- a delightfully invigorating counterpoint to the acidity of the lemon. This recipe is one I look forward to making every summer now, when the leaves turn green, the weather warms up and the basil is plentiful. Cheers.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cups cold water
4 basil leaves, chiffonade
To make the simple syrup:
In a saucepan, cook 1 cup water and the sugar over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is a clear syrup. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
To make the lemonade:
To a pitcher, add the lemon juice, simple syrup and 4 cups cold water. Stir and taste. If too sweet (every batch is different, depending on your lemons), add more cold water. Stir in the fresh basil, lemon rounds and ice just before serving. Serve promptly.
Notes: The amount of juice you'll get from each lemon will vary, but typically you can get 1 cup of lemon juice from 4-6 lemons.
Alaska From Scratch