Lemonade is synonymous with summer. Water, sugar, and lemon juice are the basic ingredients for this beloved beverage and the recipe hasn’t changed much in the past 1,000 years. However, the history of this sweet summertime staple goes back much further.

One of the first written mentions of lemonade-like drinks comes from 10th century Cairo, where records refer to qatarmizat, a mix of lemon juice and sugar. A 12th century Arabic treatise called On Lemon, Its Drinking and Use by the physician Ibn Jumayʿ lauded lemonade for its health benefits, and that reputation followed it to Europe, along with sugar and the lemon itself. Due to the high price of these ingredients, lemonade was initially reserved for the very rich and very sick. However, by the 17th century, the delicious drink was widely available from lemonade vendors who wandered the streets of Paris selling it from tanks strapped to their backs. Lemonade became so popular that in 1676 the vendors incorporated and formed a union called the “Compagnie de Limonadiers.”

The first published American recipe for lemonade appeared in 1824 in The Virginia House-wife, a combination housekeeping manual and cookbook. This early version of lemonade called for egg whites and freezing, which resembled sherbet more than a drink. In 1827, lemonade appeared again in a booklet called Oxford Night Caps, considered the first cocktail book ever written. This recipe for non-alcoholic “delicious lemonade” called for whipping together gelatinous calves-feet jelly, raw eggs and water, along with the requisite lemons and sugar.

When it comes to lemonade, there is a recipe to suit every taste. Turkish lemonade uses the whole lemon and involves grating lemon zest into sugar. This mixture is then added to the lemon juice and water, producing a sweet and slightly bitter drink. Parisian lemonade consists of three separate small pitchers of simple syrup, water, and lemon juice, which the drinker combines to their liking. In Portugal and North Africa, lemonade is made with cold brew coffee, a few tablespoons of simple syrup and lemon juice poured over ice.

Sugar is the common denominator in all versions of lemonade. It is the key ingredient this drink relies on since the sweetness of sugar makes the tart and acidic lemon juice both palatable and enjoyable.

Enjoy this recipe for homemade lemonade with friends and family this summer!



  1. Combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in small saucepan to make a simple syrup. Place over medium=low heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Pour fresh-squeezed lemon juice into a pitcher. Add prepared simple syrup.
  3. Add remaining 5 cups water and stir well. Pour over ice and serve.


Laura Rutherford

About the Author

Laura Rutherford graduated from the University of North Dakota in 2004 with a degree in Political Science. She is a shareholder in American Crystal Sugar Company and a member of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association (RRVSGA), the World Association of Beet and Cane Growers (WABCG), and the American Society of Sugarbeet Technologists. She is on the Board of Directors of the Sugar Industry Biotechnology Council and has published articles for the WABCG, the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association newsletter, and the British Sugarbeet Review magazine in Cambs, United Kingdom.

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