The best lemonades to make your summer sweet

Photo illustration by Julia Nikhinson/The Diamondback

This spring, we’ve been handed a whole lot of lemons. So, in the most cliche way possible, I thought, “Why not make some lemonade?” Here are my go-tos when I’m in the mood for a sweet refresher. 

Country Time 

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This powdered mix comes in bright yellow cylinders, and while the container provides recommendations for how many tablespoons to use, it’s best done to taste. Make sure to stir thoroughly. The mix isn’t too sweet or too sour, balancing the yin and yang to create perfect bliss, and both the regular and pink lemonade versions are incredible. I also like this mix because it makes me feel eco-friendly — I don’t have to go through tons of plastic bottles or cups and can instead reuse the same pitcher or glass. My one complaint is that it’s more on the artificial side of things.

For some extra fun, throw a cup or two of this in your blender, add some frozen fruit, ice, a scoop of frozen limeade concentrate, and you’ll get a Jamba Juice-level smoothie. I also cannot recall a time when I made it through an entire container of this mix, so it’s definitely built to last you through an apocalypse. 

 

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Panera 

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This beverage is more sweet than sour because of the agave nectar, and it’s only the price of a soft drink. But it gets dangerous if you have access to free refills. I usually go through three to four cups in one sitting, sometimes mixing it with the blood orange lemonade for an extra kick. Panera’s frozen strawberry lemonade is also a 10/10.

Chick-fil-A 

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Chick-fil-A’s lemonade errs more on the bitter side, but that pairs great with its crunchy ice and maybe even a side of fries. It’s a bummer that Chick-fil-A upcharges, but I would say a fresh cup of this is usually worth it. Some batches are more acidic than others or leave a weird aftertaste in your mouth. 

Unlike Panera, I usually feel satisfied after one serving, especially if I’ve ordered a meal with it. This drink definitely has some bang for its buck, though you have to be OK with a little pulp. Ignorance is bliss when it comes to Chick-fil-A’s lemonade concoction, but don’t let the acidity sneak up on you. Overall, this lemonade is tangy and satisfying, if not overwhelming at times.

Minute Maid

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While this beverage was absolutely magical out of the plastic bottle as a child, the older I get, the more I can feel the artificial preservatives running through my veins. Liters of this are incredible for (socially distanced) summer hangouts or family barbecues. It’s best when watered down with a bit of ice. If you’re looking for a fun tang, try combining this lemonade with Sprite or punch. The pink lemonade version has a particularly weird aftertaste, but I’ll suffer through it sometimes. 

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Homemade

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My dad and little brother recently got into making lemonade from absolute scratch, with lemons picked right off the tree. Obviously, you can buy lemons if you aren’t lucky enough to have citrus trees around, and after that, all you need is water and sugar.

When it comes to the sugar, my father says, “just pour it in until it tastes good.” The final result ended up with the faint flavor of lemons, a whiff of sugar and just a whole lot of water. My family made a good attempt, but in my biased opinion, homemade lemonade usually ends up a bit too watery and with a good amount of pulp, if the squeezed lemons aren’t filtered enough. I would much rather spend an extra couple dollars on the more artificial stuff, but maybe you can do better.

Bonus: Order a blended strawberry lemonade at Starbucks if you’re in the mood for something fruity or add some lemonade to your favorite Teavana beverage if you’re in the mood for something subtle!

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