I’ve had this recipe idea on my “to-shoot and share” list on my computer all summer long, and each time I tried to make it something came up and I ended up shooting something else. Somehow Banana Pudding Cake and Breakfast Polenta Bowls just seemed like a higher priority. Then when I had given up all hope on this lemonade, and came to the conclusion that I would have to wait until next year to make it, I found a mountain of rhubarb at my local grocery store. Without even thinking about it, or looking for it. I took it as a sign from above and decided that it was either now or never. So I purchased an obscene amount of rhubarb and strawberries, and spent an even more ridiculous amount on lemons (much more than I would’ve if I just bought lemonade from the store, let’s be honest), but I told myself that it would all be worth it in the end because booze would be involved, and lemonade and booze just go so well together. Don’t let anyone tell you other wise. Am I right or am I right? Now…I’m no monster, I know that for a lot of you rhubarb might not be in season anymore, so if that’s the case, I highly recommend you make it with just strawberries because it’ll still be hands down the best lemonade you’ve ever had. Feel free to quote me on that.
Let’s start by making the delicious strawberry rhubarb syrup thats going to flavor our homemade lemonade. Take some fresh rhubarb and throw it into a medium saucepan.
**Tip: I was lucky enough to find fresh rhubarb at the grocery store, but if it’s completely out of season for you feel free to just make it with strawberries alone. Just double the amount of strawberries.**
To the fresh rhubarb, add in the sugar, vanilla, two lemon peels and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until just beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.
**Tip: Because rhubarb takes a bit longer to cook, it needs that extra time to break down before adding in the strawberries, since the slices strawberries take no time at all.**
Hull and slice a pound of fresh strawberries and add them to the pot. Cover once more and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes until the strawberries have softened.
Remove from the heat and let it sit uncovered until the mixture comes to room temperature. This not only make it easier to handle, but it also gives the flavors a chance to enhance and brighten up a bit.
Pour it all into a large pitcher, through a fine-mesh sieve to ensure you only get the juice. Use a wooden spoon to press down the pulp so that you get all the juice out of the fruit. Then discard whatever is left in the sieve.
Stir in the fresh squeezed lemon juice into the pitcher. You need about 1 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Stay away from that already juiced stuff in a bottle. Be gone. That has no place in your kitchen.
**Tip: In order to get 1 cup of juice, you’ll need about 4 to 6 medium sized lemons depending on how juicy they are. Or 2 to 3 very large lemons.**
At this point you’ll want to give the lemonade a taste and add more water as needed. It might be too tart or too sweet, depending on your lemons and your strawberry simple syrup. I added about 1 1/2 cups water to the lemonade before it was perfect.
Load a few glasses with lots of ice and then add an ounce or two (depending on how rough of a day you’re having) of gin. Top off with lemonade and then give it a stir to incorporate.
**Tip: If you’re not a gin fan, you can go ahead and swap it out with vodka or tequila if you’re feeling frisky because we all know tequila makes people frisky. I mean, I’ve heard.**
Garnish each glass with a lemon slice, a tiny strawberry or even a sprig of fresh mint. Even though it’s just a spiked lemonade, you still want to make it feel like a fancy cocktail.
If you want to serve this to kids or a weekday afternoon, just omit the alcohol and you’re good to go. You could even add ginger ale, sparkling water or club soda to make it a bit fizzy.
This lemonade will keep in the fridge for about a week. It’ll separate while it sits in the fridge, and it’s totally normal so don’t panic. All you have to do is give it a stir right before serving. It’s the perfect summer drink to have on hand on a hot day.
- 2 cups rhubarb, trimmed and diced (about ½ pound fresh)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 strips fresh lemon zest, about 3-inches each
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice, about 4 to 6 large lemons)
- 4 to 8 ounces gin or vodka
- lemons slices for garnish
- In a large saucepan, combine the rhubarb, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and 3½ cups water. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the sugar has dissolved and the rhubarb has just begun to soften, about 8 minutes. Add in the sliced strawberries, cover and continue to cook for another 4 minutes to soften those as well. Uncover, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
- Pour the strawberry rhubarb simple syrup into a large pitcher, through a fine-mesh sieve. Use a wooden spoon to squeeze all the juice out of the pulp, and discard any leftovers in the sieve.
- Stir in the fresh lemon juice to the pitcher and about 1 to 1½ cups water until the desired sweetness/tartness is reached. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Fill glasses with lots of ice and pour in about an ounce of gin or vodka to each glass. Then top off with the lemonade. Garnish with lemon slices, mint or small strawberries. Enjoy!