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The Best Lemonade
Whether you prefer sweeter lemonades or ones with mouth-puckering tartness, we’ve got you covered.
What You Need To Know
Is there anything more refreshing than an ice-cold lemonade on a hot summer day? There’s a reason that we reach for lemonade in warm weather that goes beyond nostalgia and deliciousness. When we’re dehydrated, our mouths feel dry, a sign that we need to take in more liquid. Drinks that are sour cause us to salivate, more so than drinks with any of the other basic tastes of sweet, salty, bitter, and umami. After we’ve taken a sip of lemonade, our mouths remain wet, helping us to feel refreshed. Colonial Americans knew this well—they often drank shrubs, a sour mixture of fruit preserved in vinegar and water. Modern-day lemonade is thought to be based on a drink from 11th-century Egypt. At that time, traders sold and exported a drink called qatarmizat, a mixture of lemon juice and sugar, writes April White in Lemonade with Zest: 40 Thirst-Quenching Recipes.
To find the best store-bought lemonade we held tastings comparing eight major brands. We focused on refrigerated lemonades, which we prefer over shelf-stable. In previous reviews, shelf-stable brands consistently tasted less fresh and we knew we wanted bright, fresh lemonade. We liked many of the drinks, but our tasters had some preferences. We ended up with two great options. Which team are you on: sweet or tart?
What’s the Best Sweet-Tart Balance?
One brand was too sweet, without enough tartness to even the flavor out. All of the other lemonades we tasted were pleasant and had the requisite sweet and tart notes, but the overall balance of those flavors differed from product to product. Here we noticed an interesting pattern: Each of our tasters made a point of noting when a lemonade had the perfect balance of sweetness and bright, fresh lemon flavor, but their definitions of “perfect” differed (this phenomenon of differences in taste preference is well documented). Some tasters thought the drinks that skewed sweeter were the best, while others preferred lemonades that tasted mostly tart and only a little bit sweet. Your preferred lemonade is a personal choice, to an extent.
Looking for Lemon Flavor
The tartness in the lemonades mostly came from lemon juice, though one brand added orange juice too. A few lemonades also contained lemon oil, lemon pulp, and/or natural flavors, to enhance the lemon flavor. We liked some of those lemonades a lot, but these additions weren’t a determining factor in preferences. Overall, the lemonades in our lineup contained between 10 and 20 percent lemon juice. Those that contained more lemon juice—between 15 and 20 percent—tasted more tart than sweet, even when they were made with a relatively high amount of sugar. When shoppi...
Everything We Tested
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