If you’ve never tasted fresh lemonade, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s just so much more vivid than the supermarket stuff, much more about the lemon and less about the sugar.
It’s hard to top fresh lemonade all by itself. Still, for those so inclined, there are plenty of ways to gild this lily. You can infuse the sugar syrup with fresh herbs. You can add seltzer. You can combine it with other fruit juices, including cranberry, apple and pomegranate. Or — and here is the heart of today’s recipe — you can glorify it with flavor-packed ice cubes.
My favorite ice cubes for lemonade (or iced tea) are pureed fruit cubes. Almost any fruit will work. Just puree it, pour the puree into ice cube trays and freeze them. The right tool for this job is a blender, which purees the fruit more completely than a food processor or an immersion blender. Of course, you can still use those other tools if they’re the only ones you have at hand.
In celebration of the Fourth of July, we’ll dress up our lemonade with three different kinds of cubes — watermelon, coconut and blueberry for red, white and blue. Holiday aesthetics and electrifying flavor aside, this drink is almost absurdly healthy. Every glass contains a half-cup each of blueberries and watermelon.
By the way, I used to think watermelon was a loser, nutritionally — all sugar and no substance. I was wrong. Watermelon happens to be an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of A, as well as lycopene, potassium and magnesium. And calorie-wise, it’s very modest. A full cup of diced watermelon clocks in at 46 calories.
RED, WHITE AND BLUE LEMONADE
Start to finish: 25 minutes, plus freezing
3 cups cubed seeded watermelon (the redder the better)
3 cups cleaned and rinsed fresh blueberries
3/4 cup well-stirred lite coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 cup fresh lemon juice
Fresh mint leaves, to garnish
In a blender, puree the watermelon until it becomes liquefied. Pour the watermelon liquid into ice cube trays (you should have enough liquid for twelve 2-tablespoon cubes). Rinse out the blender, add the blueberries and puree until the mixture is smooth. Transfer the blueberry puree to another ice cube tray. In a third tray, divide the coconut milk between 6 cubes.
Transfer all of the trays to the freezer and freeze until solid, preferably overnight.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool.
In a pitcher combine 1/2 cup of the sugar syrup with the lemon juice. Add 3 cups of cold water, then taste and add additional sugar syrup if desired. Chill until ready to serve.
To serve, place 2 watermelon cubes, 2 blueberry cubes and 1 coconut cube in each of 6 rocks glasses. Top the glasses with lemonade, then garnish with mint. Let sit for 10 or so minutes to allow the cubes to melt slightly and flavor the lemonade.