I think Chicago has forgotten that we're in the Midwest. It seems to have decided that we're actually on the foggy coast of San Francisco, or stuck in a particularly dreary Portland day. For every warm, beautiful summer day we've had, there have been three rainy, cold ones. And don't even ask about spring—we skipped over that entirely.
But on one of those few warm days, I really wanted lemonade. Good lemonade is one of my favorite things in the world. Other than water (or a real drink), it's pretty much the only thing I ever get when I go out to eat. The watered-down, powdery stuff drives me crazy in the same way that my mother can't stand "mixy" brownies.
Of course, strawberry lemonade is even better. That's because strawberries and lemon juice are a perfect match: the sweetness from the strawberry helps balance out the acidity of the juice, and lemon brings out a brighter, even more strawberry-y taste from the berries.
To get the best lemonade, you want to use simple syrup rather than straight sugar, which won't dissolve well in cold water. I wanted to give my syrup some spice, so I went with habañero, which despite its intense heat, has a pronounced fruity flavor that would complement the strawberry.
The result is a sweet, tart lemonade with a slow heat that hits you at the finish. Perfect for whenever summer finally kicks in, and even better for cocktails. More on that soon.
Fresh Strawberry-Habañero Lemonade
- 1 part lemon juice
- 4 parts cold water
- 1 part fresh strawberry puree
- 1 1/4 parts habañero simple syrup (recipe below)
Combine all ingredients in a glass or pitcher and stir well. Serve over ice. Garnish with extra habañero if you're brave.
Habañero Simple Syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 2-4 thin slices habañero, depending on how spicy you want it
Heat sugar and water on the stove until the sugar dissolves. Add habañero slices and simmer for an additional minute. Remove from heat and allow the syrup to sit for 3 minutes. Check the heat and decide if you want it to sit for longer. I love spice and 5 minutes was too much for me. Strain into a jar.
Will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.