How to Use Lemon Zest to Enhance the Flavor of Your Lemonade

It’s a simple addition, but it sure packs a punch.

There's nothing quite like cooling off with a refreshing glass of lemonade—bonus points if it's homemade. While you can't go wrong with the classic lemonade recipe using water, sugar, and lemon juice, TikTok has come through (yet again) with an upgraded version that will truly take your summer beverage of choice to the next level. All you need is one extra ingredient, and if you're making lemonade from scratch, you already have it on hand: lemon zest.

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The new viral lemonade recipe comes from TikTok poster @carolinagelen, who's also a resident recipe developer at Food52. Gelen says rubbing lemon zest and sugar together for 2 to 3 minutes is the key in getting a strong lemony flavor in your homemade concoction. Once the zest and sugar are combined, Gelen mixes it with freshly squeezed lemon juice to finish off making the base and serves it over water, ice, and a few lemon slices. "The lemon zest is filled with aromatic oils that'll take the flavor of your lemonade to the next level," she writes on Instagram.

Juli Hale, senior culinary specialist in the Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen, agrees that lemon zest is a subtle—but powerful—addition: It doesn't add any new flavors, but it does give the drink an extra boost.

Gelen posted the video on June 12, and it's gotten 2.9 million views, almost 300,000 likes, and more than 500 comments as of publication. Over on Instagram, the reel has more than 1.3 million likes.

Some of the TikTok comments make more suggestions for elevating your lemonade even further, such as adding mint, using yuzu zest, and spiking it with vodka or champagne for your next backyard cocktail party. One commenter on Instagram wrote, "This is how I make lemonade so definitely recommend it [y'all], adding some pieces of peel make it even better too!"

If you want to try concocting this upgraded lemonade yourself, here's the official ingredient list and recipe:

  • 3 tablespoons lemon zest (about 3 lemons)
  • 1 1/2 cups lemon juice, from 6-8 large lemons
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Water and ice
  • Garnish

Zest your lemons before cutting them in half, making sure to avoid the pith (the soft, white part of the lemon). Hale says using a zester or microplane would work best to get fine pieces, but you can also use a vegetable peeler to throw in some strips for visual effect.

Combine the zest and sugar in a bowl, and use your fingers to rub them together until fragrant. Roll your lemons on your counter to help the juice flow more easily once they're cut. Squeeze about 6 to 8 lemons by hand or with a citrus juicing tool. This gives you about 1 ½ cups of juice. Store the base in the fridge until ready to serve: Mix 4 to 6 parts water with one part base. Add ice and garnish with lemon slices, basil, rosemary, mint—whatever you're craving. Enjoy.

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