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Secret-Ingredient Lemonade

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You know you love your great aunt's banana bread, but you probably don't know why you do. In Modern ComfortAshley Rodriguez from Not Without Salt figures out what makes our favorite classics work, and then makes them even better. 

Today: Add vanilla simple syrup to classic lemonade and there's no way your stand won't be profitable.


The first year we sold lemonade at our family-crafted stand, my son Roman could barely hold the pitcher. His tender, pudgy fingers trembled as he attempted to pour, and most of the lemonade never saw the inside of the cup. This year, those fingers are slender and nimble; they juiced an entire bag of lemons.

While I stood back and simply observed, my three kids devised a two-cup system: a small cup for $.50 and a large cup for $.75. There was even a little tip jar off to the side, if a customer felt so inclined. They counted change and divvied up the tasks so that one plunked ice into the cup while the others poured vanilla bean-freckled lemonade. Both of them responded with pride as customers asked about the curious specks in their cup.


“Don’t worry, it’s not dirt.” They reassured their customers. “It’s our secret ingredient: vanilla bean!”

With equal parts relief and curiosity, their customers took a sip, many of them proclaiming the cup the best they’ve ever had. My three little entrepreneurs beamed with pride, and off to the side, I did too—proud of my lemonade patrons and quite proud to have discovered how those little vanilla flecks turn a simple, summer classic into something special and, really, quite profitable. (I think that has more to do with the sellers of the lemonade than the lemonade itself, however.) 

More: The trick to making great lemonade happens before you even juice the lemons.

The vanilla rounds out the tartness, softening the harsh bite, calming the lemon in a fragrant, almost floral way. It adds a little something without distracting from the classic lemonade flavor that we all love and crave on any day when the sun is hot and the sky is blue. 

If you aren’t in Seattle and don’t have the pleasure of buying a cup from my little crew, then I’ve provided the recipe. It may not be as delicious as it is when you’re served from Radio Flyer wagon turned traveling lemonade stand, but I still think you’ll be thoroughly pleased. 


Vanilla Bean Lemonade

Makes about 3 quarts of lemonade

2 cups sugar
8 cups water, divided
2 vanilla beans
3 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Ashley Rodriguez

Tags: lemonade, drinks, summer, cold drinks, lemon, vanilla