Watermelon-Habanero Lemonade

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes:

Cosi used to have a watermelon-habanero lemonade that was crisp, refreshing, and perfect for cooling off on a summer day. When they stopped carrying it, I figured it couldn't be that hard to recreate the drink on my own, and in fact I liked this version even more. Make sure to leave the habanero in large pieces without seeds so that you can easily remove it later. The last thing you want is someone accidentally swallowing a habanero seed.

Chris Van Houten

Food52 Review: Sweet, tangy, refreshing, and HOT, this lemonade is a great pick-me-up in the middle of the work day. Personally, I enjoyed the level of heat the whole habanero adds to the lemonade, but if you prefer a milder flavor, I suggest only adding half of the pepper. This would also make for a great summer cocktail with the addition of vodka or tequila!Sophie Jones

Serves: 6-8


  • 10 lemons, washed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups fresh watermelon juice
  • 2-3 cups water, separated
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 habanero pepper, halved and seeded
  • cubed watermelon and sliced lemon, for garnish
In This Recipe


  1. Halve the lemons lengthwise and slice to about 1/4-inch thin, so you have thin half-moons of lemon slices.
  2. Mash together the lemon slices, sugar, and salt until the sugar dissolves and the juice thickens.
  3. Strain as much liquid from the lemon slice mixture as you can (use a spoon to help separate the juice from the solids in the strainer).
  4. Add the watermelon juice and 2 cups of the water to the lemon juice mixture in pitcher. Taste and add more water as necessary until you are pleased with your lemonade base.
  5. Add the habanero pepper. Refrigerate overnight. Remove the habanero when the lemonade reaches your desired heat level (I'm wary of overpowering the lemonade flavor, so I take it out after about 24 hours). Add chunks of fresh cut watermelon and sliced lemons to the pitcher before serving.
  6. This is a forgiving recipe. If you want to intensify the heat, leave the habanero in the lemonade longer. If you prefer a more subtle heat, remove it sooner or just use half of the pepper. If you accidentally leave it in too long, dilute with more lemonade. To up the sweetness, add more watermelon or sugar. To make a boozy version, add vodka or tequila. If you can't find watermelon juice, you can instead replace the juice with water and add 1/4 of a watermelon, cubed, to infuse into the lemonade.

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Reviews (4) Questions (0)

4 Reviews

Tarra June 29, 2016
Slicing the lemons into thin half moons and mashing them with the sugar sounds like a "doing it the hard way" kind of a thing. Does this produce a different taste than just juicing the lemons?
Rachel June 30, 2016
It definitely produces a prettier effect with the lemon slices suspended throughout the drink, and you also release some of the oils in the lemon peel that wouldn't make it in the drink without macerating and mashing them up a bit. Even if you do skip that step and juice them, I think it'd still be a pretty fantastic end product. :)
lauren February 19, 2015
I use to lovr this drink at cosi. I would stop at 30 street station and get one every day on my way to work.
Author Comment
Chris V. July 7, 2015
Me too, but at the Cosi on Michigan Avenue in Chicago every time I passed through downtown!