It’s a laughable understatement to say that 2020 has come with more than its fair share of lemons without the summer having even arrived. Still, the fact remains that summer is arriving, and even in quarantine, we need to find moments of respite. Lemonade, being a classic drink for summer, seems a good culinary refreshment to turn to, especially at a time when small pleasures should be savored more than ever.
If you have actual lemons on hand, rather than emotional ones, then we heartily recommend making homemade lemonade. But if you still have a hankering for this classic, cooling drink without the time or energy to make it, then picking up a pre-prepared lemonade is a great way to quench that craving. To figure out which lemonade is best suited to your pitcher, we tried seven varieties of refrigerated or shelf stable lemonades, all available online or in stores. Here are our rankings, from best to worst.
Simply Lemonade ($1.99 for 52oz)
Simply Lemonade hypes the homemade quality of its drink, and not without cause. Of all the brands we sampled, this one tasted the most like fresh squeezed, with bits of pulp evident but not obtrusive in the drink itself. The tartness of the drink was also more pronounced than competitors, though the drink did contain more sugar than some of the other high-ranking brands. Still, compared with the 37 grams of sugar contained in one brand’s offering, Simply Lemonade’s 28 grams isn’t that bad.
Most Balanced Lemonade
Newman’s Own ($2.49 for 59 oz)
Some like their lemonade more on the sweet side, some like it with a bit more tartness to it. If you find yourself siding with neither of those camps, however, then Newman’s Own is our recommendation. This lemonade was the most balanced drink out of the bunch we tested, with only 22 grams of sugar and just enough tart taste to be satisfying. It won’t make you pucker, but it will definitely slake your thirst.
Best Tart Lemonade
Hubert’s Lemonade ($1.67 for 16 oz)
Price-wise, this is definitely not a top pick. Hubert’s sells single serving bottles, so it offers much less lemonade at a price much closer to how much its competitors charge for twice or thrice the volume. Setting that aside, however, if you’re a fan of super tart lemonade, then Hubert’s is absolutely for you. The sour lovers who took part in our taste test instantly felt the urge to finish the bottle, making it likely that this brand is worth picking up for those who prefer their lemonade in 16 oz servings.
Best Sweet Lemonade
Santa Cruz Organic Lemonade ($2.19 for 32 oz)
If you decide to go with Santa Cruz’s lemonade, make sure to gently shake it up before drinking. Without that help, the lemon flavors in this somewhat subtle lemonade will be even more muted. But once the drink has been mixed properly, this sweeter lemonade provides just enough lemon taste to satisfy lemonade fans who prefer higher sugar to citrus ratio. Although it tastes sweeter than Newman’s Own, it also contains the same amount of sugar, a boon to those who may need to limit their intake.
Best Nostalgic Lemonade
Minute Maid ($1.99 for 2 liters)
Minute Maid has been a lemonade staple in restaurants and other eateries for years, so you likely already have an idea of what it tastes like: kindergarten and bus rides and high-fructose corn syrup. It’s about as nostalgic a summer taste as you can ever bottle. If you’re looking for very artificial but very satisfying lemonade, this is it.
Not Our Favorites
Turkey Hill Lemonade ($1.99 for 64 oz)
Turkey Hill keeps all of the artificiality of Minute Maid, but with 12 more grams of sugar (for a total of 39 grams) and with less lemonade taste. It’s affordable enough, but you’d still be better off reaching for a different brand.
Honest Lemonade ($2.69 for 32 oz)
Honestly, Honest Lemonade just didn’t have that much flavor. Its perk is that it has the lowest sugar content, at 16 grams, but there’s nothing else to really recommend it. If you like lightly sweetened, lemon flavored water, then enjoy. Otherwise, Santa Cruz would likely be the closest, better option.
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