Grim's Grub: Summers in Europe lack one thing - true lemonade

The confusing history behind a name

Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Imagine concluding a magical summer day seeing sights and shopping in the UK. It's hotter than normal and you're sitting down to a meal at a restaurant. You're looking forward to a big plate of fish and chips, and what's more refreshing on a hot summer day than an ice cold lemonade?

You order, and at first your eyes are treated to a feast. Crispy fried fish, hot fries and a dark, rich dipping vinegar (don't knock it til you've tried it).

All seems well until you look at your glass and notice something fizzy ... something clear ... because your server brought you Sprite. In much of Europe, when you say "lemonade," they hear "citrus soda."

I'm a fan of citrus soda, but I don't think I'm alone in saying squeezed lemonade is many, many times better and more refreshing. If you bring this up with European friends, chances are they will scoff and say you're nitpicking over brand loyalty (considered a very American behavior), like complaining about getting Coke when you wanted Pepsi.

It does not occur to them that it's more like asking for beer and getting milk. However, lemonade is not an American invention, so what gives?


Before lemons there were a variety of other citrus fruits, starting with the citrons (as pictured here) in northwestern India. It spread throughout Asia and over time cultivators coaxed this family of previously ornamental trees into oranges, limes and yes, lemons. Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

Before lemons there were a variety of other citrus fruits, starting with the citrons in northwestern India. It spread throughout Asia and over time cultivators coaxed this family of previously ornamental trees into oranges, limes and yes, lemons. As they say, when life gives you citrons ... make lemons ... or something, because apparently life didn't give us lemons after all.

Joking aside, that phrase came from the obituary of actor, writer and humorist Marshall Pinckney Wilder who said: "Fate handed me a lemon, but I made lemonade of it." He was 3 feet, 5 inches tall with a spinal deformity, but he was world-famous as a comedian.

The first written record of lemonade is from Persian poet Nasir-I-Khusraw, who wrote of an Egyptian drink called qatarmizat. Qatarmizat was made of squeezed lemons and sweetened with sugar cane. The drink was popularly sold by vendors throughout Egypt.

You could say those vendors were the first to start lemonade stands. The first written recipe for qatarmizat came from a 13th century Arabic cookbook, and the drink was favored by Genghis Khan and his forces when mixed with alcohol.

Lemonade exploded in popularity throughout Europe in the mid-17th century, especially among lemonade stands ... er, I mean, street vendors in Paris. Strangely, the French named it lemonade, but like much of Europe, lemonade is now a fizzy soda, not limited to one designed to taste like lemons.

Before the French called it lemonade, it was limonata in Italian, where it is also the name of a fizzy fruit-flavored soda.


Proper lemonade quickly spread to the new world where Florida, California, other states and the Caribbean were well-suited to production of both lemon trees and sugar cane. Note that there the temperature was also hot, hot, hot, and the ingredients were cheap, cheap, cheap.

The growth of the sugar industry in North America directly correlates with the growth in lemonade's popularity. The popularity further grew when prohibitionists recommended it as an alternative to alcohol, not necessarily because of the suggestion, but because ice production had been recently revolutionized and they needed some drink to cool what with all the booze having been poured in the streets.

The ever-so-popular pink lemonade was invented by accident by 14-year-old Henry E. Allott as he worked selling lemonade and candies at a circus. He accidentally dropped some red cinnamon candies into his lemonade and as a result, he rose to fame, enough so to have his obituary in the New York Times and Washington Post.

So, why does most of Europe think "soda" when they hear "lemonade?" Because apparently when the drink took off in Paris on Aug. 20, 1630, it was already being sold as a carbonated drink. People who search for treasure in the muddy shores of rivers in Europe today (called mudlarkers) still uncover troves of lemonade bottles that likely held these carbonated lemon drinks.

It's absolutely guaranteed that lemonade didn't start off carbonated, and in that way we Americans have it right. But then again, it wasn't called lemonade until it arrived in France. I guess that makes it a draw, but I stand by my statement that freshly squeezed and sweetened lemon juice tastes 100 times better on a hot day than some fizzy soda.

Cool, freshly made, classic lemonade. Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.




  • 6 cups cold water (or carbonated water)
  • 2 cups lemon juice (from 8-10 lemons)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Ice cubes
  • Lemon slices for garnish
  • Optional: 1 package frozen strawberries in syrup or 1-2 tablespoons grenadine; or blue butterfly pea infused water

Mix the ingredients and drink.

Rhubarb lemonade. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Rhubarb Lemonade


  • 8 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons grated lemon peel
  • 1 1/2 cups lemon juice

Combine the rhubarb, sugar, juice and grated lemon peel in a saucepan and boil. Reduce to medium low heat and simmer until the sugar has dissolved and the rhubarb has released its juices and begun to break up after about 10 minutes. Strain the rhubarb mixture through a fine sieve or using a Foley Food Mill followed by a fine sieve to separate the liquid and the pulp. Pour over ice.

Lemonade with lemons and lavender. Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

Lavender Lemonade


Adapted from

  • 6 cups water, divided
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dried lavender
  • 2 cups lemon juice
  • Lemon slices and lemon sprigs for garnish (optional)

Combine two cups water and the sugar and bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and stir in the lavender.
Allow the mixture to steep for two hours or less for a lighter flavor. Strain the liquid, pressing the lavender to extract flavored juices. In a pitcher, combine the lemon juice, lavender mixture and water. Serve over ice.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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