At this time of the year, when I’m shuffling up a hill in the scorching sun or stuck on a stuffy bus in the fuming traffic, a cold glass of lemonade might often appear before me, spontaneously, like a mirage of refreshment.

But not any old lemonade. Not the saccharine-laden, colorless carbonated lemonade, no. The mouth-puckering, traditional drink. The kind that will soothe me. The kind that will charge me as if I was inhaling fresh air around the Niagara Falls.

I’m talking about Homemade lemonade. Because the cloudy sort sold under the name “old-fashion” lemonade is as deceptive as a photoshopped photograph.

If you’ve been feeling dehydrated, drowsy, sluggish, like a dog walking around with its tongue sticking out, maybe it’s time to perk up your body with some real, fresh lemonade. A fresh and fancy lemonade infused with lemon thyme and ginger.

Let’s do this!

When sweet misery flows through your veins

Finger and Thyme Lemonade - Caster sugar

Most commercial—and even homemade—lemonades are loaded with sugar. They’re usually sweetened with simple syrup, also called simple sugar.

Simple syrup is made with two ingredients: refined white sugar and water. You dissolve sugar in heated water (in equal parts) and that’s it. It’s that simple (hence the name maybe?) Now here are my thoughts on this.

Swallowing simple syrup is like sticking a needle in your warm with liquid heroin.

Am I being too outrageous? Today, it’s well known that sugar is addictive—just like liquid, syrupy heroin (see the analogy?). And we eat too much of it.

In 2009-2010, reports have shown that Americans consume about 18 teaspoons of added sugar per day when, according to the American Heart Association, the daily limit for a woman is 6 teaspoons (20-25 grams or 100 calories) and 9 teaspoons (30-37.5 grams or 150 calories) for a man. If you’re over that limit, it wouldn’t be outrageous to say that you’re overdosing. So should you eliminate sugar?

Well, going sugar-free would be best. Eating naturally occurring sugars from fruit would be wiser. But, adding natural sweeteners may be the answer.

Because certain natural sweeteners like cane sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar, or honey (not vegan) contain some minerals compared to refined white sugar, which has none. But hold up:

Natural sweeteners might be better alternatives, but they’re not any healthier. They are still refined, high in calories and devoid of fiber. They will spike your blood sugar and provoke highs and lows.

Listen, I know we can’t all be perfect. So I always say: when choosing something unwholesome, choose the lesser evil.

Which I did. To create my mocktail, my sweetener of choice was maple syrup to make maple simple syrup. I’ll tell you in a moment how I made it, but for now, I’ll advise you to make it first as a stand-alone ingredient, then add it to your lemonade. This will also allow you to create other drinks with or without alcohol.

Now let’s dive into the sourness of the drink.

A chilling moment on a special day

Last month, on June 17th, I gained another year that pushes me further away from my thirty-something days. Last year, I could pretend the zero that stood next the number four was just a zero. I could pretend it was inexistent. This year, a new guy appeared next to the four. A one. (Dramatic ta-da-dahhh!) Oh! Lord!

But I didn’t pay attention to him. “You are nothing to me! You are not going to make feel like crap”. Someone else was feeling like crap, though. My son. He woke up with a high fever and strolled to the adults’ love nest with his sleepy eyes and puffy face.

Despite that, my man still wanted to take me out for my birthday. So we went to my dream-come-true vegan restaurant, called LOV, that I’d been dying to go to since it opened.

My man and I decided to sit on the front patio to enjoy the sun. When I got the menu, I looked for a medicinal-type drink for the lil’ guy. I chose lemonade, knowing it’d be full of vitamin C and antioxidant punch. This one was spiced with ginger and thyme, as the waiter explained. Even better.

Ginger and thyme lemonade - ingredients

The beverage came in a dazzling glass mug on a thin rectangular wooden tray. You could see a couple of lemon rinds and sprigs of thyme twirled in the cloudy liquid. The thyme was slightly snaking through the ice cubes and out of the glass. It was so inviting that I was immediately drawn to it. I asked lil’ man if I could taste it and he agreed.

I put my hands on the frosted and chilled glass and took a sip. The fluid was perfectly tart and sweet, and it was slightly pungent. And you could detect the thyme’s subtle fragrance. I loved it.

I longed to recreate this refreshing memory

Ginger and thyme lemonade

When something feels this good, you want to experience it again and again. I went to the restaurant’s website to note the ingredients but when I got there, I saw this:

Lemonade
Served hot or chilled

What??? Nothing else? No description? I dug quickly into my memories, afraid they would flutter away. All I could recollect was the image of the drink and the distant voice of the waiter as he was describing it. I searched the web to find a good guideline to recreate it. And I found a few ones that put me on the right path.

To begin, I combined 1 part water and 3/4 part maple syrup to make my maple simple syrup. Apparently, it’s the best ratio to replace sugar, as 1 cup of sugar contains more air, more space between the crystals. I then infused the mixture with a few sprigs of lemon thyme and grated ginger (sliced ginger is shown in the picture) until it simmered. After, I let it cool while the thyme and the ginger steep for extra flavor. Then I strained the syrup, transferred it to a small jar and refrigerated it until ready to use.

Ginger and thyme lemonade - maple simple syrup

Finally, in a pitcher or a mason jar, I diluted lemon juice with water and added a portion of the infused maple simple syrup. I reintroduced fresh lemon thyme and the strained ginger to the lemonade to boost the flavor. I refrigerated the beverage for a few hours and served it over ice with garnishes of lemon rinds and thyme.

This lemonade is tart, but it’s not overpowering. I’m not a fan of cloying sweet lemonade so this fits me perfectly. If you like yours sweeter, then there should be enough simple syrup to sweeten it. The ginger and the thyme flavors are subtle, and the maple syrup gives a distinctive flavor like that of iced tea.

If you want the ginger to be subtle, you could add sliced ginger instead of grated ginger in the infused maple simple syrup. Talking about infused simple syrup, be creative. Consider adding vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, cloves, fresh or dried chiles, various citrus rinds like grapefruit or lime, mint or other fresh herbs, or even edible flowers like lavender or rose petals. And in your lemonade, consider adding cucumber for a unique twist.

It’s also amazing mixed with iced tea or splashed with a little vodka, gin, whiskey, or alcohol of choice. Cheers to that!

Ginger and Thyme Lemonade

Ginger and thyme lemonade

 

Invigorating Ginger and Thyme Lemonade
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Make the perfect summer drink with infused flavors to invigorate you. With ginger and lemon thyme as your spices, you’ll have a unique lemonade. Give it a taste.
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
Infused Maple Simple Syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • ¾ cup maple syrup, or agave or honey
  • 8 sprigs lemon thyme, divided (or regular thyme)
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger (Notes)
Lemonade
  • 4 cups water
  • ¾ cup lemon juice (from about 6 medium lemons)
  • ⅔ cup infused maple simple syrup
  • 4 sprigs lemon thyme
  • Ginger slices for extra steeping (Notes)
  • Thyme for extra steeping and garnish
Directions
  1. First make the infused maple syrup: Combine water and maple syrup to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add ginger and sprigs thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low heat, cover and simmer for about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature for 25 minutes. Strain and refrigerate until further use.
  2. In a large pitcher, add lemon juice and dilute it with water. Add ⅔ cup of the simple syrup mixture and reserve for later use.
  3. Add the ginger slices, some lemon rinds, and lemon thyme to steep if desired. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Serve over ice with garnishes.
Notes
For a lighter ginger flavor, add 6 ¼-inch sliced ginger. In this case, you might need ginger slices for extra steeping in the lemonade.

Your Perfect Summer Thyme Drink

We can all agree that the sweet and sour flavors of real lemonade seem to hit the spot like nothing else on a hot day.

But beware of which lemonade you choose as a refreshment. Commercial “old-fashioned” lemonade is often just as sugary as its colorless cousin.

But the fresh kind made with natural sweeteners is a better candidate to quench your thirst.

So mix yourself a batch of this lemonade. Be sure to add a lot of ice. (It’s best ice-cold.)

Then sit outside on your porch, your patio, or your front steps and look forward to sunnier days, lazy summer afternoons and weekends.

Or better yet, walk around the neighborhood, singing: « Rollin’ down the street, smoking fresh air, sipping on lemon juice. Laid back (with my mind on my health and my health on my mind).