It's too hot. The air is oppressive and sticky, and it just keeps getting hotter... I need a nice, cold glass of lemonade.

Fortunately, I have a bag of lemons and plenty of ice! So now the question becomes one of technique. Keeping in mind that I'm hot (and consequently lazy), is it worth taking the time to zest the lemons before adding sugar and ice, or will the sugar alone suffice to extract those refreshing oils from the rind?


5 Answers 5


Use a vegetable peeler to peel of large strips of rind. That way, it'll be easier to remove once you're done steeping. If you don't mind it being mildly alcoholic, steep them in vodka and then strain the vodka into the lemonade.

  • 1
    I had to let them steep for the better part of a day... but this worked great in the end - the flavor was intense. Next time, I'm going to do my usual pureed zest for speed, letting the results steep just until ready to serve.
    – Shog9
    Sep 10, 2010 at 2:41

You'll get a strong/different flavor using the lemon zest. I personally like it.

That said, if you mash/muddle the lemons you'll probably get much the same flavor as zesting.


I wouldn't bother myself. Just throw the whole rind in after you juice the lemons: the acid from the juice ought to leach out everything from the peel. I've always thought the whole point of zesting was to get the rind small enough to hide in regular food, more than to bring out flavor.

When I used to hike a lot, we'd put orange rind (no juice) in our water bottles to kill the iodine taste, and the flavor of oranges was pretty evident in the water after half an hour or so, so you might not even need the juice to help.

  • 3
    The whole rind can add bitterness.
    – hobodave
    Jul 15, 2010 at 20:04

You can extract much of the oils from the lemon by muddling (which is often much faster than zesting), and happens immediately as opposed to waiting for the zest to steep:

  • If your lemon has little stickers on it, take 'em off.
  • Slice the lemon in half.
  • Juice the lemon into the cup **
  • Toss the lemon halves into the cup
  • Add granulated sugar to the cup (not superfine)
  • Muddle
  • Add water & ice.
  • Stir
  • Drink

Muddling is basically beating / grinding the stuff in the bottom of the cup. In this case, you're using the sugar to grind the outside of the lemon peel to release the oils. As you're not letting the rind steep into your drink for a long time, you won't get too much of the bitter qualities from this.

** Note that you might want to strain the juice, or you have to sip more carefully to avoid swallowing the pits. Straining is more work up front, and involved cleaning something else, so might not qualify as lazy enough.

I like one lemon to a 16-24 oz glass is about right for me. (if you have cold water and won't need ice, go with the 16oz ... if you're planning on adding lots of ice, use something larger. I use a sugar pourer and don't really know how much sugar I add ... maybe 1TB ?

(and to give proper attribution -- I learned this technique from a stand selling lemonade at the Pennsylvania Rennaisance Faire ... probably 15-20 years ago)


If by effective you mean which drink is more quivering, then adding the lemon zest doesn't make much difference. I think it depends from personal taste.

I am used to add lemon zest in some recipes to add a different taste to meat; I don't add to drinks. If I have to choose, I prefer to add lemon juice in drinks.

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