News & Politics

Lemonade Tasting

The best old-fashioned summer lemonades.

We’ve seen lemonade gussied up with mangoes or cranberries, fizzed and presented in longneck bottles from France, and dashed with green tea.

But what about the old-fashioned kind, made with just lemons, water, and sugar? We tasted 17 supermarket and gourmet-shop lemonades—nothing pink or frozen—and found a few winners.

Best Overall

Tropicana Pure Premium Orchard Style Lemonade. The bracing flavor of fresh lemons balanced with a mild sweetness and a tart finish makes this our favorite. It’s relatively inexpensive—$4 for a 1.75-liter jug—at most grocery stores.

Best for a Sweet Tooth

Odwalla Pure Squeezed Lemonade. This refresher is sweeter than some but made with evaporated cane juice, a sugar alternative. It’s a good pick for kids, and the strong lemony flavor saves it from being cloying. About $2 for a 15.2-ounce bottle at Whole Foods, Giant, and Safeway.

Best For Tarter Tastes

Nantucket Nectars Lemonade. A high lemon-juice and pulp content makes this preppy favorite the most pucker-inducing blend. To some, that’s a good thing. Others might find the smack of citrus too intense. About $2 for a 17.5-ounce bottle at Marvelous Market, Dean & DeLuca, Balducci’s, Whole Foods, Giant, and Harris Teeter.

Best of the Rest

Natalie’s Orchid Island. This Florida upstart’s offering has the highest juice content—20 percent—of the lemonades we tasted and the sharpest flavor. Cut it with seltzer for a nice mocktail. It’s $4 a quart at Balducci’s.

Newman’s Own Old Fashioned Roadside Virgin Lemonade. Dashes of lemon oil and pulp plus 15-percent juice give this the most intense lemon scent of the bunch. Paul Newman is all smiles on the carton, but the lemonade’s acidity will make most people wince. It’s $2 for a 64-ounce carton at Wegmans, Safeway, and Giant.

Don’t Bother

“Medicinal,” “like a melted popsicle,” and “candy-sweet” were a few of the comments inspired by sips of these lemonades. Turkey Hill, Weg­mans brand, and Florida Natural (oddly flavored with grapefruit pulp) all tasted artificial. Trader Joe’s Organic, O Organic (a Safeway brand), and Whole Foods’ 365 were undone by a metallic aftertaste. Santa Cruz Organic and Minute Maid were too watery and lacked much lemon flavor at all.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.