Choosy Beggars Perfect Spiked Lemonade

Two major things have happened over the last couple of weeks:

First, the summer decided that it wasn’t going to skip the party after all, but just be fashionably late.  So instead of us settling into the usual rainy, cold September, we are now into that most wonderful chilly morning/scorching afternoon summer that I cherish so much.

Things that this sort of weather are perfect for include:

  • Leaving the window open while watching sports in the evenings, while Tina does…  something, I don’t know.  SPORTS SPORTS SPORTS.
  • Not freezing to death while running in either the mid-morning or early evenings, which bodes well for my marathon next week.
  • Getting inappropriate September sunburns to irritate co-workers and baffle foreigners.
  • Potentially salvaging the ruins of our backyard, and harvesting one last totally undeserved round of vegetables from the garden.
  • Drinking too much in the warm, warm sun.

While beer is the generally-accepted companion to all these activities, except for very possibly the running, I decided that it might be classy to close out the summer by putting my money where my mouth is — by putting forth my own ideal, spiked summer lemonade.

Yes, after talking shit about Smirnoff Tuscan Lemonade (with Limoncello!) all season long, it’s time for me to step forward and propose my own alternative.  Heck, there might even be some math involved, we’ll just have to see… if you can stand spreadsheet heat!


But before all that, let’s remember what makes lemonade so good:  a simple combination of sugar, water and lemon juice in the right proportions.  It’s easy to forget just how delicious a home-made glass of lemonade can be — almost as easy as forgetting what a pain in the ass it is — but there are few things so worth the effort.

Real lemon has such a wonderful bright flavor, and sweetens so easily that it practically cries out for booze to be added to it.  One cannot really blame purveyors of pre-packaged cocktails to capitalize on such a familiar, refreshing flavor:  it’s pleasant, it’s friendly to blending, and it’s hard to drink too much of it.

Oh, and it’s so very cheap.

Our cocktail uses all the basics of a home-made lemonade, and adds a few boozy twists that will only make soaking up these last rays of sunshine all the more worth it.

Perfect Spiked Lemonade

  • 1 oz. simple syrup*
  • 1.5 oz. vodka
  • 1.5 oz. limoncello
  • 6-8 ice cubes
  • club soda
  • juice of 1/2 a large lemon, or to taste

* Simple syrup is a staple that should live always in your fridge, and takes nothing but time, sugar and water to put together.  We use about 1 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 cups of water, the former poured into the latter in a pot, and raised to a simmer.  When all the sugar is dissolved into the water, you know you’re ready — any further, and you’re on your way to making caramel.  Make a bunch, put it in in a container in the fridge next to your clarified butter, and race to see which keeps longer.

To your shaker, add all of your ice cubes, and then your lemon juice, vodka and finally limoncello.

Limoncello generally comes in two varieties: overwhelmingly sweet and shockingly bitter, so test yours before you start mixing.  The variety you have will determine whether you choose to compensate with more simple syrup, or less lemon juice.  Whatever the case, it’s a nice way to supercharge the flavor while adding a happy boozy boost.

You want to shake this fairly vigorously, mainly to get that lemon blended nicely in with the alcohols.  Shaking a fruit juice, particularly citrus, together with liquors will soften the edge on even the roughest-toughest of them, and add a little volume from the melted ice.

By the end, you should have a gently yellow, slightly foamy mixture that you can pour fully into a glass, ice and all.  Choose a tall tumbler if you’d like it to be stronger, or a 3/4 pint glass if you’d like to dilute it a little more.  Add more ice cubes to your preference, and finish with the club soda to add some fizz.

The result?


Sweet, bright, clean and delightful. With at least a tablespoon or so of lemon juice, you’ll be getting your Vitamin C; with three ounces of alcohol in there, you’ll keep pace with all the martini-suckers you know, and be more refreshed besides.

And what did it cost you?  Why, we just happen to know… and around here, we show our work.

Price Vol. in oz Usage in oz Cost per cocktail
Limoncello $20.00 20 1.5 $1.50
Vodka $25.00 20 1.5 $1.88
Soda $2.00 32 2.5 $0.16
Lemon $0.50 1 0.50 $0.25
TOTAL $47.50 73 6.00 $3.78
Cost per ounce $0.63
Ounces per bottle Price per bottle Cost per ounce
Tuscan Lemonade
20 $17.95 $0.90
Cost per ounce Cost per 6 oz cocktail
Tuscan Lemonade
$0.90 $5.40
Beggars Lemonade
$0.63 $3.78

That’s a lot of chart numbers, so maybe it’s easier to sum up:

20 oz of Choosy Beggars Perfect Spiked Lemonade (with Limoncello!): $12.60

20 oz of Smirnoff Tuscan Lemonade (with Limoncello!): $17.95

And when you add in the fact that our spiked lemonade is made with fresher ingredients, no chemicals beyond those that you really want ravaging your life, your choice is clear.

There isn’t much summer left.  It’s time to set up your lemonade stand.

  • Kristie

    Dude, lemons aren’t that cheap. At least, they aren’t down here in deeply crappy Texas, but perhaps lemons are less expensive up in the sunny citrus country of Canada. Oh wait, that doesn’t make sense. Yesterday, I had to buy 13 lemons to make limoncello for the holidays. The lemons cost me the most out of all of my grocery items, which made me feel like a worthless shopper.

    Oh, and what running shoes are you rocking? We just bought new ones, after a crippling aborted run on Saturday. I went back to the Brooks Adrenaline GTS, because the Reeboks I just had sucked. My best shoes ever were slime-green Brooks Trance 6. I would give an arm to bring those back…

    • Mike

      Don’t tell me that somehow we’re enjoying a better price on citrus fruit than someone who’s in a state close to the equator? I don’t know whether I should feel proud of that or suspicious.

      I’m still in my Nike…something… oh hell, I forgot the brand. They’re a simple stability shoe that does perfectly for me, except for the fact that I sweat so much I have to dry them out. As it is, I think I’ll have to retire them after the marathon and look into something new.

      The slime-green-ness you mention is a major obstacle for me. Evidently all the shoes perfectly suited for my feet are also flamboyantly awful-looking, making it very difficult for me to blow a lot of money on them.

  • Kevin Durette

    I live in Florida. I just paid $0.38 each for lemons and $0.20 each for limes tonight. They weren’t GREAT lemons and limes, but I tend to be picky on citrus. (I’m very rarely picky on anything else.)

  • Shannon Hope

    I think its great. However, I used the bottle lemon juice becaue it tastes just as good and it’s easier! Great receipe.,

  • Michelle

    How can I make this for a large crowd of 20 heavy drinkers?