I may have a slight addiction to vanilla beans. I buy them in bulk and they seem to find themselves in quite a few of my recipes. In fact, I’m always looking for excuses to use them. I had never made real lemonade before and I do love just straight up fresh lemons, I couldn’t seem to stop my hand from reaching for that bag of vanilla beans I keep around.
The recipe uses a basic simple syrup of 2 parts water to 1 part sugar but there are a couple key tips to keep in mind when making this: just split the vanilla bean but don’t scrape out the little seeds or your lemonade will look filthy. Secondly, zest one of the lemons with a vegetable peeler to get fat strips of just the zest (no pith) and let the lemon zest steep in the simple syrup with the vanilla bean as the simple syrup cools. The addition of the pure lemon flavour that you only get from lemon zest really gives you full lemon flavour in the lemonade. You will also enjoy the perfume in your kitchen of the complimentary scents of vanilla and lemon melding together.
After my recent disappointments on the job-hunting front, this drink was one of the first things I made after I crawled out of my funk. I didn’t have the fortitude to bake since coming up with new baking recipes often results in failures. I have even started to apply for jobs again and should I get one, my husband is excited about the prospect of taking paternity leave so that I can push forward with a career. He would make a much better stay at home parent than I do. He is immensely patient and loves to play with little kids. If I go back to work and he stays home, I may still be 100% responsible for dinner and much of the cleaning because he was busy playing all day, but I wouldn’t care. I would be happy to have a job outside the home.
I probably wouldn’t have even thought to make this lemonade if I wasn’t pregnant and looking for something special to drink when what I really want is a glass of wine. You might think that this recipe will be the first in a series of mocktails, but it won’t. I know many people love creating mocktails but I like making drinks, or punch or non-alcoholic beverages. I won’t call anything fun that I make that doesn’t have booze in it a mocktail. I feel that the word taunts me which then leads me to think of Monty Python. Now you are probably thinking, “What the hell does a calling something a mocktail have to do with Monty Python?” Well, let me lead you through my bizarre train of thought. First, like I said, mocktail makes me think of mocking, which is a synonym of taunting. Any time I think or say the word ‘taunt’, I think of the French guards on the battlements of the castle taunting King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It was the first time I had heard the word ‘taunt’ (I saw the movie at a shockingly young age) and it really stuck with me. So to follow my logic, if someone offers me a non-alcoholic drink, I happily accept. If someone offers me a mocktail, in my mind I think they are really taunting the poor pregnant woman who can’t have the delicious looking wine everyone else if having, so what they are really saying in a bad French accent as they hand me my non-wine drink is, “I fart in your general direction.”
This is an extreme view and it isn’t with malice that I think of the word ‘mocktail’. How can you be truly offended when in your mind you are imagining a French guy in armour threatening purposeful flatulence? Friends and family alike, know that if you offer me a mocktail, this is what will run through my strange little mind. I will accept the drink with a smile.
A sweet and tangy fresh lemonade balanced with the comforting floral notes of real vanilla bean. Perfect drink for a summer afternoon on the patio.
30 minPrep Time
5 minCook Time
35 minTotal Time
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (seeds not scraped out)
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (6-8 lemons depending on size)
- 2 cups vanilla bean and lemon simple syrup
- 4 cups cold water or sparkling water
- 1 or 2 cups ice
- In a small saucepan heat the 2 cups of water with the sugar. Use more or less sugar, depending on your personal taste.
- Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, but do not scrape the seeds out as is common to do when using vanilla beans.
- When the sugar has fully dissolved, turn off the heat and add the split vanilla bean.
- Wash a lemon well, and peel large strips of just the yellow zest off the lemon using a vegetable peeler. Try to avoid getting the white pith since it is bitter.
- Add the zest to the syrup in the pot and let the vanilla and lemon zest sit in the syrup to steep as the syrup cools.
- Juice 6 or more lemons to get 1 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice. Juice the lemons using a fine mesh sieve over a large glass measuring cup so that any excess pulp and the seeds get caught in the sieve.
- Strain the syrup into the measuring cup through the same sieve as the lemons to catch the zest and vanilla bean*.
- Pour the sweetened lemon juice into a pitcher along with 4 cups of cold water or sparkling water. Add one or two cups of ice cubes, plus some raspberries and lemon slices for garnish.
Leave the vanilla bean to dry overnight on a plate and put it in a jar filled with sugar so you can have some vanilla sugar.