14 Tart Facts About Lemonade

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Sweet or tart, pink or yellow, a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade is the perfect accompaniment to a sunny afternoon. An idyllic symbol of summertime and childhood, the simple drink has a surprisingly rich cultural history. Thirsty folks all over the world have been enjoying lemonade for at least 1000 years, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon—just ask Beyoncé. Kick up your feet and enjoy these refreshing lemonade facts—hammock optional.

1. LEMONADE PROBABLY BEGAN IN ASIA, BUT WAS FIRST RECORDED IN ANCIENT EGYPT.

Lemons originated in China, India, and Myanmar, and it’s safe to assume that some form of sweetened lemon water was first enjoyed in the ancient Far East. But the earliest written record of the beverage comes from Persian poet Nasir-I-Khusraw, who wrote detailed accounts of daily life in Egypt around 1050 CE. The medieval Egyptians’s version of lemon juice and sugar, called qatarzimat, was a valued trade item and was frequently exported to other cultures.

2. PRE-REVOLUTION FRANCE HAD WANDERING LEMONADE PEDDLERS.

As global trade continued to expand, lemons and lemonade became increasingly popular across Europe. The drink took particular hold in Paris, where the Compagnie de Limonadiers was formed in the 1670s. This roving group of street vendors would sell glasses of lemonade to passersby, directly from tanks strapped to their backs. Convenient!

3. “LEMONADE” MEANS DIFFERENT THINGS IN DIFFERENT PLACES.

Across North America as well as in India, “lemonade” refers to that familiar blend of water, sugar, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. But order a lemonade in England, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand, and you’ll get some bubbles as well; in those countries, “lemonade” refers to carbonated lemon-flavored (or lemon-lime) soft drinks, similar to Sprite. (Pro tip: If you want something more resembling the American version in the UK, ask for a “cloudy lemonade,” but even that can be fizzy.)

4. THE MIDDLE EAST TAKES THEIRS WITH MINT (AS OF LATE).


On a hot day in Israel, Syria, Lebanon, or Jordan, you might reach for a Limonana, a local variation that includes crushed mint leaves. The combination is a classic one, but its status as a regional favorite (and that name) are surprisingly recent. In 1990, as a way of proving the efficacy of their marketing campaigns, the Israeli agency Fogel Levin began advertising the drink on public buses. Although the product didn’t exist, the campaign generated enough buzz that restaurants and soft-drink companies began making their own lemon-mint blends.

5. IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE, BUT THERE IS SOME SCIENCE BEHIND LEMONADE.

Just about any iced drink is pleasant on a sweltering day, but food researchers have discovered why lemonade really hits the spot. Sour or tart drinks stimulate our salivary glands, which provides relief to the “dry mouth” feeling we associate with being tired and dehydrated. This effect even continues after you’ve polished off the glass, making lemonade “thirst quenching” in a literal sense.

6. ONE OF OUR MOST POPULAR PROVERBS BECAME WIDESPREAD THANKS TO AN ACTOR’S OBITUARY.


Marshall Pinckney Wilder, second from right. Wikimedia Commons

When life gives you lemons … you know what to do, right? The classic advice to “make lemonade” out of our problems became famous probably thanks to the 1915 obituary for Marshall Pinckney Wilder, who achieved success as an actor, writer, and humorist despite battling dwarfism and related health problems throughout his life. The original version of the phrase, penned by writer Elbert Hubbard, read "He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemonade-stand.”

But despite what is often said, this was not the first use of the phrase. In 1909, the "Retailers Newspaper" Men's Wear said: "In business turn obstacles into conveniences. When handed a lemon—make lemonade of it." But perhaps the most literal telling of this advice is from the Chicago School of Sanitary Instruction in 1911: "If anyone hands you a lemon, make lemonade of it. It is both healthful and pleasant to take."

7. THE HUMBLE LEMONADE STAND IS MORE THAN 135 YEARS OLD.

It’s an image straight from Norman Rockwell: a few enterprising tykes selling fresh lemonade in the front yard. But lemonade wasn’t always kid stuff. The New York Times first referenced a Wisconsin shopkeeper hawking the drink outside his store in 1879, and by the following summer, stands popped up all around New York City, selling cups for a nickel each. "Before, if a thirsty soul wanted a glass of lemonade on a hot day, he had to go into some bar-room and pay 15 cents for it," the Times reported in July 1880. "Now, at any one of these lemonade-stands—and scores of them have been established—a customer can have a glass of ice-cold lemonade, made before his eyes, for 5 cents.”

8. WE’RE STILL CHARMED BY LEMONADE-STAND ECONOMICS.

Lemonade has proven to be a surprisingly robust subject for business-simulation games. The earliest such example, Lemonade Stand, was included for free on Apple II computers beginning in 1979; players determined their success through manipulating simple variables such as selling price and advertising budget. The game’s accessible formula led to a more complex simulator, Lemonade Tycoon, in 2002, as well as countless board games, educational tools, and apps. You can still play that original version online at Archive.org!

9. ALEX SCOTT TURNED LEMONADE INTO MAJOR MEDICAL AID.

As a 4-year-old battling neuroblastoma (a form of pediatric cancer), Alexandra Scott began selling lemonade outside her family’s Connecticut home to raise money for cancer research. Her first venture raised more than $2000 and inspired other children and adults across the U.S. to join her cause. Alex’s efforts were later featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Today Show, and were the subject of the 2006 documentary Alex Scott: A Stand for Hope. Although Alex passed away at age 8, her vision lives on as Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which to date has raised over $100 million for cancer research.

10. PINK LEMONADE ORIGINATED IN A WASHTUB.


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What gives pink lemonade its distinctive hue? These days, it’s made with a few drops of red food dye, or a splash of strawberry juice. But according to Joe Nickell, author of Secrets of the Sideshows, the invention was a rather unappetizing accident. As the legend goes, circus vendor Pete Conklin had sold his entire stock of regular lemonade, and needed to make more on the spot. Without access to running water or a well, Conklin resorted to using a tub of water that had been tinted pink after being used to wash the red tights of circus performers. Another, slightly more appetizing tale is that circus man Henry Allott was making lemonade when some red cinnamon candies fell in, discoloring his beverages. Bottoms up?

11. ONE OF AMERICA’S GREATEST GOLFERS MIXED HIS WITH TEA.

Bellying up to the bar at the 1960 U.S. Open, golf superstar Arnold Palmer ordered a blend of lemonade and sweet tea, and his name’s been attached to that popular variation ever since. Add vodka to an Arnold Palmer and it becomes a John Daly (a bit of dark humor referencing fellow golfer Daly’s struggle with alcoholism), or for a real kick, swap out the vodka for Everclear—that’s now known as a Happy Gilmore.

12. NO VODKA FOR FIRST LADY "LEMONADE LUCY" THOUGH!

In 1877, in an attempt to curry favor from the Prohibition Party, the White House banned alcohol from all parties and state dinners. Although the decision was made by President Rutherford B. Hayes, his wife, First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes, was a known teetotaler and received the brunt of criticism—as well as the enduring nickname "Lemonade Lucy," which was coined 11 years after her death—from detractors.

13. LEMONADE STANDS HAVE BECOME A HOT-BUTTON ISSUE.


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If your kids are thinking of spending the afternoon hawking lemonade from the front lawn, beware—the “industry” has gotten thornier than you might remember from your youth. Unsuspecting sellers can be slapped with heavy fines for failure to comply with health and safety regulations or local permitting laws. Naturally, the issue has become a flashpoint for critics of government regulation and has led to protests, most notably Lemonade Freedom Day.

14. THE SWEET DRINK HAS INSPIRED SOME SWEET MELODIES.

These days, Google “lemonade” and you’ll get more Beyoncé than beverage. The superstar singer’s “visual album” Lemonade was an instant hit when it was released in April, and it proved that, 100 years after Marshall Pinckney Wilder, the advice to “make lemonade” out of our hardships still resonates. But Bey is hardly the first artist to draw inspiration from the drink—singer G. Love used Lemonade as an album title in 2006, and musicians as diverse as Gucci Mane, Danity Kane, and Blind Melon all have songs of the same title in their repertoire. There's also Lemonade, the dance band from San Francisco, and Lemonade, the Eve Ensler play. One thing’s for sure: Whether you’re drinking lemonade, making it, selling it, or singing about it, no one can get enough of it.

Turn Your LEGO Bricks Into a Drone With the Flybrix Drone Kit

Flyxbrix/FatBrain
Flyxbrix/FatBrain

Now more than ever, it’s important to have a good hobby. Of course, a lot of people—maybe even you—have been obsessed with learning TikTok dances and baking sourdough bread for the last few months, but those hobbies can wear out their welcome pretty fast. So if you or someone you love is looking for something that’s a little more intellectually stimulating, you need to check out the Flybrix LEGO drone kit from Fat Brain Toys.

What is a Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit?

The Flybrix drone kit lets you build your own drones out of LEGO bricks and fly them around your house using your smartphone as a remote control (via Bluetooth). The kit itself comes with absolutely everything you need to start flying almost immediately, including a bag of 56-plus LEGO bricks, a LEGO figure pilot, eight quick-connect motors, eight propellers, a propeller wrench, a pre-programmed Flybrix flight board PCB, a USB data cord, a LiPo battery, and a USB LiPo battery charger. All you’ll have to do is download the Flybrix Configuration Software, the Bluetooth Flight Control App, and access online instructions and tutorials.

Experiment with your own designs.

The Flybrix LEGO drone kit is specifically designed to promote exploration and experimentation. All the components are tough and can totally withstand a few crash landings, so you can build and rebuild your own drones until you come up with the perfect design. Then you can do it all again. Try different motor arrangements, add your own LEGO bricks, experiment with different shapes—this kit is a wannabe engineer’s dream.

For the more advanced STEM learners out there, Flybrix lets you experiment with coding and block-based coding. It uses an arduino-based hackable circuit board, and the Flybrix app has advanced features that let you try your hand at software design.

Who is the Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit for?

Flybrix is a really fun way to introduce a number of core STEM concepts, which makes it ideal for kids—and technically, that’s who it was designed for. But because engineering and coding can get a little complicated, the recommended age for independent experimentation is 13 and up. However, kids younger than 13 can certainly work on Flybrix drones with the help of their parents. In fact, it actually makes a fantastic family hobby.

Ready to start building your own LEGO drones? Click here to order your Flybrix kit today for $198.

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When Al Capone Ran a Soup Kitchen During the Great Depression

Al Capone: Public Enemy #1, soup kitchen proprietor
Al Capone: Public Enemy #1, soup kitchen proprietor
The Paris Bureau of The New York Times, National Archives and Records Administration // Public Domain

Four years after gangster Al Capone took over Chicago’s leading crime syndicate, he had raked in over $40 million—around $550 million today. The money came from illegally selling booze during Prohibition; bottles were distributed to more than 10,000 speakeasies and brothels in a vast bootlegging network across the Midwest.

Capone’s alcohol distribution was unlawful, but to many Americans, the man’s work was heroic. He claimed he was just a businessman giving the people what they wanted—and what the people wanted more than anything in the 1920s was liquor.

But Capone’s role as an Italian-American Robin Hood didn’t stop there. As he orchestrated criminal activities behind the scenes, Capone simultaneously launched a program to provide milk to Chicago school children and donated huge sums to local charities.

It was the stock market crash on October 29, 1929, however, that spurred Capone to his greatest work of philanthropy. Almost overnight, the American economy collapsed into the Great Depression. Banks failed, businesses shuttered, and millions were suddenly unemployed and hungry. Hundreds of soup kitchens popped up around the country. One of them belonged to Al Capone.

No Questions Asked

Men line up at Al Capone's soup kitchen during the Great Depression
Men line up at Al Capone's soup kitchen during the Great Depression.
The Paris Bureau of The New York Times, National Archives and Records Administration // Public Domain

When Al Capone’s soup kitchen opened at 935 South State Street, in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood, in mid-November 1930, hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans were out of work. By the following year, 624,000 people—or 50 percent of the Chicago workforce—were out of a job.

Capone’s charity had no name, just a sign over the door that advertised “Free Soup, Coffee & Doughnuts for the Unemployed.” Inside, women in white aprons served an average of 2200 people a day with a smile and no questions asked. Breakfast was hot coffee and sweet rolls. Both lunch and dinner consisted of soup and bread. Every 24 hours, diners devoured 350 loaves of bread and 100 dozen rolls. They washed down their meals with 30 pounds of coffee sweetened with 50 pounds of sugar. The whole operation cost $300 per day.

The soup kitchen didn’t advertise its connection to Capone, but the mobster-benefactor’s name was connected to it in stories printed in local newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and The Rock Island Argus. Those who were down on their luck, though, apparently had few qualms about eating from the hand of Chicago’s worst crime boss. Often the line to get in to the kitchen was so long that it wound past the door of the city’s police headquarters, where Capone was considered Public Enemy #1, according to Harper’s Magazine. The line was particularly lengthy when Capone’s soup kitchen hosted a Thanksgiving meal of cranberry sauce and beef stew for 5000 hungry Chicagoans. (Why beef and not turkey? After 1000 turkeys were stolen from a nearby department store, Capone feared he’d be blamed for the theft and made a last-minute menu change.)

Capone's Ulterior Motives

Capone’s efforts to feed Chicago during the darkest days of the Great Depression weren’t entirely altruistic. It wasn’t even originally his idea, but that of his friend and political ally Daniel Serritella, who was elected to the Illinois state senate in 1930. Nor did Capone invest much of his own money into the operation. Instead, Deirdre Bair writes in Capone: His Life, Legacy and Legend, he bribed and extorted other businesses to stock the pantry. In just one example, during Seritella's 1932 trial for conspiring with grocers to cheat customers [PDF], the court discovered that a load of ducks that had been donated to Christmas baskets for the poor ended up in Capone’s soup kitchen instead.

Perhaps more than anything, Capone opened his soup kitchen to get the public back on his side after he was implicated in the 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. In that murder spree, Capone's associates were believed to have assassinated seven men, five of whom hailed from the rival North Side Gang, inside a Chicago parking garage—though no one was ever prosecuted. Harper’s writer Mary Borden distilled Capone's double-dealing when she described him as “an ambidextrous giant who kills with one hand and feeds with the other.”

Capone’s soup kitchen closed abruptly in April 1932. The proprietors claimed that the kitchen was no longer needed because the economy was picking up, even though the number of unemployed across the country had increased by 4 million between 1931 and 1932. The diners who had attended the kitchen daily were forced to move on to another one.

Two months later, Capone was indicted on 22 counts of income tax evasion; the charges that eventually landed him in San Francisco’s Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. Though Capone vowed to reopen his soup kitchen during his trial, its doors stayed shut. By the time he was released from prison in 1939, a raging case of syphilis had rendered Capone mentally and physically incapable of managing his own life, let alone that of Chicago’s once-dominant crime syndicate and the soup kitchen that softened his gangster image.

Capone died in 1947, but his larger-than-life legacy lives on. His soup kitchen wasn’t so lucky. The building became a flophouse, and in 1955, Chicago authorities deemed it a fire hazard and shut it down permanently. Today, only a parking lot remains at the site of Chicago’s most notorious food pantry.