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.

The Most Popular Christmas Cookie in Each State

Jen Tepp/iStock via Getty Images
Jen Tepp/iStock via Getty Images

While opinions about peppermint bark, reindeer corn, and other Christmas candies are important enough to warrant a map of their own, we all know that the real crown jewel of any kitchen counter during the holidays is an enormous platter of homemade cookies.

In a festive endeavor to guess which type of cookie is most likely to be on your counter this Christmas, General Mills collected search data from BettyCrocker.com, Pillsbury.com, and Tablespoon.com, and created a map that shows which recipes are clicked most often in each state.

Those universally adored Hershey Kiss-topped peanut butter cookies, known on Betty Crocker’s website as Classic Peanut Butter Blossoms, took the top spot in seven states, including Florida, Pennsylvania, California, Kentucky, Nevada, South Carolina, and Wyoming. And people don’t just love peanut butter in blossom form—Easy Peanut Butter Cookie Cups, Peanut Butter-Chocolate Cookies, and 2-Ingredient PB-Chocolate Truffles also made appearances on the list.

general mills christmas cookies map
General Mills

Peanut butter treats are definitely a popular choice among holiday bakers in general, and cookie decorators are likely responsible for the prevalence of plain old sugar cookies across the nation. Sugar Cookie Cutouts, Easy Spritz Cookies, and Easy Italian Christmas Cookies all offer a deliciously blank slate for your artistic aspirations.

Apart from peanut butter- and plain sugar-based desserts, the rest of the results were pretty scattered. Iowa most often opts for the figure eight-shaped Swedish Kringla, while Michigan loves a good jam-filled Polish Kolaczki. Surprisingly, Hawaii was the only state to choose gingerbread cookies as their seasonal favorite.

If you’re thinking classic chocolate chip cookies are suspiciously absent from this map altogether, you have great dessert-related detective skills: General Mills decided to omit them from the study, since they’re Betty Crocker’s most-searched cookie recipe all year long, and they would’ve dominated in a staggering 22 states.

Whether you’re looking for a new show-stopping cookie recipe or just wondering how your long-standing family traditions compare to others’, you can read more on the study—and see all the recipes in full—here.

[h/t General Mills]

Why Do Fruitcakes Last So Long?

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Fruitcake is a shelf-stable food unlike any other. One Ohio family has kept the same fruitcake uneaten (except for periodic taste tests) since it was baked in 1878. In Antarctica, a century-old fruitcake discovered in artifacts left by explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s 1910 expedition remains “almost edible,” according to the researchers who found it. So what is it that makes fruitcake so freakishly hardy?

It comes down to the ingredients. Fruitcake is notoriously dense. Unlike almost any other cake, it’s packed chock-full of already-preserved foods, like dried and candied nuts and fruit. All those dry ingredients don’t give microorganisms enough moisture to reproduce, as Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, explained in 2014. That keeps bacteria from developing on the cake.

Oh, and the booze helps. A good fruitcake involves plenty of alcohol to help it stay shelf-stable for years on end. Immediately after a fruitcake cools, most bakers will wrap it in a cheesecloth soaked in liquor and store it in an airtight container. This keeps mold and yeast from developing on the surface. It also keeps the cake deliciously moist.

In fact, fruitcakes aren’t just capable of surviving unspoiled for months on end; some people contend they’re better that way. Fruitcake fans swear by the aging process, letting their cakes sit for months or even years at a stretch. Like what happens to a wine with age, this allows the tannins in the fruit to mellow, according to the Wisconsin bakery Swiss Colony, which has been selling fruitcakes since the 1960s. As it ages, it becomes even more flavorful, bringing out complex notes that a young fruitcake (or wine) lacks.

If you want your fruitcake to age gracefully, you’ll have to give it a little more hooch every once in a while. If you’re keeping it on the counter in advance of a holiday feast a few weeks away, the King Arthur Flour Company recommends unwrapping it and brushing it with whatever alcohol you’ve chosen (brandy and rum are popular choices) every few days. This is called “feeding” the cake, and should happen every week or so.

The aging process is built into our traditions around fruitcakes. In Great Britain, one wedding tradition calls for the bride and groom to save the top tier of a three-tier fruitcake to eat until the christening of the couple’s first child—presumably at least a year later, if not more.

Though true fruitcake aficionados argue over exactly how long you should be marinating your fruitcake in the fridge, The Spruce says that “it's generally recommended that soaked fruitcake should be consumed within two years.” Which isn't to say that the cake couldn’t last longer, as our century-old Antarctic fruitcake proves. Honestly, it would probably taste OK if you let it sit in brandy for a few days.

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