The Sweet Accident That May Have Led To The Creation Of Pink Lemonade

When sweet summertime rolls around, all we want is a chilled beverage in our hands. And few drinks are more reminiscent of sunny childhood days spent splashing in the pool than pink lemonade. But while we chugged this colorful drink with abandon as kids, we didn't necessarily pause to consider what it actually is. What puts the "pink" in pink lemonade?

Regular lemonade is easy enough to make. All you need to whip up simple, classic lemonade are water, lemons, and white sugar — though you may want to add salt to your lemonade next time. The drink is assumed to have been consumed in ancient Asian civilizations — or at least, some version of sweet lemon water was (via Mental Floss). But the beverage was first documented in records of medieval Egyptian life around 1050 A.D. 

The reason for lemonade's long-term popularity is not a mystery. We love drinking it on a hot day because the acidic properties in lemon stimulate saliva, which keeps your mouth wet after you're done with your drink, making you feel hydrated longer (per Slate). The same holds true for pink lemonade, which has a similar sour taste. But just from drinking it alone, it can be hard to tell how different pink lemonade is from the classic version. Luckily, the story of how this rosy version came to be has some answers.

A circus creation

The creation of pink lemonade didn't happen overnight. According to Smithsonian Magazine, one possible origin story for the drink dates back to 1857, when a circus vendor named Pete Conklin ran out of regular lemonade. He decided to instead use water that a performer had wrung out her pink tights in. When life gave him lemons, Conklin made lemonade — or rather sold pink-tinted water he re-branded as strawberry lemonade.

It's hard to imagine that dirty laundry water contributed to the success of pink lemonade today, but it's clear that the beverage likely came from the circus, based on another potential theory. A 1912 obituary in The New York Times archives names Henry E. Allott, who ran away from home as a teenager to join the circus, as the inventor of pink lemonade. Allegedly, he unintentionally dropped red cinnamon candies into a tub of regular lemonade, turning it pink. This happy accident became such a hit that Allott continued making it.

Regardless of pink lemonade's true beginnings, its popularity over the years has led to red ingredients like cranberry juice being used to lend color; however, the drink most commonly gets its hue from red food dye (via HuffPost). Adding naturally red fruit juices may be preferable though, since they tend to make lemonade sweeter and less sour, per Foods Guy. Whichever version you choose, it's safe to say that the delicious drink we know today is a far cry from its circus origins.