Why Is British Lemonade So Different From American?

If you find yourself traveling across the United Kingdom (and parts of continental Europe for that matter), ordering a simple glass of classic lemonade may not get you the drink you're expecting. Even as both Britain and the United States speak (almost) the same language, what passes for lemonade in one country is something completely different to another. 

Americans know and love lemonade as a sweet juice made by squeezing several lemons, then adding plenty of sugar and water to balance out the tart flavor. But to the Brits, lemonade refers to a sweet fizzy drink that may or may not have actual lemon juice in it. In fact, any drink that's listed on a pub or restaurant menu as "lemonade" is likely to end up being akin to Sprite or 7-Up: clear, carbonated, and citrusy.

The pain is real for travelers who have crossed the Atlantic and taken to social media to express their surprise and disappointment after ordering what they thought would be a tall, refreshing glass of sweet fruit juice, only to receive something artificially flavored and fizzy.

British lemonade changed with the invention of sparkling water

The truth is, British lemonade wasn't always so different. One of the earliest recipes for lemonade comes to us by way of "Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management." Published in 1861, the book not only gives us an insight into how a Victorian household should be managed, it also shares hundreds of recipes — including one for lemonade, which doesn't look too different from the way America prepares its favorite summer drink today. Mrs' Beeton calls for a total of five lemons (two zested, and three juiced) and 3/4 cup of sugar to be mixed into 1 quart of water, and left for two days before it is consumed. With the popularization of carbonated drinks in England during the 19th century, lemonade took on a different journey — one that focused more on the bubbles than the distinctly natural lemony taste. 

Having said all this, it is possible to get lemonade with fruit juice in it in Britain today. You just have to ask for "cloudy lemonade" which will get you a fizzy drink made with lemon juice concentrate added in. It may not be exactly what you're looking for, but it will at least bring you one step closer to the beverage you're craving, particularly on a hot summer's day.