Fresh Herbs That Will Elevate Your Lemonade

If there's a drink worthy of the title "Summer's Ultimate Refresher," it's a refreshing glass of classic, ice-cold lemonade. It's nothing fancy, just juice pressed from a lemon (which you can microwave for easier hand-juicing), water, some sweeteners, and a heap of ice — you can whip it up, kick back, and relax in mere minutes. But why stop there? You can take your lemonade to the next level with the addition of one extra ingredient: fresh herbs.


Fresh is the key here. These will give you flavor and fragrance that the dried stuff won't be able to match. Crush up those aromatic leaves in the glass with a muddler, and their essential oils will effortlessly blend with your lemonade to give you a drink that's totally different from the classic version you know from childhood. Plus, with fresh herbs on hand, you can garnish your glass with a sprig or two to make it Instagram-worthy (or just as a treat to yourself for a drink-mixing job well done). As for what kind of herb to pick, you've got tons of options to choose from. Here are our top picks.

Mint for extra coolness

Peppermint or spearmint are both fine here. Snag a few leaves (between five and 10, depending on how minty you want your drink to be) and drop them down into the bottom of the glass. Use a muddler to gently press the essential oil out of the leaves. That's where the magic comes from — those oils carry the vibrant flavor and aroma you're after. Follow this up with a shovelful of ice and pour in your lemonade. Stir well, and you should have a minty, lemony drink ready to go.


What makes a mint lemonade especially refreshing is menthol, the chemical that's responsible for the unique cooling sensation you get when you have a bit of the herb. This chemical actually tricks your taste buds into feeling a chill, even when there isn't one. Pair that with ice-cold lemonade, and you've got the definition of a summer cooldown in a glass.

Pro tip: Try swapping regular water for sparkling water or club soda to turn your drink into a mint sparkling lemonade. You'll get a burst of carbonation on the tongue, followed by a wave of cool mint and zesty lemon. Be careful not to get a brain freeze between the icy drink and the intense flavors!

Lemon thyme for a touch of citrusy spice

While harder to find than regular thyme (which will work for this trick in a pinch), lemon thyme will give your lemonade an interesting twist. You can differentiate this herb from regular thyme by the yellow flecks in its leaves. Its name and peculiar appearance hint at its secret weapon: a subtle citrus kick beneath the classic, earthy spice of thyme. As you might expect, this herb's natural lemony zing pairs really well with lemonade.


For a single serving, you can muddle the leaves in a glass, add iced lemonade, stir, and sip away. If you're serving a group of people, however, rather than muddling each glass manually, it'll be far more convenient to make a lemon thyme simple syrup. To do so, simmer fresh lemon thyme with sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Strain out the leaves, and you've got a fragrant syrup that you can add to a jug of lemonade to both sweeten and flavor it. You can also use this trick with mint, as well as all other herbs going forward. No matter which one you pick, though, the result will still prove a tasty, summery drink.

Rosemary to get a Mediterranean-esque drink

Rosemary, a native of the sunny Mediterranean, takes easily to a pitcher of cool lemonade. You can count on this sun-loving herb to bring a unique, woody aroma to your drink, which will do wonders for its overall depth and complexity. The piney flavor beautifully balances out the lemonade's tangy sweetness, while its pungent, herbal scent will be a welcome departure from the usual zesty scent of fresh lemonade.


In any case, you still have two infusion routes here: Either muddle your rosemary directly into your drink, or brew a pot of rosemary simple syrup on the stove and add it to your concoction. Once you've finished prepping, add a full stalk of rosemary into the glass, or alternatively, cut up the herb into two or three pieces and float them atop the lemonade. While they won't add much more flavor to the drink, they'll look awesome, plus you'll get a whiff of fresh rosemary with each sip.

Purple basil for a colorful twist

Here's basil lemonade with a twist: Infuse your lemonade with purple basil (sometimes called "red basil") instead of the regular herb for homemade herbal pink lemonade. Flavor-wise, it's similar to traditional basil but is notably less sweet and has more herbal characteristics. That said, purple basil is on the milder side, which is great if you don't want to use an herb that's too overpowering in your drink.


The leaves' coloring, of course, is the main attraction. Instead of verdant green, purple basil has a very dark purple, eggplant-like hue due to the accumulation of a pigment called anthocyanin. When you infuse your lemonade with this basil, a little bit of this pigment will also leak into the drink, making it turn a pretty pink color. If you want to add a bit of flair to your lemonade without resorting to artificial coloring, this is the perfect way to do so. Infusion is simple and isn't all that different from the previous herbs. You can press the purplish oil from the leaves directly into the glass with a muddler, or you can brew a pinkish simple syrup to sweeten and flavor your lemonade jug.


Lemongrass if you like it sour

From the name alone, you can already guess why we included this herb on our list. With its strong lemony taste and smell, lemongrass has a natural home in a glass of lemonade. The way to infuse this herb into your drink will be a bit different from others on this list, though, since lemongrass isn't a leafy herb — all of the good bits are hidden in the stalk.


As usual, you have two infusion choices. If you're making a single glass, trim both ends of the lemongrass so you have a thick stalk, then cut it into three or four pieces so it fits inside the glass. Use a muddler to gently press the essential oil out, and mix with ice. For the boiling method, after trimming the stalk, boil the pieces alongside sugar and water in the pot until you have a syrup (if you want to get an even more lemony scent, you can throw in a few bits of lemon peel, too).

Because you're basically doubling down on the citrusy tone here, the final drink will taste very bright. If it's too intense, you can always dilute it with water or add more sweetener. Alternatively, you can balance out the flavor by adding another herb! Mint works wonders here. Muddle it into the lemonade, and the earthy notes and cooling effect — combined with the highly citrusy drink — will carry you through the hottest days of summer without breaking a sweat.