Portable Lemonade (1850) ★★★★

In our modern era where portable water flavourings are all the rage, I find this Victorian recipe to be quite ahead of its time. What I love about food history is finding unique recipes like this one and seeing how innovative people in the past really were.

Original Recipe:

The Verdict:
The second thing I love about food history is actually trying out historical recipes. Reading the recipe, I thought this would make something like lemon sugar, but it actually makes a syrup. I wouldn't have known that without actually making the recipe. Anyway, this is a tasty syrup, but the proportions given in the original recipe make for barely flavoured lemon water. I found 4 - 5 teaspoons per cup of water to be nice, but it depends on personal preference. I also didn't find I needed extra sourness form citric acid.

Modernized Recipe:
(Adapted from Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book)

4 large LEMONS
1 pound SUGAR
CITRIC ACID, optional*

1. Zest and juice the lemons. Mix this with the sugar. After tasting, if it is too sweet, add a little citric acid to taste. Keep in a jar.
2. To serve, use about one tablespoon per one cup of water. Shake before using, because the sugar will settle.

*Note: If you want to reduce the sweetness, but don't want to go out and buy a bunch of citric acid, a crushed vitamin C tablet or the powdered form will do in a pinch. Vitamin C is actually ascorbic acid, but it acts in much the same was as citric acid, by providing a sour taste. You could also try Fruit Fresh or a similar preserving/anti-browning agent, which usually contains both ascorbic and citric acids.

Anje graduated with a Honours Bachelors degree in History with a minor in Museum Studies. She currently lives and works in Japan's least populous prefecture as an assistant English teacher.


  1. In Australia this would be called a cordial. There are gazillions of commercial cordials on the supermarket shelves as well as delicatessen lines. Inexpensive. Long shelf life. No refrigeration required. Of course they are made nowadays with preservatives, colourings, and flavourings, but originally were just like your recipe here. Barley water would be another example. Lemon changes flavour when heated so is a bit tricky, but other fruits are cooked to make a syrup. The sugar is the preservative and the stabiliser, I think. To make cordial into a drink, usually served at home and for families, one sixth concentrate is mixed with water and ice.

  2. It's interesting that this is called "portable". I wonder what they thought makes this more portable than any other type of lemonade? Thanks for sharing this very interesting recipe.