June 26, 2024 | POSTED IN

State Fair Lemonade

pitcher of lemonade and a mug of lemonade with lemons on the side garnished with mint

State Fair Lemonade is a beloved recipe that evokes the nostalgia of sun-soaked summer days and the excitement of annual fairs. This refreshing beverage has roots that stretch back decades, though its precise origins have become a charming mystery. The name itself conjures images of sun-soaked fairgrounds, where the tangy sweetness of homemade lemonade has quenched the thirst of countless visitors.

The magic of this lemonade lies in an ancient preservation technique known as oleo saccharum, or oil-sugar. This method leverages the hygroscopic properties of sugar to extract the fragrant oils from citrus fruits, capturing their pure essence. This technique, often employed to create simple syrups infused with the true flavors of raspberry, watermelon, and other fruits, is the secret to the unparalleled taste of State Fair Lemonade.


  • 6 lemons
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 5 cups cold water


Prepare the Lemons

  • Begin by thoroughly washing the lemons to remove any wax or impurities.
  • Using a vegetable peeler, carefully peel off the zest of the lemons, avoiding the bitter white pith. The zest will contain the essential oils that give the lemonade its distinctive flavor. Reserve the zested lemons for juicing later.

Create the Oleo Saccharum

  •  Place the lemon peels in a bowl and cover them with the sugar.
  • Toss the mixture well to ensure the peels are evenly coated.
  • Cover the bowl and let it rest for a minimum of two hours. For the best results, let it sit overnight. During this time, the sugar will draw out the oils from the lemon peels, creating a fragrant syrup.

Combine and Infuse

  • Bring the five cups of water to a simmer in a pot.
  • Once the water is simmering, turn off the heat and add the lemon sugar mixture.
  • Stir the mixture well and let it sit for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and the sugar to dissolve completely.

Strain and Chill

  • Strain the mixture into a pitcher to remove the lemon peels and any undissolved sugar.
  • Juice the zested lemons into the mixture when cooled.
  • Cover the pitcher and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Serve the Lemonade over ice, and enjoy the perfect blend of tart and sweet, a true taste of summer. A mint garnish brings it up another notch.

Homemade lemonade is a perfect mixer for the Summer Sling – our sophisticated take on an Arnold Palmer.