I often make lemonade over the Summer with the simple recipe of two cups of lemon juice and two cups of sugar per gallon. My starting place for a hard lemonade was just to make a five gallon batch and then add champagne yeast, yeast nutrient and yeast energizer.
Even with this help, it took a while to get going, the acidity of the lemon juice hampering the yeast. I was afraid of this, and it was the reason I used this method. I figured if the yeast didn’t take, the worst that could happen is I’d end up with five gallons of lemonade.
Once it finally started fermenting, after several days, it took off and I started adding more sugar. The final product was under 7% ABV, but I fermented it a bit higher than that to begin with. I knew it would take some post fermentation mixing to get the flavor I wanted, so I started with as much alcohol as seemed reasonable knowing that I would dilute it later.
Before getting to the mixing and blending, though, I had to kill the yeast. Lemonade is very sweet and I needed to add that two cups of sugar per gallon back without kicking off more fermentation. Since the lemonade didn’t need to be carbonated or have any other use for the yeast, Potassium Sorbate which not only kills it, but stays in solution to keep any new yeast from taking hold was the best option.
With the yeast disposed of, it was time to do some tasting. I already knew it would take a lot of sugar to bring back balance, but I was surprised how much more lemon juice I had to add. It made me think I should have just skipped the pre fermentation lemon juice altogether. I may try this method at some point.
To cover all of the alcohol, it took a ton of sugar and lemon juice. I don’t know how much. I almost want to make another batch just to figure out a solid recipe. I will admit, though, that I’m not a huge hard lemonade fan. I love lemonade and I think that is why I don’t like hard lemonade as much. I tend to drink large of lemonade in large quantities and when I switch to hard lemonade I have trouble resisting, which doesn’t tend to end well.
Yes, the problem with this stuff is that it is too easy to drink. I don’t like the mass market hard lemonade because it tastes fake and artificial. That is not an issue with this. I have a couple bottles left of the second batch I made, I’ll post tasting notes soon. If you like lemonade and you like getting drunk, you should make some hard lemonade and if it works out for you, you should send me your recipe.