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State Fair Lemonade

5 from 6 votes
Time: 5 minutes
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This hand shaken State Fair Lemonade is sweet, tart, and a festival classic made in the comfort of your own home. It shakes up in 5 minutes and uses simple ingredients like lemons, sugar, and water.

Best part, this is an authentic recipe from my friends who own a carnival lemonade stand. They know how to make really good lemonade!

A full jar of iced, State Fair Lemonade and garnished with a lemon wedge.

One thing I love about Michigan is state fair season, YAY! There is something so nostalgic about the whole experience: adrenaline rushing rides, elephants ears, exotic animals. And when I tell you I run to the lemonade stand every year, I mean it.

You’re never going to believe this, but I smooth-talked a carnie (as they refer to themselves) into giving me their iconic state fair lemonade recipe. His name was Earl and he ran the stand with his wife Dottie. I told him I was a food blogger and would LOVE to share the recipe with my audience. He said I could, but if and only if, I gave him a shout out. Hi Earl and Dottie!

So thank them because now you don’t have to wait all year for the carnival, you can enjoy authentic state fair lemonade year around! I think this recipe is the best because…

  • It uses the entire lemon, not just the juice. Oils in the lemon peel contain more lemon flavor than juice alone. By using the whole lemon we capture even more lemon essence.
  • There is no tedious peeling of the lemons. We let the muddler do all the work of breaking down our lemons and releasing the juice and oils.
  • It is done in 5 minutes with no complicated steps: cut your lemons, add sugar, muddle together, add ice, add water, shake, and sip!

VIDEO TUTORIAL: Let’s Shake Some Lemonade Up Together!

Ingredients for State Fair Lemonade

  • Lemons: It is all in the lemons! Make sure their fresh, ripe, slightly squishy, and a dark yellow color or it could make your lemonade sour. You’ll also want to thoroughly wash them, I give instructions further down.
  • Granulated Sugar: This is what gives our lemonade the sweet it needs. Keep in mind, if you substitute the amount of type of sugar you use, it will alter the taste of your lemonade.
  • Water: In liquid form and ice form. Any type of water distilled, spring, or tap works.

You will also need a metal muddler (or something similar) and two 16 ounce mason jars or other lidded glass container, like these fun lemonade cups.

Side note, if you have leftover lemons try my Lemon Curd Cake, Mini Lemon Meringue Pies, or these Soft Lemon Cookies and Small Batch Lemon Bars.

Ingredients for State Fair Lemonade. Lemon, Granulated Sugar, Ice, and Water. 2 lidded Mason Jars and a muddler for tools.

How to Wash and Prepare Lemons for Lemonade

Since we are using the whole lemon, it is so important we clean our lemons thoroughly to remove wax, pesticides, bacteria, and dirt. We do not want any of those things in our lemonade.

DIRECTIONS: Using cool tap water, run the lemon under the water and rub away any visible dirt. Then brush the entire lemon with a small, stiff bristled brush (I use a toothbrush). Rinse the lemon under water once again and wipe dry with a clean towel. Use the lemons immediately or store in the refrigerator in a gallon bag. If your lemons feel really waxy, you may want to give them a good scrub under lukewarm water instead of cool water.

How To Make State Fair Lemonade At Home

You’ll be in disbelief once you see how simple this is. Given the flavor level, you’d think it would be hard to make but it’s not! Keep reading for an overview of the instructions, the recipe card below will have complete details.

1. PREP THE LEMONS: Start by rolling them, using firm pressure, on your counter (this breaks them down to release more juices). Then cut your lemons in half and then in fours so you have 8 pieces of lemon.

2. ADD TO THE JAR the lemon pieces and sugar. Muddle them together until lemons break down and the sugar dissolves in the juice.

3. FILL THE JAR WITH WATER, tightly screw on the lid, and shake vigorously until fully incorporated.

ELIZABETH’S TIP: If your lemonade is not sweet enough you can add more sugar. Or if it is too sweet, just add more water or lemon juice.

Fun Ways to Customize Your Lemonade

This recipe is a classic, but I also love to change it up a bit based off of what I am in the mood for.

ADD FRUIT PUREE like strawberry, mango, blueberry, or whatever fruits you like.

MAKE IT A MOCKTAIL by adding some non-alcoholic spirits. I personally love adding Gin or Vodka to this one.

GO BOLD, SWAP THE LEMON FOR LIME to make limeade! Or go half and half to make a sweet, tart, lemon lime drink.

ADD A PUMP OF SYRUP. Disclaimer, if you do this you will want to reduce the sugar by half of more because simple syrups are sugar. I like using lavender syrup, grenadine, or I make it spicy with jalapeno syrup.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) About State Fair Lemonade

Do I have to keep the lemon peels in my lemonade?

Not at all, you are more than welcome to strain out the lemon peels if you want. Just keep in mind the lemon peel continues to steep and flavor your lemonade over time and taking them out will stop that from happening.

Why is my lemonade sour?

This could be two things. One, the amount of sugar was altered. Two, the lemons were not ripe enough. A light yellow or yellow-green lemon will have bitter juices and zest. To tell if your lemons are ripe they will be slightly squishy and dark yellow in color.

What can I use if I do not have a muddler?

If you do not have a muddler, there’s no need to worry. You can easily use the end of a wooden spoon, a pestle, or anything of similar shape.

Two jars of State Fair Lemonade, garnished with lemon wedges.

More Drink Recipes With Lemon

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Enjoy Entirely, Elizabeth
A full jar of iced, State Fair Lemonade and garnished with a lemon wedge.

State Fair Lemonade

Elizabeth Swoish
This hand shaken State Fair Lemonade is a sweet and sour festival classic made at home. It uses the entire lemon for optimal flavor, there is no peeling required, and it is done in 5 minutes (nothing complicated).
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Beverage
Servings 2
Calories 115 kcal



  • 1 lemon
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups ice
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • lemon wedges - for garnish


  • Prepare your lemons by washing with cool water and cleaning them with stiff bristled brush. Dry with a towel.
  • Roll the lemon on the counter a few times using firm pressure. Then cut it in half and then in fours so you have 8 pieces of lemon.
  • In each jar, add 4 lemon pieces and ¼ cup of sugar.
    Jar filled with lemon wedges, and granular sugar.
  • Muddle the lemon and sugar together until the lemons are broken down and the lemon juice is fully released.
    Using a muddler to mash together the lemon wedges and granulated sugar.
  • Fill each jar with ice and then top with water.
    Jar filled with muddled lemon wedges and granular sugar, filled with ice, and topped with water. Before Shaking.
  • Tightly screw lid on the jars and shake thoroughly. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
    State Fair Lemonade with a view of smashed lemons inside the drink.


Metric conversions are calculated automatically. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this information.

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By Elizabeth Swoish on August 15th, 2022
Elizabeth Swoish holding a camera up to her eye taking a photo.

About Elizabeth Swoish

Elizabeth Swoish is the founder and CEO of Entirely Elizabeth. She is a self-taught foodie and mocktail enthusiast with a business degree in data analysis. Read Elizabeth's food journey or connect on your favorite social media channels.

11 thoughts on “State Fair Lemonade”

    • Hi Lee,
      The recipe is written for 2 servings. It is correct that you will need a 1/2 cup of sugar.
      Then further down in the directions I explain you’ll add (to each jar) 4 lemon wedges and a 1/4 cup of sugar.
      It is important to read the directions carefully. Thank you.

    • Hi Curtis,
      My only concern with using paper or Styrofoam is that you might puncture it when you muddle the lemons. Keep this in mind with any type of cup you use, this is why I use glass jars.

  1. 5 stars
    I just love that it uses the whole lemon, for me the rind is the most lemony part! It has all the lemon without the sour.
    it was just like I remember from my childhood! Lemony and sweet and icy cold. So delish and well worth making!

  2. 5 stars
    This really was SO easy to make! My kids were able to help make it too and I love the fresh ingredients. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. 5 stars
    I truly felt like I was transported to the state fair! So fun and the perfect level of sweetness. I drank the whole glass in one slurp, it was that good! Will have to make a pitcher next time.


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