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The Washingtons served simple refreshments at their Friday-night receptions during the presidential years, including nonalcoholic beverages such as orangeade and lemonade. Recipes for lemonade came to England from France and, by the early eighteenth century, were widely used there. English recipes often called for adding white wine to basic lemonade, as is the case in this refreshingly tart recipe from Elizabeth Raffald.

This lemonade is less sweet than the kinds we drink today. Add the two cups of sugar called for, and then stir in more if you want it sweeter—or enough, in Raffald’s words, “as will make it pleasant.”12 She also suggested adding white wine and orange juice to the basic recipe. The lemonade is delicious without them, but the wine and juice turn this simple citrus beverage into a refreshing libation.

This recipe is a modern adaptation of the 18th-century original. It was created by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump for the book Dining with the Washingtons.



  • Juice and zest of 6 large lemons
  • 4 1/2 cups water, divided, plus more as needed
  • 2 cups sugar, plus more as needed
  • 2 cups medium-dry white wine (optional)
  • Juice of 1 orange (optional)


1. Put the zest in a medium saucepan, and pour in 2 cups of the water. Cover and bring to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature.

2. Stir in the lemon juice, add the sugar, and stir to dissolve. Strain and add enough of the remaining water and more sugar, if necessary, to suit your taste.

3. Stir in the wine and orange juice, if desired, and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Makes about 6 1/2 cups