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Recipe: Indiana State Fair Lemon Shakeup

It’s hot out, and you need a cool, freshly shaken Hoosier original to slake your summer thirst, even if you’re not headed to a fair.

It’s a typical blistering August day in Indiana. You’ve strolled through the 4-H exhibits and the award-winning cakes and pies. You’ve ducked into the swine barn to see the world’s largest boar. And while you’ve had your fill of fried treats and meats on sticks, the bottle of water you sneaked into the Indiana State Fair isn’t doing the trick. This can mean only one thing: It’s time for a lemon shakeup.

What is it about this quaintly Midwestern spin on summertime lemonade that’s so satisfying and nostalgic? Is it the performance art of the vendor in a striped shirt plunging the juice from fresh-cut lemons, a whole citrus grove at his feet? Or is it the sound of the ice in the shaker? The fresh tang you take in as you have your first sip? Lemonade has been enjoyed for centuries, especially in India, where lemons and sugarcane are native, and the first written record of lemonade dates to around 1000 A.D. in Egypt, where they sweetened theirs with dates and honey. But scant evidence exists about when people first started shaking lemonade over ice with the rinds. Whatever their history, lemon shakeups are a trend not soon to fade at Hoosier summer fests.

The best lemon shakeups from the fair pack just the right sour-sweet punch without being too watery or icy, and there should only be a slight crunch from the sugar, if at all. It’s the true Dog Days refresher, and who among us hasn’t enjoyed a fair share of ice-cold lemon shakeups from local festivals? But with the Indiana State Fair and most country fairs and festivals canceled this year, IM turned to local mixologist Corey Ewing, recently of Bar One Fourteen and newly opened Gallery Pastry Bar, to give us our lemony fix. And true to his trade, he’s mixed up an especially cooling shakeup with some adult additions that you can simply leave out if you want something for the kids.

Ewing says that while he imagined his recipe with Hotel Tango’s Golf Gin, you can use other local gins such as 18th Street Distillery, 8th Day Distillery, or your favorite. Instead of mint, you can also use herbs such as rosemary or basil. Just be sure to strain the gin while it’s still bright and green and not starting to turn brown. Eyeball the gin and give it a taste to make sure it’s infused enough.

Read through the entire recipe before you get started, including the notes at the end. And we’d love to see your handiwork. Post your pictures on social media and tag us at @IndyMonthly or use hashtag #INStateFairAtHome.

Cucumber-Infused Lemon Shakeup “Shook Ones”

Ingredients:

 Gin Infusion (optional)

  • 1 bottle (750 ml) Hotel Tango Golf Gin
  • 20 mint leaves
  • 1/2 of a large cucumber, sliced thin

Lemonade Base

  • 1 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

Cocktail

  • 1-1/2 ounces cucumber-infused gin
  • 1-1/2 ounces lemonade base
  • 1/2 of a lemon, cut into one-inch chunks (or use lemon rinds from making lemonade base)
  • Club soda, to taste
  • Additional mint leaves and cucumber slices for garnish

Instructions:

  1. For the cucumber-infused gin: In a large jar or wide-mouthed bottle, combine gin, mint leaves, and cucumber slices. Shake jar gently. Place in refrigerator and infuse for two days. Strain and return to original gin bottle.
  2. For the lemonade base: Combine lemon juice and sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir to combine and heat just until sugar is dissolved. Cool and store in a jar or plastic container in refrigerator until making cocktail.
  3. For the lemon shakeup: Add a light amount of ice to a large cocktail shaker. Add gin, if using, and lemonade base (or a bit more lemonade base and water to taste). Add lemon chunks or reserved lemon rinds. Shake vigorously until lightly foamy and combined. Strain into a Tom Collins glass, top with club soda, and garnish with additional mint leaves and a slice of cucumber. Enjoy.

Feel free to add the mint and cucumbers to the lemonade base if you’re not using gin. Makes up to 8 cocktails (with additional infused gin, if making).

A graduate of IU’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, Terry Kirts hails from a town in Illinois so small it didn’t have a restaurant until he was in the 8th grade. Since 2000, he’s more than made up for the dearth of eateries in his childhood, logging hundreds of meals as the dining critic for WHERE Indianapolis, Indianapolis Woman, and NUVO before joining Indianapolis Monthly as a contributing editor in 2007. A senior lecturer in creative writing at IUPUI, Terry has published his poetry and creative nonfiction in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including Gastronomica, Alimentum, and Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana, and he’s the author of the poetry collection To the Refrigerator Gods, published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2011.
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