As far as lemonade goes, you're probably not looking for the stuff you sold on the street as a kid. Unless your mom and pops had a forest of Meyer trees in the backyard and you possessed the preternatural patience and strength to squeeze enough of their fruits to fill more than a small glass, you made do with a pitcher of Country Time, which, before you doused it with water, looked like cocaine someone had peed on. It tasted awful too, unless, as you discovered in high school, you tempered it with vodka. Remember that lemonade is not wine. Occasionally a pleasing zesty perfume wafts into the mix, but it's almost always a two-dimensional drink — sometimes too sweet, sometimes watery, occasionally thick, with pulp or without. Its simplicity can be deceiving though. If something's off in a batch of lemonade, there's little room for error, and the results can ruin a good sip.
Today, we're pitting two local lemonades against each other, one from Black Cat Bakery & Cafe (519 S. Fairfax Ave.), the other from where else but the local cafeteria chain Lemonade (9001 Beverly Blvd. in west Hollywood). We didn't necessarily pick the best options in town. This isn't about where to get the best lemonade, just a friendly duel between two plastic cups we picked up on the way home from the gym. May the better, if not the best, emerge victorious.
Black Cat sells a 16 oz. cup for $2.50. Half the cup is ice of the slightly large, table-shaped variety. It's a heavy, slightly syrupy blend, sweet and just a little puckery, with no hint of zest or pulp, but plenty tasty. As the ice melts (and it does slowly) the flavor actually improves. Lemonade's standard lemonade comes in a bigger cup (20 oz. by our estimation) and sells for 50 cents more. The ice is crushed into little chewable nibs, so it disappears faster into the sweet, yellow deep.
While the color was brighter and smoother — like the Mediterranean compared to a swimming pool — Lemonade's lemonade had a refreshing lightness that Black Cat's did not. It finished clean and tangy, slightly superior, but not by a significant margin. You could (and we know this because we did) chug a cup of this stuff after playing basketball for two hours and you wouldn't want to throw up. Of course if you, like us, drank two cups of lemonade very quickly after playing basketball for two hours, you might feel differently. You would especially feel this way after drinking three cups.
While Black Cat is known for its scones and muffins, Lemonade, although a full-service lunch spot, really does lemonade, serving up to ten varieties daily: watermelon rosemary, blood orange, cucumber mint, peach ginger, and pineapple coriander, to name a few. When we were picking up Lemonade's test subject, we couldn't resist the rose-hued blood orange. So, after 56 ounces of lemonade in two hours, we were done. Our head was fuzzy, our stomach throbbed, and our tongue was nearly numb, as if it'd been cast in simple syrup. Lemonade squeaked this one out, but we won't be back very soon.
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