I’m not really sure what’s happened — but this year, my love of cocktails is outshining my love of sangria (hey… no hard feelings sangria — we had a really good run!). I’ve also been dreaming of publishing a lavender lemonade for years — but funny enough, it’s never made it’s way onto these pages. I had the most delicious lavender lemonade the summer before I started blogging at some small town in interior British Columbia on our way back from a music festival — and I’ve been determined to create an equally delicious lavender lemonade ever since! That said, I know there are tons of lavender lemonade recipes out there, but now that I have a few solid years of COCKTAIL development under my belt and some incredible, unique, delicious ingredients in my bar, I thought I’d give it a go this summer!
So, while I fully intended this recipe to be a vodka-based lavender lemonade, as I moved though a rather intense testing process (remember when I mentioned I was cocktail testing over the long weekend?), I ended up swapping lavender for lilacs and vodka for gin — and I’m so glad I did! My Japanese Lilac Gin Lemonade tastes like summertime in the country and is very near to my heart — incorporating Japanese Lilac blossoms from the tree at my childhood home in rural Alberta, honey from the hives just across the stream and Eau Claire Distillery‘s award winning Parlour Gin distilled from the flourishing barley crops and unique botanicals of Alberta’s prairies. This floral-kissed, lightly effervescent lemonade was created with a thoughtful, hand crafted, farm-to-glass approach and made for lazy summer days on the patio, easy entertaining and watching the sunset behind glowing fields of canola! Join myself and my Connecting Over Cocktails crew to indulge in a summer inspired cocktail menu (check out their creations at the end of this post!) and enter to win bottle of the best gin I’ve ever tasted, along with a Tour & Tasting for 2 at Turner Valley’s Eau Claire Distillery! Cheers to hot summer nights, refreshing gourmet cocktails and the celebrating the bountiful offerings of this beautiful land!
JAPANESE LILAC GIN LEMONADE
It’s no secret that gin has been my spirit of choice for the past couple of years, but I thought that a spiked lemonade recipe would be the perfect opportunity to publish a vodka-based cocktail. In fact, Eau Claire also has an incredible 3 Point Vodka, which I worked with as this recipe took shape. But, much to my surprise, 5 of my 6 taste testers (all with very different palettes) preferred the lilac lemonade over the lavender version — and they preferred gin over vodka! Say what?!
Admittedly, I went a little crazy with the recipe testing this time around! But whenever I have the opportunity to run my recipes by as many different people as possible, especially over a long weekend, I take it! I tested this recipe 10 times in total and we even had a blind rating system — you can still catch the recipe testing madness in my Cocktails highlight on Insta Stories if you’re interested in more of my BTS process!
Suffice it to say, there’s just something that really works when you pair a beautiful gin with floral elements. I initially discovered this last spring and have built into my cocktailing endeavours ever since! Eau Claire’s Parlour Gin contains unique botanicals that play very well with the prairie honey used for the Japanese Lilac Honey Syrup as they share similar notes. Even if you’re not a big gin fan, I encourage you to try Eau Claire’s Parlour Gin in this recipe (or just in general!) — it may just convert you!
There are a couple of elements that make this recipe incredibly special to me. The first being that the Japanese Lilac tree at my childhood home was a gift from my now late Aunt Eileen — planted for my family after our father passed away during my teenage years. Every year when it blooms, it reminds me of both of them and it produces the fluffiest, most fragrant white lilac blossoms. I was so happy to catch it in full bloom this year as I was developing this recipe!
My father was also a passionate chef — foraging, scratch cooking and living off of the land was his forte. When I was a little girl the magic of it was a bit lost on me, although I always enjoyed going on adventures to see what we could find and watching with curiosity as he translated those wild ingredients into a home cooked meal our family, both on the road and at home. Only since starting JustineCelina have I realized my own passion for many of the same experiences he introduced me to as a child.
The honey I use in my recipes comes from these very bee hives, set among the wild clover, yarrow and wheat just across the stream from my childhood home. It is the sweetest, most mouth watering, incredibly delicious honey I’ve ever tasted — and it’s always my natural sweetener of choice. In this recipe, it creates the Japanese Lilac Honey Syrup that captures the botanicals of my Aunt’s lilacs and infuses the lemonade with an ethereal, sophisticated, floral sweetness.
And lastly, Eau Claire’s Parlour Gin compliments my Japanese Lilac Gin Lemonade perfectly — a London-dry style gin, with notes of juniper berry, rosehip, Saskatoon berry, coriander, lemon, orange, mint and spice. Hands down, it’s the best gin I’ve ever tasted and their most decorated spirit (boasting 14 prestigious awards) and hailing from the Alberta prairies! Stay tuned to see how you can enter for your chance to win a full sized bottle, along with a Tour & Tasting for 2 at Eau Claire Distillery (read more about our experience in this post)!
Japanese Lilac Gin Lemonade
• 1 part fresh lemon juice
• 1 part filtered water
• 1 part soda water
• 1 part Japanese Lilac Honey Syrup (recipe to follow)
• 1 part Eau Claire Parlour Gin
Note: to make a tall cocktail like the ones pictured here, use 1.5 oz of each ingredient. For a pitcher, use 2 cups!
Japanese Lilac Honey Syrup
• 1 cup honey (local, if possible)
• 1 cup filtered water
• 2 cups fresh lilac blossoms
1. Begin by harvesting your lilacs. Stop by our Foraged Lilac Arrangement post for Rebecca Dawn Design’s in-depth expert foraging tips, but at the very least, ensure the lilacs you choose haven’t been sprayed with pesticides and are blooming in a relatively pollution-free environment (for example, harvesting lilacs that grow next to a busy road isn’t ideal). Purple lilacs will also work in this recipe, however, the flavour and colour will be slightly more intense.
2. Trim 4 -6 bushels from the lilac tree.
3. Remove lilac florets from branches. Wash lilacs thoroughly to remove dust, pollen and bugs.
4. Add water and honey to a small pot, boiling for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add lilac florets, stirring to combine. Allow the mixture to steep for a minimum of 1 hour, or up to 8 hours for maximum floral flavour.
5. Once the Japanese Lilac Honey Syrup has steeped, pour it into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer. Transfer to an airtight container and set aside — it will keep for up to 1 month, refrigerated.
6. Juice lemons.
7. Build your Japanese Lilac Gin Lemonade in a cocktail shaker by adding 8 ice cubes, along with 1.5 oz of each ingredient. Shake vicariously, until cocktail shaker becomes cold.
8. Strain contents into a tall glass with fresh ice.
9. Garnish with lilac florets or a slice of lemon and a fun straw.
- 1 part fresh lemon juice
- 1 part filtered water
- 1 part soda water
- 1 part Japanese Lilac Honey Syrup
- 1 part Eau Claire Parlour Gin
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup filtered water
- 2 cups fresh lilac blossoms
Begin by harvesting your lilacs. Ensure the lilacs you choose haven't been sprayed with pesticides and are blooming in a relatively pollution-free environment (for example, harvesting lilacs that grow next to a busy road isn't ideal). Purple lilacs will also work in this recipe, however, the flavour and colour will be slightly more intense.
Trim 4 -6 bushels from the lilac tree or bush.
Remove lilac florets from branches. Wash lilacs thoroughly to remove dust, pollen and bugs.
Add water and honey to a small pot, boiling for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add lilac florets, stirring to combine. Allow the mixture to steep for a minimum of 1 hour, or up to 8 hours for maximum floral flavour.
Once the Japanese Lilac Honey Syrup has steeped, pour it into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer. Transfer to an airtight container and set aside -- it will keep for up to 1 month, refrigerated.
Build your Japanese Lilac Gin Lemonade in a cocktail shaker by adding 8 ice cubes, along with 1.5 oz of each ingredient. Shake vicariously, until cocktail shaker becomes cold.
Strain contents into a tall glass with fresh ice.
Garnish with lilac florets or a slice of lemon and a fun straw.
To make a tall cocktail like the ones pictured here, use 1.5 oz of each ingredient. For a pitcher, use 2 cups!
CONNECTING OVER COCKTAILS LINK PARTY | SUMMER 2018 EDITION
Looking for more summer cocktail inspiration? Well you’re in luck! This post is part of an on-going collaborative series here at JustineCelina called Connecting Over Cocktails, where I team up with an insanely talented group of Canadian food bloggers to bring you seasonal cocktail creations set to a specific theme. You can bet any friend of mine knows how to make a killer cocktail so be sure to pop over for a summer cocktail and check out these refreshing, patio-ready sips from some of my blogging bests!
Dana at Killing Thyme’s Cooling Cucumber Mint Gin Fizz
Jess at Cooking in my Genes’s Strawberry Lemonade Rosé Punch
Sam at My Kitchen Love’s Blackberry Mojito
Sean at Diversivore’s Ume Highball
(NOW CLOSED) EAU CLAIRE DISTILLERY PARLOUR GIN + TOUR & TASTING GIVEAWAY!
I’ve partnered with Eau Claire once again to giveaway a bottle of their award winning Parlour Gin, plus a Tour & Tasting for 2 at their Turner Valley distillery! Back in late December, I visited the distillery with my family and that trip is where my love for Eau Claire began. I want all my Canadian friends to be able experience Eau Claire first hand and have the chance to enjoy a bottle of the spirit that really put them on the map. Here’s how to enter!
To enter to win a bottle of Parlour Gin, plus a tour and tasting for 2 at Eau Claire’s Turner Valley Distillery valued at $78.95:
• Follow JustineCelina on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest
• Follow Eau Claire Distillery on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter
• Leave a comment below telling me your favourite summer cocktail!
Bonus entry for Instagram users:
• Head over to this post and follow the instructions!
Contest open to Canadian residents until July 23rd, 2018 at 11:59pm MST. Must be a Canadian resident of legal drinking age to enter. Good luck!
STILL THIRSTY? MORE REFRESHING SUMMER SIPPERS
Rosé Lychee Elderflower Sangria
Blueberry, Lemon & Cucumber Gin Mojitos
I hope you enjoyed coming along to my childhood home in rural Alberta today! Do you love a refreshing spiked lemonade in the summer? If you haven’t already tried swapping your vodka for gin, I highly encourage it — especially when they’re a floral element involved! As always, if you whip up Japanese Lilac Gin Lemonade (or any of the other cocktails from this spirited summer collab) please let me know how you liked them — I love your feedback!
Feel free to leave me a comment, or tag me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. I’d love you to hashtag #justinecelinacocktails in your recreations so I can find them — browsing my feed and stumbling on your beautiful recreations brings me so much joy! I also have a Pinterest board for my recipes if you’re looking for more plant based culinary inspiration and creative seasonal cocktails. Thanks for joining my food blogger friends and I today to celebrate summer! Cheers, everyone — kick back, relax, enjoy a glass of spiked lemonade and enjoy your weekend. Best of luck if you’re entering the giveaway!
Disclaimer: Thank you to my friends at Eau Claire Distillery for facilitating this giveaway. This post is not sponsored and contains my genuine thoughts, ideas and recommendations. JustineCelina uses affiliate and referral links, which allow me to receive a small commission when you make a purchase through one of my links. Thank you for supporting the brands and businesses that support JustineCelina.com!
“…my love of cocktails is outshining my love of sangria.” *Gasp!* Never thought I’d see the day 😉
Girl, I love so many things about this post.
The aesthetic + the ingredient list is so floral, invigorating, and downright beautiful. The color palette in these photos is perfect. AND. I love that you were able to trace the inspo of this drink back to your childhood. How awesome.
I’ve never tried gin in a spiked lemonade before, but this needs to happen. Whenever someone says they don’t like gin, my heart sort of sinks and I immediately want to retort with, “You haven’t had a high quality kind, then!” or “You haven’t had it in the right mix!” Gin has such a beautiful and unique flavor, and I’ll take it over any of those dark liqueurs any day. I love my vodka, but sometimes gin is just what a summer evening needs. (Probably why I went for gin in my drink, too.)
As always, lovely post, Justine. These cocktail collaborations are still one of my fave things to bring to the blog. Is it work on top of other work? Yes. But there’s something about it that says, “Take a moment, stop, and think about how far you and your friends have come.” And well, there’s a drink or two at the end of it 🙂
Aww Dana! Your comments always make my day. This collaboration is one of my favourite things as well — I feel to fortunate to have found you on this blogging journey. A big thank you for the kind words, encouragement and for your friendship — it truly means the world to me. Cheers!
Absolutely stunning! I love how the ingredients are inspired by your childhood and are simple + seasonal. PLUS Eau Claire Parlour Gin is my FAVOURITE gin by far so I cannot wait to try this cocktail out! Cheers to another wonderful collab and to the summer season!
Thanks so much, Jess! I’m convinced Eau Claire gin is the best in the world. Nothing else compares for me anymore! 🙂 Cheers to another fun collab!
WONDERFUL cocktail Justine. So beautifully crafted, with floral nuance and lots of character. I don’t blame you for trying to use the 3 point vodka – I was blown away by it when I tried it out. But I think gin is probably the winner because of all of the botanical stuff you have going on here! Kudos for using lilac too. I don’t see as much of it here on the coast as I used to on the prairies, but I’ve always loved it. It’s hard to capture the flavour though, so you don’t see it in recipes or drinks nearly often enough. Fantastic work for a fantastic, crisp, bright summer cocktail. Always wonderful collaborating with you on these Connecting Over Cocktails projects.
Thank you so much for the recipe love, Sean! I was so inspired by the Japanese Lilac blossoms I knew I had to capture in my creations somehow this year. As always, it’s a pleasure collaborating and learning from you. You’ve completely inspired me to experiment with sake cocktails! Cheers, friend!
I’m sorry but my favourite summer cocktail has simply been a classic gin and tonic; with lemon or lime. ( I know- boring!- but I’ll still accept the prize gracefully)
I must say your lemonade sounds divine!
Hey, you can’t go wrong with a classic! Have you tried Eau Claire’s Tonics? My Mom is a G&T lover as well and she LOVES them. I particularly love their Elderflower Tonic with the Parlour Gin, Cherry Gin and even the Prickly Pear EquineOx. Cheers and thanks for the entry!
Such inspiration for you to create such a magnificent cocktail from memories of your Dad and auntie. It is truly a gorgeous cocktail, Justine! The use of lilac blossoms is so romantic and something that I want to try! As for my favourite cocktail, I love one made from raspberry liqueur, mint, prosecco and vodka, but I think it would be fabulous with this lovely Eau Claire Distillery Parlour Gin. 🙂
Thank you so much for the kind comment Denise! I found lilacs surprisingly easy to work with — I hope you give it a try next year! Thanks for the entry and best of luck.
That Japanese lilac honey syrup sounds so divine! And per usual your photos are fantastic 🙂
Thanks so much Charlotte! The Japanese Lilac Honey Syrup was a hit — everyone preferred it in my spiked night lemonade recipe testing adventures. Cheers!
Thank you for your entries, everyone! This contest is now closed and the winner will be announced shortly.
Congratulations to @nessa_db (via Instagram entry), who was just randomly selected as the winner and has claimed her prize!
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