Why Is everyone obsessed with the lemonade on Bridgerton (like we are)?

Lemonade served in stemware

If you’ve watched the Netflix series Bridgerton, you’ve likely noticed the characters frequently sipping a pale yellow beverage at glittering balls and soirees. This tart, refreshing drink is lemonade. But the lemonade quenching the thirst of London’s Ton is a Regency-era version that is a world away from the super-sweet lemonades of modern times.

During the Regency period of the early 1800s, lemonade was considered a luxurious, aristocratic beverage only attainable by the upper classes. Lemons themselves were an uncommon, expensive fruit that had to be imported to England from overseas. “Lemonade was a highly desirable drink that was indicative of wealth and status,” noted food historian Amanda Vickery, author of “Behind Closed Doors,” in a BBC2 interview. “It displayed your ability to afford expensive lemon imports.”

Bring out your crystal

The Bridgerton lemonade showcases this elite Regency status symbol. Sipped daintily from delicate glasses, it marks the drinkers as members of high society. The yellow-tinged beverage also evokes sunny warmth, a stark contrast to the gray London exteriors with their pervading fogs.

Lemonade also played a role in the courtship rituals of the day. It was a polite gesture of hospitality and attentiveness for a gentleman to ensure a lady had a cool, refreshing drink after, perhaps, a dance. And for a young unmarried lady, being served lemonade by a gentleman could signal some level of admiration or romantic interest on his part in wanting to wait on her personally. And hence we see much (comedic?) drama around the lemonade table in the third season of Bridgerton.

So, what was it about lemonade in the 19th century that made it such a luxury?

Enter a secret sauce

Recipes for lemonade in the early 1800s were worlds away from the cloying, over-sweetened lemonades of modern America. “Regency-era lemonades were actually quite tart and barely sweetened at all,” says Vickery. “White sugar was still an expensive commodity, so instead they used orgeat, an almond syrup, to gently soften the lemon’s sourness.”

Orgeat was a preferred sweetener of the upper classes as it provided a more delicate, nuanced sweetness compared to refined white sugar. The almond flavor also complemented the lemon notes beautifully. (Orgeat syrup is an extremely strong ingredient mellowed by pairing it with a citrus base. While orgeat is higher in calories than sugar ounce-per-ounce, it is also meant to be used in smaller quantities due to its potent flavor. Simple syrup is often used more liberally to sweeten drinks.)

Proper Regency lemonade started with fresh lemon juice that was steeped for days with lemon rinds to heighten the citrus essence. This potent lemon mixture was then stretched with just enough water and a splash of orgeat to make a mouth-puckeringly tart yet subtly sweet drink.

The contrast between Regency and today’s lemonade couldn’t be starker. Most contemporary lemonades use just a smidgeon of lemon juice mixed with heaps of white sugar water to create a cloying, sweet beverage barely reminiscent of actual lemons. Sipping a glass is more akin to drinking liquid candy rather than a subtle, elegant refreshment.

While Bridgerton takes some creative liberties in its historical depiction, the lemonade featured is a relatively authentic representation of the tangy, lemon-forward Regency originals accented with orgeat syrup. Enjoy this tart, refreshing taste of Regency high society at your next croquet match (corset not required) or other more pedestrian summer activities.

Regency Lemonade Recipe


  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 6-8 lemons)
  • Lemon rinds
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 cup orgeat syrup, or 2-3 T. to taste (Orgeat syrup can be purchased from Amazon and some specialty stores. Prices vary widely, so shop around.)


  1. Using a paring knife or zesting tool, cut the rind away from the lemons, then squeeze the lemons.
  2. In a glass pitcher or bowl, combine the lemon juice and rinds. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 2-3 days to allow flavors to intensify.
  3. Strain out and discard the lemon rinds. Add enough water to dilute the lemon juice to palatable levels. Next, add the orgeat syrup to the lemon mixture and stir to combine.
  4. Taste and add more orgeat if desired for a sweeter lemonade.
  5. Chill thoroughly and pour into your fanciest stemware.
  6. Serve over ice, if desired. Garnish with lemon slices (optional).

The lemonade will keep refrigerated for 3-4 days.

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