The Truth About Pink Lemonade

Pink is a color that reminds us of youth and makes us feel playful and empowered, reports Color Psychology. And when we eat or drink anything pink, life gets sweeter, even for just a moment. Hot summer days are meant for relaxing in the sunshine, spending quality time with friends and family, and enjoying all the refreshing beverages and flavorful foods. Summertime is the perfect season to savor a tall, cool glass of pink lemonade — a rosy-hued libation that has been a pinnacle of American culinary culture for many years.

Pink lemons do, in fact, exist, but they emit a clear juice, despite their vivid pink flesh, according to Specialty Produce. How did the original pink lemonade get its bright color? According to Smithsonian, the classic sweet-tart lemonade we still know and love today was introduced to the U.S. in the 17th century by European immigrants, who brought the sweet, citrusy drink recipe from across the pond. Pink lemonade, on the other hand, has a bit of an odd invention story — or two, depending on which legendary tale you decide to believe. When it comes to how pink lemonade truly came to be, there are a couple tales that are as creepy as they are fascinating. And both of them are, perhaps coincidentally, related to the circus.

How did pink lemonade get its iconic color?

In his 1921 memoir The Ways of the Circus: Being the Memories and Adventures of George Conklin, Tamer of Lions, Conklin makes the bold claim that his brother Pete, who also worked for the circus, was the mastermind behind pink lemonade. One day in 1857, while vending lemonade at a show, Pete ran out of fresh water. In something close to desperation, he grabbed a nearby bucket of water in which a performer had just washed her pink tights. Upon discovering the liquid's new hue, Conklin used his circus-derived trickery and marketed the concoction as "strawberry lemonade," even though it obviously contained zero strawberries. Awestruck circusgoers fell for it, and sales doubled (via Food Network).

Another account also has to do with a lucky mishap. A New York Times obituary for Chicago native Henry E. Allott, who died in 1912, notes that he was the blush-colored drink's creator. When he ran away to join the circus as a teenager, he allegedly "invented" pink lemonade after dropping a bunch of red cinnamon candies in a vat of lemonade. (There's no report whether or not the drink had a cinnamon-y flavor.)

Today, pink lemonade is colored with natural juices or artificial agents that thankfully have nothing to do with red candies or women's hosiery. Next time you enjoy some nostalgia-inducing, mouth-puckering pink lemonade, thank the circus.