The Strange Origin Stories Of Pink Lemonade

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We all know the basic ingredients to lemonade: sugar, water, lemon. You can get fancy and add mint in there, but that mint or other fancy drink ingredients would be nothing without those three MVPs of summertime refreshment. But, there's a secondary player on this team, and we call it Pink. Pink what? Is it just pink, the literal color?

The truth is the pink in pink lemonade can be a lot of different things: strawberries, cranberry juice, raspberry juice, red dye — pretty much anything red that's sweet. But how exactly did we stumble across pink lemonade? Was it made by accident? Was it just some lemon peel-twist of fate? There is such a thing as a pink lemon, discovered in 1930, reports Smithsonian Magazine, but that fruit's juices run clear, not tinted. So how did we come to pink lemonade?

There are actually two popular theories as to where pink lemonade comes from, ranging from a happy accident to a quick-thinking, if not somewhat disgusting, plan to keep a thirsty crowd sated. The stories range from cinnamon drops to a circus performer's sweaty tights.

The Carnie Days of Pink Lemonade

According to Smithsonian Magazine, two books cast interesting theories on how exactly the drink was made during the wild 19th-20th century days of the carnie, barkers, freak shows, and clowns.

The first theory comes from author Josh Chetwynd's book "How the Hot Dog Found Its Bun," a volume tracing some of the unique discoveries and incidents that helped mold American food as we know it today. According to Chetwynd, circus-hopping Chicago runaway Henry E. Allott created the drink by accidentally spilling red-colored cinnamon candies into a vat of traditional lemonade, turning the originally golden beverage into a shimmering pink. Not wanting to waste it, Allott simply called it "pink lemonade" and served it up alongside other circus foods to an enthralled crowd.

The second theory comes from Harvey W. Root's 1921 book "The Ways of the Circus: Being the Memories and Adventures of George Conklin, Tamer of Lions." In 1857, George's brother Pete was selling lemonade at the circus when he suddenly ran out of water. Desperate to find more, Pete grabbed a handy tub of water that, unfortunately, a performer had just used to rinse out her pink-colored tights. The resulting connection, albeit probably tasting kind of sweaty, was marketed as pink lemonade, which according to Root, quickly became a circus staple.

 Of course, it's debated which story, if either, is actually just folklore or factual, but one thing's for certain: Pink lemonade serves as an American treat that's both light, colorful, and nostalgic.