Chow Town

Beat the KC summer heat with grilled lemonade

"Hey friends! Welcome back! We’re out of the Rocky Mountain oysters you enjoyed here yesterday, but you look hot, tired, and filled to the gills with barbecue. What you need is a good cold drink, and we have just the thing to perk you up. Make yourselves at home under the shade of our canopy and I’ll bring you a frosty glass of Susie Mae’s Love Is a Burnt End Grilled Lemonade.”

“Why do you call it that?” asked Cat.

“Susie Mae will tell you the whole story later. It’s a sad saga about looking for love when you’re brainy, blonde and sexy. Men who are only attracted to her looks tend to be intimidated when they find out she has brains.”

From Cat: A Love Story by Ardie A. Davis (Used with permission of the author. E-book to be released in February 2014.)

Before Kansas City had air conditioning, we had other ways of coping with summer heat: handheld fans, electric fans, swamp coolers, galvanized metal wash tubs filled with cool water for feet dipping or filled with ice and watermelons, swimming at neighborhood pools, and lounging under shade trees.

Today’s barbecue contest scene is a mix of roughing it in the heat or cooling off in air-conditioned RVs.

Yesteryear and today, lemonade beats the heat. Basic lemon juice, sugar and water ingredients can be embellished with honey, sodas, rosemary, fresh ginger, mint, thyme, blueberries, adult beverages or other flavor enhancements.

After mastering a basic recipe, experiment with embellishments. Try grilled lemons for your first embellishment. Instead of using juice from raw lemons, grill the lemon halves before squeezing. It adds a smoky accent and makes the lemons easy to squeeze.

Susie Mae’s Love Is a Burnt End Grilled Lemonade Susie Mae is a fictional character on the Razorbacks Pork Matrons Society competition barbecue team. I developed this recipe for her with inspiration from the Chris Lilly version I enjoyed last November at the 2012 Kingsford Invitational barbecue in Belle, Mo.4 servings

9 lemons, cut in half, grilled

1 raw lemon, cut in thin slices for garnish

4 cups water

2 cups sugar

1 cup Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey (optional unless you are serving Susie Mae)


Cut 9 lemons in half and grill them over direct heat for 5 to 7 minutes; set aside. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan; add sugar and stir until dissolved; set aside and add some ice to cool. Squeeze grilled lemons; add juice and whiskey to sugar water; stir. Taste and adjust to your preferred sweet/tart level. Slice fresh lemon into thin slices; use 4 slices for garnish in glasses; add other slices to lemonade pitcher. Fill 4 glasses with ice; add lemonade; garnish with lemon slice.

Photos by A. Davis:

1: fresh lemons in a bowl

2: lemons on the grill

3: grilled lemons in a bowl

4: pitcher and glass of grilled lemonade sans whiskey (I wanted my grandkids to try it without alcohol. They loved it!)

Ardie Davis is an iconic figure in the barbecue community. He founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS’s Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on numerous food shows and writes for a variety of barbecue-related publications. He is also the author of a number of barbecue books, his most recent release “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.”