I have never been one for fruity, over-sweet cocktails. I like my bourbon neat, and I’ve never found a margarita mix that I could tolerate. I think this process started in college. While most of my friends were getting carded every time they ordered a Sex on the Beach or a Long Island Iced Tea, baby-face me got away with ordering a vodka tonic with a twist of lime almost every time. From an early age, I was well on the path to becoming a cocktail snob.
My husband jokes that I like manlier beers than he does. It’s true – give me a stout, and I’m a happy girl. But I’m game to try any kind of cocktail. It either needs to be the kind of refreshing drink that you crave when it’s 90 degrees out like Watermelon Gin Fizzes or a Route 69 Cherry Limeade. If it’s not something that’s going to cool me down, it needs to have an intriguing element to it like lavender (Kid Curry Cocktail) or basil (Peach Basil Sangria)
The McLynchburg Lemonade is not one of those cocktails. At all. And yet, I still adore every single sweet, fruity gulp of it.
I had my first Lynchburg Lemonade at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. This place is amazing. It looks like a Sandals Beach Resort, a hideously huge McMansion, Pigeon Forge and a botanical garden all got together for an orgy, and 9 months later this hotel was born. As a child I occasionally went to brunches there with my parent and participated in Easter Egg hunts, so I have a soft place in my heart for it. Is it tacky? You better believe it. But it’s tacky in such a refined way that you actually feel posh when you stay there. Its presence almost makes up for the fact that they ripped apart my beloved Opryland Theme Park and turned it into a steroid infused mockery of an outlet mall. The Opryland hotel has also provided me with the sweet, sweet image of Sarah Palin giving a speech standing in front of a podium that had “GAYLORD” posted in big letters across it.
The first time I took my husband to Nashville, I told him he had to experience the Opryland Hotel. It was too glorious to be missed. I brought him to the restaurant in the Cascades Atrium because it was where I had my first Lynchburg Lemonade. I have no idea if this still goes on, but at one point there was a nightly light and water show there. A man dressed in white would play a gigantic white piano in what had to have been an homage to Liberace. That show was another formative step towards my love for all things camp.
We each ordered a Lynchburg Lemonade. We sat there looking at the pulsating fountains and tropical trees all around us. And then my husband turned to me and said “Not bad. I bet we could make this better. This tastes like a mix.” I looked deeply into his eyes and said “Let it be done.”
As soon as we got home we made them ourselves, and they were better. Every once in a while we’d make and drink them, usually while sitting on our upper porch that we like to call “The Veranda” when we’re feeling fancy.
The topic of Lynchburg Lemonades can be very controversial. Some things in the South are sacrosanct and should not be changed, but there is no way in hell I would ever buy a container of sweet & sour mix. So we make our own sweet and sour mix (it’s very similar to this recipe), and we sometimes change it up with a more natural lemon-lime soda than Sprite. You may do these things as well, but here’s the “real” recipe for a Lynchburg Lemonade.
One hot August day we decided a Lynchburg Lemonade was in order, but there was no Jack Daniels to be found. The only whiskey we had was a bottle of Bushmills Irish whiskey. We defiled that whiskey, and we defiled it hard. Into the Lynchburg Lemonade it went, and it was delicious. We decided to name that drink a McLynchburg Lemonade, because O’Lynchburg Lemonade didn’t sound as dumb.
So we created a new holiday ritual in our home. Every St. Patrick’s Day we go to a fine purveyor of spirits in our fair city. Every St. Patrick’s Day we ask them what kind of moderately-priced Irish Whiskey they recommend. And every St. Patrick’s Day we enjoy the look of horror that spreads across that person’s face when we tell them what we’re going to do with it.
Have a gloriously fun St. Patrick’s Day everyone. And for the love of all that is holy, stay away from the green beer.
2 part Irish Whiskey
2 part sweet and sour mix
2 part triple sec
8 parts Sprite or lemon-lime soda
Add ice and give it a good stir. If you’re feeling all Sandra Lee and want to garnish it up, stick some lemon slices and cherries on the edge or in the drink.