Citrus Water Punch

There is something truly magical about this punch. It has crazy powers. Powers to elicit a response in people that never fails to amaze. It looks unassuming, I know, but don’t underestimate how many times I have had people take a sip, nearly faint and then get on their hands and knees and beg for this recipe (and I’m using the term “recipe” very loosely here).

Clearly, some of the magic in this punch lies in the short list of ingredients: water (no need to add it to your grocery list!) mixes with sugar, lemon extract and citric acid to create the most refreshing beverage you’ve ever laid your lips on. If citric acid has you confused and nervous, don’t worry! It can be found in most pharmacies or health food stores.

Sweet, tart and so very lemony, this delicious, light beverage would be a perfect accompaniment to an Easter meal or anytime, really. I hope it will work its magic on you and yours! (Thanks to the awesome sisters at the Sister’s Cafe for the recipe!)

Citrus Water Punch

One Year Ago: Perfect Lemon Cake

Citrus Water Punch

Citrus Water Punch

Note: as mentioned by commenters (and I’ve received emails about it), if you have leftover punch, remove the sliced limes and lemons before refrigerating. The limes and lemons will give the punch an overly sour acidic taste if the punch is stored overnight that way.


  • 2 tablespoons citric acid (you can find this at most pharmacies or natural food stores)
  • 5 quarts water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pure lemon extract
  • 3 sliced lemons
  • 3 sliced limes
  • Crushed ice


  1. In a large pitcher or punch bowl, stir water, sugar, citric acid, and lemon extract together.
  2. Add sliced fruit and ice.

Recipe Source: from The Sister’s Cafe

102 Responses to Citrus Water Punch

  1. Alli says:

    Just made this–holy crap, it is lovely, refreshing, and delightful.
    Super easy and bizarrely clear, It tastes like what lemonade wants to taste like but looks like water.
    I found citric acid at Walmart in the canning aisle next to the Ball’s Fruit Fresh. Do not skip the citric acid, it’s the part of the magic.
    If your store doesn’t have a canning section and you’re in the baking aisle getting the pure lemon extract, look around for “sour salt,” which is another name for citric acid, instead.
    I cannot wait to try this with pure orange extract instead of lemon.

  2. Ann says:

    Will sonic type ice water this punch down to much or do you just add less water to compensate for the ice. If so, how much of each? If not how much ice do you add? Sorry! I need very specific instructions 🙂

  3. Cheri says:

    Will liquid citric acid work like the powder? I just ordered it on amazon before I read you use the powder form.
    Thank you Mel. And I really appreciate your blog. Thank you for sharing your talent & tips. You are blessing many lives.

  4. Christina says:

    Would you know how many calories a glass of this would be?

  5. cheryl says:

    I make this all the time; always have a jug in the fridge.
    But, I squeeze 1/2 and lemon and lime, and don’t put any slices in as the rind will give off a bitter flavour after 4 or 5 hrs.
    Also, add a tsp of strawberry extract most of the batches. It gives the drink a citrus/berry flavour. Yummy…
    Thanks Mel

  6. Blayre says:

    I was not prepared for citric acid to look like crack! Haha!

  7. MikkiGirl says:

    This sounds absolutely refreshing. I’m wondering . . . Is it possible to make this without the sugar? I am attempting to give up sugar; artificial sweeteners are a definite no-no, too. Thanks

  8. David says:

    I really wanted to love this, I tried hard. Unfortunately the citric acid was just too much for me. It coated my mouth and gave my wife (almost instant) heart burn. I diluted with about 50% more water which I think made it much more enjoyable but we were scarred and have since nicknamed this punch Acid Water. I see the appeal for kids, it’s like drinking a box of sour candy. I think we’ll stick to traditional lemonade this Easter.

  9. Angie B. says:

    After going to the pharmacy and finding citric acid for $16.99 (not paying that), calling 3 other stores, and looking online, I finally found it at my local walmart by the canning
    supplies. Ball brand in bright green 7.5oz bottles for $2.87. Hope this helps someone else save time and $.

  10. Emily says:

    We love this stuff! My mom serves it from a punch bowl. As she is preparing it she pours some in a bundt pan lined with slices of lemon, orange, and lime and then pops the bundt pan in the freezer. This creates a beautiful ring of ice that doesn’t water-down the punch as it melts.

  11. Ursala says:

    I just made this punch for a church activity (in December), and it was a hit! Very yummy and refreshing. Thanks! I wanted to add a note that I found my citric acid in the canning section (small section of shelf in the cookwares) at my local SuperWalmart. Found lemon extract (McCormick brand) in the baking section…next to the vanilla extract…also at SuperWalmart.

  12. deanna says:

    thanks! the info i found about substitutions is mosr for just some flavoring in cakes and cookies.. i dont think it would work in a drink like this. i am going to try experimenting some in the meantime, but my final decision is to just go ahead and make the lemon extract myself! lemons are in abundance and vodka.. well.. not so hard to find either.

    i will try to let you know how both methods turned out but lets see if i remember in a month or two once the extract is done 😛

  13. deanna says:

    any chance you have ever used actual lemon juice instead of the lemon extract. funny enough, unlike the others, i have plenty access to citric acid but not to lemon extract. any hint on how much to substitute?

    • Mel says:

      Deanna – I haven’t subbed real lemon juice for the extract. Sorry! You might try googling to see if there is an equivalent fresh lemon juice to lemon extract.

  14. Mel says:

    Hi Teresa – don’t worry, my punch takes on a cloudy look after I add the extract, too. I think the picture must be deceiving because of the white backdrop.

  15. Teresa says:

    I made this citrus water punch this weekend and my whole family loved it. I did have to mail order the citric acid, but I bought McCormick pure lemon extract. My question is…the punch turned cloudy when I added the extract. Yours looks clear. Is this supposed to happen? It tastes delicious in any case, but I was just wondering. Thanks.

  16. Alison says:

    I absolutely LOVE this recipe. I begged for it years ago after a woman in my choir made it for our luncheon/reception. I used it in bulk at my sis-in-law’s wedding where we actually made a batch ahead of time and froze it into small cake pans shaped like daisies (the wedding theme) to use as ice in the punch bowl so as to not water it down, but keep it ice cold. It’s beautiful and safe for wedding dresses/kids! I was so glad to find this recipe online as the second search result! Thanks for posting it! 🙂

  17. Reyna says:

    Hey there. I thought I’d check in and let you know I made this for the lunch following our baby’s blessing, with one change. I used seltzer water instead of regular water and it was bubbly and delightful. Works great either way. I also discovered that every store carries citric acid–it’s with the baking stuff or jams and it’s the stuff called, “fruit fresh” used to keep cut fruit from turning brown.

  18. Teresa says:

    This is a great light drink. I’ve used it for baby showers and all-women luncheons.

  19. Tristen says:

    I made this for Thanksgiving (HUUUUUGE hit) and am making it this morning for a New Years breakfast at home. Just looking at pure lemon extract and noticed that it’s alcohol… ha ha… I wonder if I’m getting my family a little drunk-ish. No wonder why they all like it so much. 🙂 We’re Mormon so don’t drink alcohol but I do cook with it and use vanilla all of the time, so I guess I’ve found another way to get it in our system. 🙂 Mostly I’m kidding. Also sort of wondering if maybe the citric acid is counteracting with the alcohol?

  20. Deb says:

    Had a hard time finding the citric acid like others did, but once I did, I was excited to make this. It was really good! Served alongside a sweet punch meant for the kids to drink. The adults thought they were getting lightly flavored water with this until they drank it and were surprised at all the flavor. Thanks!

  21. Tisha says:

    I made this for Thanksgiving and everyone loved it. My hubby said that it was refreshing. LOL Thanx

  22. ChinaMama says:

    thank you all for your information. but i finally found it and made it last night!! loved, loved, loved it. new drink for these hot summer days. i did use splenda instead of sugar. finally found the citric acid in a little tiny drugstore!!!!
    thanks again…………

  23. […] Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe’s Citrus Punch […]

  24. Annie Jones says:

    @ChinaMama – Do you know if you can get True Lemon products where you live? It’s usually in the same section as the artificial sweeteners. True Lemon is basically citric acid and lemon oils. I’ve been able to make this punch using True Lemon in place of both the citric acid and lemon extract. It’s not quite as tart as Mel’s recipe, but still very good. I’m not sure about the cost. True Lemon is probably more expensive than straight citric acid, but you’d save a little by not having to buy lemon extract, so it might come out about the same.

    Also, you can order citric acid from for less than $6 a pound. That would last quite a while.

  25. ChinaMama says:

    i have looked in drugstores and walmart and a few grocery stores. i live in a smaller town kind of like mayberry!! but i will keep searching 🙂

  26. ChinaMama says:

    i want to make this. bought lemons and limes but cannot find citric acid anywhere in my town. if i use lemon juice which i think is my only option, can you please tell me what the equivalent would be for the two tablespoons you need for your recipe?????

    also, i know or think i know citric acid is sour. how about sour mix like the kind you get to make whiskey sours????? just a thought!!! love your site.

    • Mel says:

      ChinaMama – you might need to google substitutions for citric acid because I can’t tell you how much lemon juice to sub, since I’ve never tried it and I don’t want to mess up the recipe for you. You might try the sour drink mix, but again, I’ve never made it that way. Have you looked in the canning sections of your stores (where they sell bottles and supplies for canning)? I’ve found it there many times.

  27. Lisa Mcleod says:

    My kids are ADDICTED to this! My 9 year-old son loves to make it because it is so easy. They like to add a drop a red food coloring to make it look like pink lemonade. 🙂

  28. Rebecca C says:

    I was so excited to find citric acid at Sunflower Market today that I had to rush home and make this! It is absolutely divine! Thanks for the great blog!

  29. Amy T says:

    I made this for my last Relief Society activity. Everyone loved it! I really enjoy trying your recipes, they are all fabulous!

  30. Lisa says:

    Just made this wonderful tasting punch for an Open House. What a hit with the realtors and their clients. I will be adding this recipe to my collection to share with family and friends. I even added one sliced naval orange for added color. Thanks.

  31. Sharon says:

    I recently saw citric acid in the bulk spices at Fred Meyer. When I saw this recipe, I knew what to use the citric acid for! I’ll be trying this soon ……

  32. Sieglinde says:

    I had given up hope I would ever be able to try this recipe after searching for citric acid FOREVER…I finally found some at a new “Around the World” market that just opened nearby. It appears to carry mostly Indian food/ingredients. Along with bags of spices cheaper than I have EVER seen them anywhere, there were bags of Citric Acid! I immediately bought 2 bags and came home and made this. SOOOO yummy! I love, love, LOVE it! I may experiment with Stevia to see if I can cut down the sugar content, but seriously, sooooo deliciously refreshing!

    • Mel says:

      Sieglinde – I’m so happy you found the citric acid finally! And more importantly that you loved the finished product. Thank you for checking in to let me know. Sounds like a great new market!

  33. Ann says:

    I searched and searched for citric acid and couldn’t find it anywhere so I pretty much gave up……….and then yesterday I was at our local Natural Foods market and there it was in the bulk section! So check your bulk food sections before you give up! HTH

  34. Lorie says:

    One other quick question. I am going to make this tomorrow morning so should I leave out the limes/lemons until I am ready to serve (in the afternoon)?


    • Mel says:

      Lorie – yes, if you are making the punch in the morning, leave the fruit out until just before serving (you could cut up all the fruit and put it in ziploc bags so you can just quickly add it before serving). Hope that helps!

  35. Lorie says:

    What brand name is your citric acid? Still looking for some!


    • Mel says:

      Lorie – right now I have mrs.wages citric acid. I found it in the canning aisle. Right now might be a good time to look for it since people use it in canning.

  36. Lisa says:

    Any helps for diabetics and the 2 cups of sugar. . .substitutions??

    • Mel says:

      Lisa – to be honest, I don’t know. I have never used a sugar substitute so I’m hesitant to recommend a change I haven’t tried. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help!

    • Marian says:

      Most sugar substitutes say right on the package what the equivalent to sugar is.

  37. Meghan says:

    I live in So Cal and could not find Citric Acid anywhere (besides a cake shop where it was super expensive). Then I saw that Kosher Markets sell it as Sour Salt or Citric Acid. I visited a Kosher Market and picked up 16oz. for $3.95.

  38. Kaleena says:

    I made this awhile back and found the citric acid at a local kitchen supply specialty store…..they too gave me a recipe for the same drink. It was a big hit where I took it!

  39. Heather says:

    We have found it at Fred Meyers in the Natual food section in bulk. We also call it “yummy Water”. A lady at church said the ice is a must!!!!! But I have only had it with ice, so I don’t know how it is without. Thanks for the input on taking out the lemons and limes. Last time I had it we also floated Oranges in the bowl.

  40. Maureen says:

    Mel- Do you need the lemons and limes for the recipe or are they for garnish? Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Maureen – the lemon and limes are probably more for garnish than anything so in a pinch, you could leave them out since all the flavor/tartness/sweetness comes from the ingredients in the recipe.

  41. Kris says:

    Thanks for posting this recipe. I got it from a friend who made it for her reception. We call it lemon water because it is a light lemon flavor. We make it up in 5 gal containers for family reunions or get togethers. The kids fill their water bottles with it. It is not strong like some lemonades but very light and refreshing. It’s great for adults as well as children.

  42. Kim says:

    Thanks you! I made it tonight and it is very good. 🙂

  43. Kim says:

    What aisle do you buy the lemon extract? Is this the same as MCormicks lemon extract that you find by the vanilla? Or is it a lemon concentrate found elsewhere?

  44. Katy says:

    What a find this is. Am sharing this with friends who often entertain and need something special for the children to share in the festivities with. Plus a perfect summertime drink for me as I am seriously in love with all things citrus! Thanks so much for this post!!!!

  45. Mel says:

    Camille – thanks for the tip for those in the SLC area!

    Karalee – hey, I kind of like the Yummy Water name!

  46. Karalee says:

    my aunt made this at my bridal shower back in December and i loved it. I wanted to make it for a party at my sister in laws house and so i finally got the recipe from her. It was a hoot. She and i had both just called it Yummy Water and it drove my husband nuts!! we both love it to death and my husband likes the name you have for it much better! it was difficult to find the citric acid but i finally found it at a canning store!

  47. Camille says:

    I fell in love with this punch several years ago and love to make it during the summer – it’s just so refreshing! For those who live in the Salt Lake area, they sell citric acid in a 1 lb. container at Orson Gygi restaurant supply store on 35th South. The one I bought a year or so ago is marked with a $3.99 price tag, so it’s a waaaaaay better deal than buying it from the pharmacy where you just get like a 1 oz. container or some such…

  48. Annie Jones says:

    My MIL just brought us a ton of lemons from her trees in Arizona and I now have two gallons (!!!) of freshly squeezed juice in the freezer. So I won’t be buying any lemon extract soon. What I DID do, though was add a little citric acid to my homemade lemonade (about 1/16 teaspoon to a 12 oz. glass). The lemonade was good before…it’s better now! Thanks for the great idea. I’ll be bookmarking this post for the time in the far, far future when I run out of fresh lemon juice…LOL!

  49. Michelle says:

    I am a huge fan of summer drink recipes. I love having a big pitcher of something icy cold and fruity on hand for hot afternoons. I’ll have to add this to my list. Thanks for sharing it!

  50. Mel says:

    Lani and Mary – thanks for letting us know where you are able to find the citric acid!

  51. Lani says:

    I live in Utah too and found it at the grocery store (Kohler’s in Alpine) on the aisle with all the canning products. This is the punch recipe I was looking for recently. Thanks so much for posting it Mel!

  52. Mary says:

    I love this drink and I’m glad you posted the recipe so this way I know where I can find it. I live in Utah and find citric acid at a cake supply store that I go to, Baker’s Cash & Carry. So to those unable to find it maybe check out a baking supply store.

  53. Mel says:

    Kim in MD – I’m so sorry it has taken me so long to respond! Did you try the punch spiked? I’m don’t drink alcohol so I can’t weigh in on the issue but I hope that if you made it, that it worked out ok!

  54. Mel says:

    Sonya – glad you liked this and I agree that it would be perfect for a warm summer day. Thanks for the info on where you found your citric acid!

  55. Mel says:

    Tanya – hmmm…club soda would be an interesting idea. I’m not sure how it would work but it’s definitely worth a try! Let me know if you get brave enough to try it.

  56. Mel says:

    Anissa – thanks for letting me know this punch turned out well!

  57. Anissa says:

    We made it tonight for Easter dinner as well. It was delicious. Not too sweet, not too sour. Very mild and refreshing taste. Thanks!

  58. Mel says:

    Hi Kristen – I’m sorry you didn’t like this punch. I’m surprised but at the same time, maybe the taste just wasn’t what you were expecting. Hmmmm…I’m not sure why it didn’t work out for you. Will you comment back and let me know what exactly about the taste wasn’t good? Was it too tart, too sweet, too sour?? I double checked the recipe and it is exactly how I always make it (and the same as posted on other websites like the Sister’s Cafe).

  59. Kristen says:

    First of all, I love your blog and have enjoyed all of the recipes I have tried. I just wanted to give my 2 cents on this recipe though. I made it for Easter and followed the recipe exactly and it was not good. Each person who tried it felt the same way. I just wondered if all the ingredient portions were listed correctly??
    Anyway, thank you for all your efforts to make this blog such a great one.

  60. Mel says:

    Anissa – citric acid is a powder. I hope you can find it!

  61. Anissa says:

    Is Citric Acid a powder or a liquid? I struck out at Fred Meyer and I just don’t know where to look for it next…

  62. sarah says:

    oops i thought this was an april fools joke- sorry hahha. i love your website though! thnks for all you hard work

  63. Tanya says:

    Looks SO refreshing! Do you think it would be possible to make with club soda instead of plain water, to add some bubbles?

  64. Sonya says:

    I made this today and it is really yummy. It’s a nice lemonade-y drink. Not too sweet not too tart. It would be great on a summer day when the kids are swimming in the pool. I found the citric acid at a local farm stand. The package says it’s used for canning tomatoes. A 5 oz jar cost me 4.99. I asked at Walgreens and they didn’t have any neither did my local grocery store. That 5 oz jar should make about 4-5 batches. Thanks again Melanie.

  65. Debbie says:

    Oh, one more thing…I add less limes, but I add as many slices of oranges as I do lemons. So yummy!!

  66. Debbie says:

    I have had a lot of compliments when I have served this punch. If you want it a little sweeter, you can add the same amount of Fruit Fresh in place of the citric acid, in the canning section of your grocery store. (If you can’t find citric acid (here in Vegas it is impossible) you can order it online.)

  67. Camille says:

    I LOVE this punch and have begged several people for the recipe! So glad to finally have it! Now off to find citric acid! 🙂

  68. Tami says:

    THE Aunt Marilyn gave me this recipe years ago. I have made it several times and absolutely love it. The citric acid is a must. It gives it a tangy yummy kick. You can also find it at kitchen supply stores.

  69. Kim in MD says:

    Thanks, Mel! I am off to the pharmacy to buy some citric acid…

    Also, I was wondering if you think this would be good “spiked”, for the adults at my party? A splash of vodka, perhaps…would that add to or ruin the punches “magical powers”? 🙂

    Thanks again for creating such an amazing food blog!

  70. Jessica says:

    This stuff is the BEST!!! We served it at our wedding reception. My little tip is to take out the fruit if you have leftover punch or it gets a nasty taste.

  71. Holly says:

    I have a serious citrus addiction and this looks so good! Can’t wait to try it! I actually keep some limes and lemons in the freezer for “citrus emergencies”. Thanks for sharing it!

  72. grace says:

    i’ve never purchased citric acid, although there’re heaps of it in the lab at work. maybe i’ll sneak some out… 🙂

  73. Memoria says:

    What is the purpose of the citrus acid? This drink looks fantastic.

  74. Mel says:

    Kim – the citric acid is pretty necessary to the punch. It adds a citrus-y kick that you can’t really get any other way. I highly recommend using it. It is an all natural ingredient, if that is your worry.

    Amiee – yes, lemon extract is really an extract! It is different than freshly squeezed lemon juice because it is highly, highly concentrated. Seriously, one whiff of the stuff will bowl you over.

  75. Kathleen says:

    Beautiful photo! I love serving water this way.

  76. Ashley says:

    I love this punch! My mom makes this same recipe –we always call it “good water”.
    I love your blog and trying all of the yummy recipes! Thanks for sharing!

  77. Amiee says:

    Hey, just curious about the lemon extract. Like literally extract?? Or freshly squeezed lemon juice? I never even knew they made lemon extract? crazy!

  78. Sonya says:

    I just added this to my grocery list. We are hosting the Easter meal at our house and this will make a great addition. I love your pitcher too. I have one just like it. It makes everything look so pretty. I fill mine with Sangria during the summer. Yummmmm

  79. Cammee says:

    My friend served this at her wedding reception. I had never tasted such fantastic “lemonade”. You’re right, I begged for the recipe!

  80. Jeanette says:

    This looks yummy, can’t wait to try it! BTW, your photography is fantastic!!!

  81. Kim in MD says:

    Oh my gosh…this looks incredible! I am hosting a party for 25 people next Saturday, and I am going to make this for the children!

    Mel- what does the citric acid add to the punch? I was just wondering if that could be omitted…

    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Marian says:

      If you leave out the citric acid, it would just be sugar water. Nothing special. I just bought citric acid from…. that’s where I buy everything… I am not patient enough to look and drive all over town like of the others here have done.

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