HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


When did lemon in water become popular?

Growing up, I don't recall people requesting a slice of lemon in their ice water, or did my youth make me oblivious to such trivialities?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. When the chlorine taste took over. It was sometime during the '90s in DC.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jay F

      Ditto. I lived in Providence for decades and the water there was crisp and clean. Moved to So. Cal and my water has taken a long rdie through many towns and treatment plants, I've gotten used to the taste--mine is filtered-- but a bit of lemon or lime never hurts.

      1. re: escondido123

        Having had excellent tap water in Chicago, New York and San Francisco, I was shocked during my first visit to Los Angeles. The otherwise inexplicable bottled water craze became crystal clear.

    2. As kids we drank a lot of seltzer water with lemon, lime or both. This was in the 80s and 90s. I hated regular water with lemon until I was probably in high school or college. I use lemon in restaurants to remind me to drink slower and savor my water. I do not drink soda and have been known to drink more than eight glasses of water with a sit down meal.

      1. Dunno, but I like it. Less than a decade.

        1. In an area with nasty tasting water, a lemon slice provides a free alternative to the bottled stuff. When I was a kid, Fizzies did the trick.

          1. I recall having iced water with lemon or lime in a hotel when I was a teen and my parents continuing to use citrus in drinks at home (coke, tea, water, seltzer, cocktails) thereafter.

            I like citrus of all kinds sliced in water.

            1. Lemon kills the taste of bad water. Ice tea same thing, especially in the south in vacation towns like Orlando, FL where they don't want tourists to realize how bad the local water is in brief stays. In Orlando and much of the south free refills on tea is common so is what people usually drink (stained my teeth in six years working there for Intel). To get ice water in Florida you have to ask for it (my guess is it does not come out of the tap, so because it costs it is not given freely as in other parts fo the country). If you travel much you will notice even the ice tastes bad in most of the country - clean water is getting harder and harder to find.

              Traveling all over for about three decades now have seen lemon the whole time in high-end places. Had never seen it in the 80s until traveled (assume because grew up in Oregon where there is mostly good water). Lemon in water is more common in higher-end hotels and restaurants. Still not a thing in Oregon, unless eat at a 'nice' place such as the local Hilton, Mariott, or other higher-end restaurants.

              1 Reply
              1. re: smaki

                In my southern resort town the water is filtered ...as are the ice machines...and the gallons of tea I drink haven't stained my teeth ..thank god.

              2. Don't recall seeing it in DC prior to the '90s. I blame the fancy-ass, white table cloth crowd. Maybe the lemon keeps away the riffraff? Anyway, I don't want to drink a beverage that thinks it's better than me!

                2 Replies
                1. re: monkeyrotica

                  I first noticed it at Cafe Luna, below Dupont Circle. Hardly "fancy-ass."

                  1. re: Jay F

                    My mother claims this was being done in the higher-end eateries in DC as early as the 1960s.

                2. I remember sliced lemons in water at spas forever. I remember getting facials at Elizabeth Grady salons in Boston back in late '80's and after massages at a spa in Cambridge around the same time.

                  I also remember my godmother having pitchers of water with sliced lemons, lime and/or oranges available when she had her traditional afternoon teas. This would have been in late '60's.

                  1. I had to google and found this fun fact, LOL

                    << a Sunkist ad from the close of World War II that links American victory and national strength to regularity, achieved most healthfully by drinking a glass of lemon juice and water first thing each morning.>>


                    3 Replies
                    1. re: foodieX2

                      Interesting. One of the recommended treatments for gout is a glass of warm water with a squeezed lemon.

                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                        Reminds me of the movie Fatso from 1980 with Dom Deluise where they drink hot water from lemon to take their mind off of food.

                        1. re: melpy

                          A lot of my older recipe books have recipes for "vinegar coolers." These usually date from the pre-refrigeration days when cold well water was combined with vinegar and some sweet component (syrup, brown sugar, or fruit). Might seem kinda odd flavor combination, but the concept isn't that different from lemon/limeaid. Recent studies show that sour/acidic liquids like lemon and vinegar brine help suppress the apetite.


                    2. I remember it back in the early 70's, and it wasn't because of bad water. This is in the NYC suburbs and the water is excellent.

                        1. re: Veggo

                          Cool. I'll call the Smithsonian now.

                        2. About the same time they started adding rail scotch, as I recall. For me, that was back in the early 80's.

                            1. re: EWSflash

                              Yes. I find that carbonation, scotch and lemon vastly improves the taste of water. I didn't make this important discovery until about 1981.

                              1. re: flavrmeistr

                                Definately the 70's.

                                About the same time people started adding chunks of lime to certain beers. With the citrus, they both tasted the same.

                                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                                    Thank you for dialing in the date. Exact dates get fuzzier and fuzzier as time goes by.

                                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                                      Actually, the lime in the bottle was shoved down the neck to prevent flies from going in after the beer.

                                      1. re: Tripeler

                                        ~ And kill bacteria or other things that could be growing in the water that made the ice.

                                        1. re: smaki

                                          I'm guessing none of the naysayers have had a Corona in Mexico. It's wonderful, and the nasty comments must come from people who have never been there, and therefore feel themselves to be superior for not having actually been there. We love Mexico and Corona, and Tripeler, I think you've been bullshitted by Anheuser Busch or somebody like that. I've spent a lot of time in northern Sonora.

                                          1. re: EWSflash

                                            Does Corona taste different over the border? I'm asking because it tastes like Miller in Texas. I'm a Negra Modelo fan, myself.

                                            1. re: flavrmeistr

                                              Corona is high in calories. I prefer a chilada with Sol.

                                            2. re: EWSflash

                                              About the lime in Corona, I was bullshitted by a Mexican guy I met in Northern Mexico in the late 1970s.
                                              Perhaps he had no idea what he was talking about.

                                              1. re: Tripeler

                                                Corona bottles are recycled and refilled in Mexico. Many had limes stuffed into them. The washing and cleaning process extracts most of the residue.
                                                But not all. I have seen numerous unopened Coronas with skanky brown lime rinds from the previous customer. Such is life.

                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                  Can't stand Corona and most Mexican beers, though I like the original Dos Equis (amber) and Bohemia, and Noche Buena if I can find it.

                                                  1. re: Tripeler

                                                    Bohemia is like the Heineken of Mexico, but not widely available. Good stuff. I'm not familiar with Noche Buena.

                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                      Way back when (about 1973) Corona was not yet imported into the USA. We would buy a plastic bag of ice, with 6 bottles, not far from our hotel, and take them back to drink. While they had a twist-off cap, those were very tight, but every bottle had an insert area in the base, to help twist off the cap of other bottles. There were no lemons, and no limes, back in those days. We enjoyed many plastic bags of Corona beers, but that was then, and this is now.


                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                        I remember the short, fat, amber colored Corona bottles from the 70's, and the Corona "magna"s, the liter bottles that were Mexico's cheapest beer buzz then. The lime thing started many years later.

                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                          Bill, I'm pretty sure that notch in the base was for the labeling machine, not intentionally put there for removing caps.

                                                          1. re: JMF

                                                            Which would be problematic when you are down to your last beer. The original Corona bottles did not have a threaded top that could receive a pressed screw cap. It was a thin gauge cap that I sometimes removed with my teeth. Most exported bottled beers do not have twist off caps because of a high failure rate during the heat and movement during transportation.

                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                              "...heat and movement during transportation."

                                                              Drink local, my friends.

                                                            2. re: JMF

                                                              No, in this case, the twist-off cap fit perfectly, to remove it from another bottle. Those caps were quite tight, and the indentation matched them 100%. Now, I am talking 1973 here, so there might well have been many changes.


                                                          2. re: Veggo

                                                            Si, si, Bohemia! Pas de Negra Modelo?

                                                            1. re: kaleokahu

                                                              Quick rule of thumb: 2 Negro Modelos or 3 Bohemias are adequate for a happy hour and sunset.
                                                              Sol is a great breakfast beer, and repeatedly until the next sunrise.

                                      2. I've used lemon in my water for years, decades really. I learned while working in the summer heat, it helps "retain" water and I wouldn't get as dehydrated as quickly. I like the taste now (I think it's an acquired taste) and request it whenever I get water, which is always.

                                        1. I always refuse it. Why put a likely source of dirt and bacteria in your water? Lemons, and all twists for that matter, are rarely handled in a sanitary manner.

                                          (And this is coming from someone who thinks the 5 second rule is too short.)

                                          1. I fail to understand the appeal of lemon and water. I like lemonade, but that has a strong lemon flavor in addition to the sugar. Weak lemon flavor is pointless to me. Strong or nothing.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: aynrandgirl

                                              You must have been fortunate enough to drink good tasting water all your life. We lived for a long time in a house with a private well. The water was perfectly safe to drink, but it didn't taste very good due to the high mineral content, so I'd often put a slice of lemon or lime in it not to flavor it, just to disguise the weird taste. That is, until I broke down and ordered regular deliveries of water jugs.

                                              1. re: Isolda

                                                Could be. I don't like strawberry lemonade with weak strawberry flavor either.

                                            2. When I worked as a server about 15 years ago, I heard that it was to help cover up the taste of tap water - but the "tap water" at our restaurant was already filtered. This was also back when bottled water was taking off and they were trying to get us to push that over tap water ($$$). I think much of this has been spurred by the bottled water industry to be honest.

                                              The worst was waiting on cheapskates who would ask for extra lemon, so they could make "lemonade" at their table with the sugar packets, instead of buying a drink. Nothing screams "no tip" quite like that...

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Atomic76

                                                Wow. Just....wow. Making their own lemonade? That's as bad as leaving a bible tract as a "tip."

                                                Reminds me of stories of the automat during the Depression where you could put together all sorts of exotic "soups" out of the complimentary hot water and the condiments bar.

                                                1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                  It gets better, now they bring in their own packets of single serve. I was surprised the first time someone's drink changed colors on me.

                                                2. re: Atomic76

                                                  OMG- how trashy, and I'm so sure that this happens all the goddamn time

                                                  1. re: Atomic76

                                                    Hi, Atomic: "I heard that it was to help cover up the taste of tap water..."

                                                    That, and to cover any residual taste from the wash and rinse (detergent, Iodiphor, etc.)


                                                  2. I don't know when lemon in water became popular but
                                                    I enjoy drinking it instead of soda

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: jpr54_1

                                                      My parents took our family to Italy in the 1950's, crossing the frontier by vehicle at Chiasso in the 1950's.

                                                      The first restaurant we stopped at that Summer evening served us Supper alfresco, with a lemon slice in the water. This was something new to us children, with the explanation later that it might have something to do with the water quality.

                                                      When I had a Coke or something later by the sea, it also came with a lemon wheel on the glass.

                                                      Since then I have asked for a lemon or lime slice,if possible, wherever I travel.

                                                    2. As a result of your post, I just noticed a big glass water dispenser in the lobby of the Handlery Hotel in San Francisco, with lemon slices floating in it. I have been going to the barber shop there for years, maybe the lemon water has always been there.

                                                      1. Early 1970s, it was the idea of some hipsters (known in those days as 'yuppies') to get food servers and bartenders pay more attention to them, or at least perform pointless tasks at their behest.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Grosso

                                                          "Yuppie" didn't exist as nomenclature until the 1980s.

                                                          1. re: Grosso

                                                            Perform pointless tasks at their behest ?

                                                            I trained in a Paris Cooking school when I was 15, and I while I do recall adding lemon slices to the pitchers of table water, that was the least taxing of jobs. It was simple and routine.

                                                            I'll gladly take serving water with lemon slices to slicing large bags of onions for hours, de-boning, or dishwashing.

                                                            Perhaps your young customers just wanted to show that they had picked up a little culture in Europe. We would look at that request as a good sign of a well-heeled patron.

                                                          2. I'm old - i started drinking it in the early 70s, because i was on Weight Watchers - and it was recommended as a way to have a 0-cal beverage with some flavor. And i admit that i got some strange looks when i ordered it in restaurants.

                                                            and then sometime in the late 80s i was with some work colleagues at a bar, and one of them ordered a 'lemonade' and received club soda with about 10 lemon slices.

                                                            1. Lemon with HOT water has been a dine-in deli beverage order forever, though it seems to be only elderly women who request it. Not sure how their numbers get replenished, but it seems to magically happen. Has to be in a clear glass mug, too. Sometimes the biddies order hot tea in clear glass too.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: greygarious

                                                                for those who keep koosher
                                                                the clear glass mug-u can use clear glass for both dairy and meat.

                                                                I AM NOT an old biddie and enjoy my glazl of tea.

                                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                                  My grandmother, who died in 1989, always asked for a slice of lemon in her glass of water for as long as I can remember. She and my grandfather were long time members of a country club so it might have started there.

                                                                  I never ask for it but it is a nice thought when it is provided.

                                                                2. Depending on where I am, I'll add lemon or lime to my water.

                                                                  Also, before a flight, I'll usually run into a bar and ask for a couple of slices of lemon- it helps to cut the sweetness of orange juice if that's on the menu, or if I'm just drinking water, the slices of lemon that the beverage carts have are woefully small/heavy on the rind.


                                                                  1. It has been around for a long time. It seems to make the water wetter and more thirst quenching,

                                                                    1. Not sure but I add lemon to water and many other drinks as well, it seems to give me that sense of "freshness"

                                                                      1. With US restaurants (cannot comment on other countries/continents), I would say in the late 1950's. By the 1960's, I was less of a fan, as I began ordering wine with my meals.

                                                                        Today, I will request water with no citrus, no cucumber, no nothing, as I find that additions detract from my wines.


                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                          I like cucumbers, but not floating in my drinking water. Ice, certainly. Lemon, maybe. Not all that other stuff.

                                                                          1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                            I much prefer a curl of cucumber rind to "freshen" my water than a slice of lemon. It's been reasonably standard practice around these parts for at least ten years.

                                                                            1. re: grayelf

                                                                              I know. Every hotel lobby I've been in for the past five-six years has a tank of water with cucumber/strawberries/kiwis/oranges/what-have-you floating in it. Just not a fan.

                                                                              1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                Sorry, didn't mean to yum your yuck! I deffo don't love it when the fruit/veg actually ends up in my glass -- needs to be strained out so only the flavour remains, but I can see not wanting it at all. Sometimes just plain old (tasty) water is what I want.

                                                                            2. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                              When I am not dining, and consuming wine, lemons, limes and even cucumbers (which I really seldom like elsewhere), are just fine.

                                                                              At my dinner, I ask for plain water.

                                                                              I don't want a "Honey, do you detect those citrus notes in that Cab... ?"

                                                                              Maybe just me, but most restaurants humor me nicely.


                                                                          2. There are a few places in SD that put cucumber, oranges, sage, and rosemary (all separate!) in water. I certainly don't recall seeing this in my youth. Am also curious how and when this started.

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: globocity

                                                                              In your youth you likely saw a water fountain. As the decades have progressed, patrons' expectations of service (and service industry standards) have been refined to more openly ostentatious displays. Not better or worse, but different.

                                                                              1. re: ferret

                                                                                I agree. While I cannot date the inclusion of "items" in my water, I do recall at time, when that was NOT how it was done.

                                                                                At first, I thought "oh cool, this MUST be a high-end place." Then, I would go to my wine, and find notes of ____, that should not have been there.

                                                                                When I host a dinner at a restaurant, I instruct the servers to NOT include citrus, or other things, unless a guest requests them, as we will always have wines. If the guest wants a cucumber essence in their Montrachet, so be it.


                                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                  Good point on the wine. Hadn't thought of that.

                                                                              2. re: globocity

                                                                                I see this every now and then in hotel lobbies. Lemons, oranges, and I think I saw litchis once too.

                                                                              3. I have a picture of myself, taken in 1966, in a Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles and there is a lemon slice in my water glass.

                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                1. re: BeefeaterRocks

                                                                                  Makes sense. You were underage for a martini with a twist.

                                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                                    Nope, there is also an empty rocks glass on the table.

                                                                                    1. re: BeefeaterRocks

                                                                                      Hate staring at those empty glasses.

                                                                                  2. re: BeefeaterRocks

                                                                                    When we went to El Toritos in the early 80s, we could get a coke with lemon & a cherry...if it came from the bar. Well, three kids, once we learned that trick, we would ask for the same with water. As as kid, I grew up on Ribena, Rose syrup & orange drink. Drinking water without anything meant that you were a grown up. I don't think I've been able to reconcile those two competing ideas. I alternate between the two.

                                                                                    1. re: BeefeaterRocks

                                                                                      I worked in a Chinese resto for a couple years. They add lemon to get rid of the bad taste of chlorine in the water.

                                                                                    2. I've been asking for lemon in my water for as long as I can remember..

                                                                                      1. I put lemon or lime in my water at home. It does the dual duty of giving it a burst of flavor and keeping the cat from drinking out of my water glass.