GUILFORD — Location, location, location.
With unobstructed views of the Guilford Marina, LemoNates has the perfect spot to serve up fresh squeezed lemonade and limeade.
“I’m very fortunate,” says owner Nate Bryant, standing beside his waterfront lemonade stand, wearing a face mask decorated with lemons and looking out towards Long Island Sound.
As a server at Guilford Mooring, he has connections. When the outside bar was unable to open due to COVID-19 he was offered the spot to set up shop for his upscale stand.
“We love having Nate here,” says Guilford Mooring bar manager Cory Saccu.
“His heart’s in this business,” adds Saccu, “We love supporting him on his journey. He’s building himself up year after year, getting better and better and bigger and bigger and we’re happy to support him along the journey.”
“The customers love him, as well,” he adds. “So, it’s a win-win.”
On a typical hot, humid New England summer day, Grace and Abbey DellaVentura were making a return visit, along with their nanny, Lindsay Doty.
“Oh, that’s good,” Doty says, taking a sip of Grace’s mint lemonade. “It’s not too sour, it’s sweet. It’s perfect.”
“It’s fresh squeezed, so it’s really natural and you know what’s in it,” says the 11-year-old. “And, it’s local, so it’s great.”
The mint lemonade is made with fresh mint, snipped from a plant growing on the counter at the stand. Also growing at the stand, alongside bowls of lemons and limes, are basil and rosemary.
“I’ll snip them right off the plant, so it’s as fresh as possible,” he says.
While Grace has also tried the regular lemonade and basil lemonade, she admits that the mint is her favorite.
Her sister, Abbey, standing nearby, was drinking “just a normal, small cup of lemonade.”
With a big smile, the 10-year-old says, “It’s sweet and, like Grace said, it’s fresh squeezed.”
Rylie Ayles, joining the DellaVentura girls, says it was just what she needed on a hot day.
“I really like it,” she says. “Especially on a hot, muggy summer day.”
Asked if she would return, she says, without a pause, “100 percent.”
Bryant has been in business since 2018.
“I wanted to get into juicing, whether it was lemons or vegetables or fruit,” he says. “This just seemed like a good avenue.”
His real inspiration came from attending concerts and other outside events with food trucks.
“I noticed that at every single event, the people who would have the longest lines were the lemonade,” he recalls. “That was very consistent.”
He shared his secret to making the best fresh squeezed lemonade.
“We use only real ingredients,” he explains. “Only real fruit.”
And timing counts too.
“Whenever you cut a fruit it starts to oxidize immediately,” he says. “So, within a half an hour the flavor profile of a fruit can completely change, so it’s really important to me to do everything fresh. Everything’s to order.
“We use fresh lemons and limes for every order, fresh strawberries, fresh blueberries, fresh mint, cucumber, basil, ginger, cherries,” he adds.
Sugar is also added, but can be increased or decreased, depending on personal choice.
“Without any sugar it’s very, very tart,” Bryant says. “Very, mouth puckering, tart. Sugar and citrus just work beautifully together, they complement each other very well and if you find a good balance, you don’t notice the tartness as much.”
The lemonade aficionado explains that he uses a bartending technique called muddling to crush fresh fruit, herbs and sugar.
“It’s similar to a pestle and mortar,” he explains. “I would muddle the blueberries with pure cane sugar, add the fresh lemon juice, ice and water and shake it.”
Serving the liquid refreshment at the right temperature is important, says Bryant.
“You want it to refreshing and cold,” he stresses.
“We shake it very vigorously,” he adds. “I kind of like hearing the clatter of the ice crashing when you’re shaking it. It’s just a very refreshing sound. It makes people thirsty.”
In addition to the spot at the Guilford Mooring, Bryant often can be found at Jacobs Beach.
“The beach fills up to capacity almost all the time, at least on the weekends,” he says. “We’ve established ourselves enough that all the kids around town know who we are and they’re excited to see us down there.
“I’m just happy to provide a good product and service and hope that people see it as a valuable asset to the town and the community,” he adds.
This 35-year-old grew up in the Indian Cove neighborhood with his five sisters and four brothers.
He graduated from Guilford High School in 2003, attended Dean College and worked in a number of food establishments before branching out to start LemoNates.
Along with various family members, Bryant has five employees.
Carmelo Rosa, sporting a mask emblazoned with limes, is behind the counter.
“I love it, it’s so much fun here,” says the 17-year-old.
“Being out on the marina, we also work down at Jacobs Beach, so I get to meet a ton of kids my age, I’ve started to get really close with the lifeguards down there,” he says. “It’s always so nice out. It’s literally like the perfect summer job.”
Bryant attributes his success to the support from the Guilford Mooring, his family and the community.
“I started here very intentionally, because I’ve never seen a town that’s more supportive,” he says.
“It’s very community oriented and I love this town,” he adds. “I grew up in this town; I played soccer for this town, so it’s a big part of me and my family. Guilford’s a very special place to me.”
LemoNates, 203-376-3920; Facebook LemoNates; Instagram lemonatesvending; LemoNates.com