When life gives you lemons, make lemonade your business! Pucker Up Lemonade Company followed that entrepreneurial trajectory when it started out in Compton as a simple lemonade stand. Over eight years, it has grown into a boutique beverage enterprise, catering and vending at events across Los Angeles. Now, a Pucker Up Lemonade storefront has opened in Compton where it all began, ready to quench the area’s thirst for something new, yet classic.
Having covered everything from small family gatherings to huge food festivals, Pucker Up Lemonade continually adapts its lemonades and iced teas to fit any occasion. So it should be no surprise to find an expansive list of over 40 refreshing beverage flavors in the shop, along with some unexpected eats.
“It’s a lemonade stand, but then it’s about how to take a lemonade stand to the next level,” said co-owner Karneisha Christian. “LA is very trendy, but within the trends, can you maintain the quintessential stuff? That’s where the lemonade comes in.”
The first time Karneisha and her partner Jon “Ken” Stewart set up a lemonade stand was at a fundraising carnival for their kids’ elementary school in Compton. At the time, they both had been serving the community with respective careers in nursing and law enforcement. To serve the school carnival, Karneisha brought her dad’s recipe, and Jon brought fresh backyard lemons, which they squeezed into three simple flavors of lemonade.
The brisk sales and enthusiastic response from that event, plus a growing trend around cold beverages, made Karneshia and Jon realize they could do much more with this concept. “Lemonade is a universal welcomer. You don’t have to second guess it,” Karneisha said. “Some people want it more tart, some people want it more sweet. However you like it, it’s universal.”
All of the lemonade flavors at Pucker Up are extensions of the Classic Lemonade, made from the original recipe Karneisha’s dad created. Fresh lemonade was common in her household, because her father would cut lemon trees for his landscaping business and come home with bags of lemons. He’d scrub them down, slice them up, and toss them in the juicer with some secret ingredients that the family holds close. Today, the recipe hasn’t changed much, except Pucker Up now uses reverse osmosis water as a base. “I’m always about the quality. Water is the major ingredient in the recipe, so it has to be on point.” Karneisha explained.
To expand its repertoire of flavors, Pucker Up Lemonade mixes in a variety of fresh purées, housemade syrups, premium Italian syrups, spices, teas, or sparkling water. The Agave Lemonade is as simple as the Classic, but sweetened with organic agave nectar instead of sugar. Strawberry Lemonade is the most popular mix, made with freshly pureed berries. Other variations made with fresh produce include Cucumber, Watermelon, Ginger, and Pineapple, to name a few, along with some seasonal ones like Blood Orange.
The shop also offers hard-to-find lemonade flavors such as Guava, Kiwi, Vanilla, Prickly Pear, and Habanero Lime. Karneisha’s personal favorite is Mango. Some combinations get extra attention for their colors, like the Blue Raspberry Lemonade, which is served at LA Chargers and Galaxy games in the Dignity Health Sports Park by My Fathers Barbeque. “Because their colors are blue, a lot of kids like it. It has that sweet tartness. Adults like it too,” Karneisha said.
Even more flavors were created to accommodate specific tastes for events like vegan festivals, where Pucker Up brings agave-sweetened Pomegranate-Acai, Turmeric Ginger, Kale Cucumber, and Charcoal-infused lemonades. With so many custom flavors, some aren’t even listed on the store’s long menu, including one called All Black Everything. “It’s blackberry lemonade, black chia seeds, and activated charcoal. People just love it,” Karneisha said.
For those craving a refreshing non-citrus drink, Pucker Up Lemonade also makes iced teas, including Mango, Mint, Passion Fruit, Peach, Raspberry, and Root Beer flavors. Or you can get the best of both worlds with a Teamonade, an Arnold-Palmer-style serving of half lemonade and half sweet tea. The comforting Peach Cobbler Teamonade has lemonade with sweet tea, peach syrup, cinnamon, and a few other ingredients. “That just kind of takes you to that decadent place,” Karneisha said.
Then there’s the sparkling lemonade option, which adds half sparkling mineral water to the same variety of lemonade flavors for a bubbly soda sensation with less sweetness.
With the new location, Pucker Up Lemonade now enjoys the flexibility of making their beverages in-house instead of a commercial kitchen. Having a shop also presented a new opportunity to expand the menu with carnival-inspired food items that pair well with lemonade.
Among the novelty eats is the Chili Cheese Cornbread Waffle. Here, a fluffy Belgian waffle made with cornbread batter meets a heaping portion of housemade chicken chili and a scattering of shredded cheese. It’s a fun yet familiar comfort food combo that offers a chance to eat chili with a fork.
The vegan Carrot “Not” Dog also begs your curiosity, openly teasing the turkey hot dogs on the menu. To mimic a frankfurter, a carrot is peeled and shaped with rounded ends, then softened with a boil before getting soaked in a smoky marinade for at least 24 hours. Served warm on a bun, it looks like a hot dog from afar, but tastes like a surprisingly savory smoked carrot up close.
Though the snack options are still limited, Karneisha hopes to eventually collaborate with chefs who offer complementary food specialties, such as chicken wings, tacos, or vegan meals. “We could be more like a rotating popup space. People could come in and do their thing, and we could do the beverages,” she said.
As it stands now, Pucker Up Lemonade offers a charming space that can be outfitted with delightful themes to host birthday bashes, baby showers, bridal showers, and tea parties—from casual to sophisticated. One recent party booked the space to gather for an afternoon high tea, donning dresses and hats while enjoying lighthearted chitchat over hot teas and pastries. “They took it seriously,” Karneisha observed.
For this occasion, Pucker Up Lemonade dressed the space with white tablecloths, spring flowers, and floral porcelain tea sets. “We like to add something special to people’s events. When you get together with your friends and family, you want it to be memorable,” she added.
To cover the largest events, a full crew gets on deck, lugging upwards of 200 gallons of beverages, able to serve over a thousand cups. “You need a lot of hands on board. We have everybody from my 11-year-old to my 72-year-old aunt. So, we’re definitely family owned and operated,” Karneisha described. “We like to employ local youth when possible. We’re seeking to really make our imprint in the community here where I grew up.”
This summer you can catch Pucker Up Lemonade at the Worship Encounter Movement Festival, the Celebrate America Fireworks Show, the Taste of Inglewood, LA Fleet Week, the Oxnard Jazz Festival, the Taste of Soul, plus many more events. You can also enjoy their lemonade when you dine at My Father’s Barbeque restaurant in Carson.