Above: Gourmonade’s original lemonade, made with hand squeezed organic lemons, filtered water, and pure cane sugar.
Back in January 2014, hell froze over in New York City. Temperatures dropped to as low as -2°F while a blizzard swept the Northeast, leaving up to one foot of snowfall throughout the tri-state area.
Like any other New Yorker, Vicktor Stevenson was fed up with the subzero temperatures of another cruel winter. One day in the Bronx, the interior heating in his friend’s car couldn’t offset bone-crackling wind chills outside. Yet when Stevenson vented about the weather, he stumbled upon an idea juicy enough to rejuvenate any season.
“And I was just missing the summer…I was like, ‘It’d be great to make some lemonade right now so it could feel like summer.’ And it just kind of clicked to me,” said Stevenson.
Stevenson then began experimenting with lemonade recipes at home for the next 18 months. Heatwaves eventually replaced blizzards, and he realized Bronx bodegas lacked healthy drinks year-round.
That’s when Stevenson elevated existing craftsmanship standards for lemonade, developing healthy recipes without sacrificing flavor or quality. A novice side-hustle morphed into a full-fledged craft that commanded respect everywhere it went. And the rest was history: Stevenson founded Gourmonade in 2015, a small batch lemonade business delivering on big expectations.
Not too long after its inception, Gourmonade relocated to San Francisco to pair West coast sunshine with its vibrant beverage collection. The brand’s open-window cafe in the Mission District only makes it easier to perfect this concept. Stevenson’s original recipe lies in its flagship product made with hand-squeezed organic lemons, filtered water, and pure cane sugar. It masters the fundamentals, walking the line between sweet and sour in ways only great lemonades can.
“But…what always surprises me and tickles me the most is that first look on their face after they try it,” said Stevenson. “And they’re like, wow, I just paid $8 for a lemonade, and I love it.”
Another menu standout, the Daily Driver, serves as Gourmonade’s take on a mazagran – a coffee and lemonade blend famous in Algeria and Portugal. Despite mazagrans not being popular in the U.S., the Daily Driver props itself on the “double-kick” effect that coffee and lemonade carry, working well for the brand’s summer spirit.
From the Bronx to the Bay, Stevenson was turning one wintertime complaint into summertime shine that never dulled. However, once COVID-19 spread to San Francisco, the pandemic dampened the cafe’s day-to-day outlook.
Gourmonade permanently closed its brick-and-mortar location due to dwindling sales this year. Just five years after Stevenson moved across the country, movers filed in and out the door with his equipment. At that moment, the only thing left for him to do was cry.
“And so I let the store go, and that was, like, really heartbreaking,” said Stevenson. “The primary component was the refrigerator, and the only thing I remember…tears of pain just rolled out of my eyes.”
Gourmonade and its Bronxite brainchild stepped away without a certain future. Despite arriving years after Gourmonade’s humble beginnings, the Mission District storefront evolved from an initial step towards growth to the business’ core focus. Starting over this late in the game—if ever—would be an absolutely tedious drag. No way was it worthwhile.
But life handed Stevenson lemons. Who else would be more prepared to make lemonade?
While the core of Gourmonade’s business was obsolete, its heart and soul—the crafted lemonades and juices Stevenson carefully curated—could never be taken away.
When Gourmonade was expected to go out of business in its most chaotic year ever, the shop transformed into a legitimate CPG brand, walking through one door as another closed. Many of the same in-store products from the past are available online. Albeit new challenges from launching an e-commerce business during a pandemic, they bring Stevenson back to the Bronx – not physically, but mentally.
“Everyday for me is a learning experience,” said Stevenson.
“I think [customers] can appreciate all the effort that goes into making one bottle.”