Activated charcoal is all the rage: Give this limeade mocktail a try

activated charcoal limeade
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This activated charcoal limeade is a refreshing drink for all ages and is as much fun to mix as it is to drink. Don’t let the hue scare you: The activated charcoal doesn’t actually change the flavor of the drink; it just lends a perfect swirl of black to your libation.

What is activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal isn’t the same as the stuff in your grill. It’s been treated with oxygen to increase its porosity, meaning that it’s very absorbent. In fact, activated charcoal is used in emergency rooms to help treat overdoses and poisonings. Some even tout activated charcoal as a detox tool; however, if you have a healthy liver and kidneys, you already have a fantastic blood filtration system built in.

In small quantities, like in this drink, activated charcoal is harmless and fun (and might even help defray the worst of a hangover if you’ve indulged in stronger drinks). An important note, though: Because it is so absorbent, it can compromise the efficacy of prescription drugs. And we want your October nights to be fun-scary, not scary-scary, so take good care of yourself, OK?

MORE: Strawberry lychee “nojito”: Get the recipe

Activated charcoal limeade

Let’s get started. First up is the ginger simple syrup. Simple syrup actually lives up to its name. You just mix equal quantities of water and sugar, and stir or boil to dissolve. 

For this recipe, stir 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan over low heat until dissolved and gently bubbling. Then, grate about 2 inches of fresh ginger into the pot. (Feel free to chant “double double” or whatever you like if it gets you in the mood.) 

Remove from heat and let steep for at least an hour (but overnight is better. Then, strain and voila! Ginger simple syrup. 

When you’re ready to complete your activated-charcoal limeade, fill four glasses with ice (I like to use the tall skinny Mason jars because they always look great and they’re tough to break — perfect for parties and kids). Juice two limes into each glass. Add 4 tablespoons ginger simple syrup and stir. Fill each glass with water (or sparkling water), and then open a capsule of activated charcoal on top of the drink. If you stir all the way, the whole mixture will turn black, but I think it’s fun to stir only halfway for a nice black cloud on top of a pale green drink. 

MORE: 4 herbal mocktails that are just as good as any cocktail

Either way, you have a tasty drink to share with friends. Cheers!

Activated-charcoal limeade

Yield 4 12-ounce drinks


For ginger simple syrup:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 inches grated fresh ginger (about 1 ½ tablespoons)

For drinks:

  • 4 tablespoons ginger simple syrup
  • Juice from 8 limes (about ½ cup) 
  • 32 ounces water
  • 4 capsules activated charcoal


  1. For ginger simple syrup: In small saucepan, combine sugar and water over medium heat. Once sugar dissolves and bubbles form, add ginger. Stir to combine, and then remove from heat. Allow to steep for at least an hour, ideally overnight. 
  2. Fill four 12-ounceglasses with ice, and juice 2 limes into each glass. 
  3. Add 4 tablespoons ginger simple syrup to each glass and stir to combine.
  4. Fill each glass with cold water. 
  5. On top of each drink, carefully open capsule of activated charcoal, allowing powder to top drink. 
  6. Stir gently to combine.


  • Activated charcoal can interfere with the absorption of prescription medications so please avoid this drink if necessary.
  • This recipe makes much more ginger simple syrup than you’ll need for 4 drinks, but it keeps well and is a great cocktail ingredient. Get creative!
  • This drink is great with licorice straws as a garnish for a little extra Halloween fun.

Looking for more family-friendly drinks? Check out our healthier pumpkin spice latte recipe below.