Variety of beverages can make summer more enjoyable

Rhubarb lemonade is puckery sweet and refreshing on a hot day. Use a citrus press to get the most juice possible from the fruit. |  Sarah Galvin photo

Summer is sipping time. We sip drinks to hydrate our bodies, to cool down and feel refreshed.

Your first and best choice is cold water. Tap water is perfect. There are no plastic or glass bottles to recycle. If your tap water has a flavour or contaminants that you find unappealing then use a carafe type filtering system. Add a slice of fruit or cucumber to make it more interesting.

Non-caffeinated iced green or black tea is refreshing. And without the caffeine it isn’t a diuretic. Sweeten very lightly if at all.

Iced coffee is refreshing but can be loaded with calories, especially what you buy at coffee shops. Make your own and control the amount of sugar and fat.

Fruit spritzers are refreshing and healthy. Combine equal parts of fruit juice with still or sparkling water. Ideal juices are cranberry, pomegranate, orange, peach or mango. Top up with plenty of ice.

In alcoholic drinks, replace sugar and syrups with fresh fruit and rather than using concentrated juices opt for fresh squeezed. Watch your portion sizes and use only one shot per drink. In addition to juices and fruits, add ginger, lemon or honey for extra nutrients.

Rhubarb lemonade

1 c. fresh lemon juice 250 mL
1 c. rhubarb simple syrup 250 mL
2 c. water 500 mL

Make the rhubarb syrup first and chill. Then mix ingredients together in a pitcher and serve. Fill each glass with ice and pour the rhubarb lemonade over it.

Rhubarb simple syrup
4 c. rhubarb, chopped 1 L
1 c. sugar or honey 250 mL
1 c. water 250 mL

Combine the rhubarb, sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft and the liquid has thickened slightly, about 20 minutes.
Set a fine-mesh strainer or a coarse strainer lined with cheesecloth over a large bowl. Pour the rhubarb through the strainer until most of the liquid is in the bowl. Press the solids a little with the back of a spoon to extract more syrup. It should keep for quite some time in the fridge.
The leftover rhubarb solids make a nice rough jam, so if you want, you can put them in a clean jar and keep them in your refrigerator for about a week. It’s great on toast.

Lemon drop martini

The perfect lemon drop martini should be refreshingly tart, not cloyingly sweet.
Using ultrafine sugar is essential. I gave regular white granulated sugar a whiz on the blender to make it superfine. Don’t use icing sugar.

1 fl. oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice, plus more for the rim 30 mL
2 fl. oz. good quality vodka 60 mL
2 tsp. ultrafine sugar, plus more for rim 10 mL
finely crushed ice

sliced lemon round for garnish

To sugar the rim of the martini glass, squeeze lemon juice into a flat bottomed bowl and dip the rim of the glass into the bowl to coat the outside edges of the glass. Holding the glass upside down, sprinkle ultrafine sugar onto the outside edge of the glass rim with a sieve. Tap off excess sugar. Continue to hold the glass upside down and sprinkle with more sugar, as necessary. Put the glass upside down on a sheet pan or piece of parchment paper until dry. The glasses can be prepared well in advance and can be chilled if you wish.
Add lemon juice to a cocktail shaker. Add vodka and two teaspoons (10 mL) ultrafine sugar into cocktail shaker and fill halfway with large ice cubes.
Close and shake vigorously for at least 40 shakes to dissolve sugar.
Pour into a sugar-rimmed martini glass and scoop in finely crushed ice to float on the top. Add a thinly sliced lemon round to float on the top.
A chilled glass is ideal with this drink.
Make crushed ice in your blender, too. Then put it in the freezer until needed.

Vietnamese iced coffee

1 tbsp. sweetened condensed milk 15 mL
1/2 c. very strong brewed coffee or espresso 125 mL
ice cubes
1 1/2 fl. oz. coffee liqueur such as Kahlua, optional 45 mL

Add the sweetened condensed milk to a tall glass. Pour hot coffee over and stir to combine. Fill glass with ice cubes. Add liqueur, if using. Stir and serve.

Spanish sangria

There is no need to use your best red wine in this punch. All the other ingredients add the signature sangria flavour. Use any fruits or berries in season, but don’t omit the gin.

1 1/2 bottles dry red wine
1 large lemon, thinly sliced with the peel cut into thin strips
1 large orange, thinly sliced with the peel cut into thin strips
1/2 lime, thinly sliced with the peel cut into thin strips
1/4 c. granulated sugar 60 mL
1/2 c. brandy 125 mL
1/2 c. orange liqueur 125 mL
1/4 c. gin 60 mL
green seedless grapes
2 c. club soda 500 mL
ice cubes
apple, orange and lemon wheels, for garnish

Combine all ingredients, except soda and ice, in a large glass pitcher. Stir well, cover and refrigerate at least four hours. Fill each glass with ice cubes. Add liquor mixture to each glass to the halfway mark. Top with club soda. Garnish with an orange, apple and lemon wheel.

Cucumber pineapple agua fresca

Cucumber agua fresca is a traditional Mexican beverage. I like the addition of pineapple and mint. This can be mixed with vodka or gin for a refreshing cocktail.
If you don’t have an English cucumber then peel the skin from a regular field cucumber. The skin can be bitter.

1 medium sized English cucumber
1 c. pineapple juice 250 mL
1-2 c. water 250-500 mL
juice of 1 lime
5-10 mint leaves
1 inch fresh ginger, optional 2.5 cm

Mix all ingredients with the smaller suggested amounts first. Taste and add more water, mint or lime juice as you wish. Serve over ice.

Singapore sling

This was popular in the 1970s but still makes a nice cocktail on a hot day. This version is way better than the version from those cocktail lounges back in the day. It may be difficult to find some of the ingredients in small town liquor stores so plan ahead and pick them up in the city.

1 fl. oz. gin 30 mL
1/2 fl. oz. cherry brandy 15 mL
1/4 fl. oz. Benedictine 7 mL
1/4 fl. oz. Cointreau 7 mL
1/2 fl. oz. grenadine or pomegranate juice 15 mL
3 fl. oz. pineapple juice 90 mL
dash angostura bitters
club soda

Shake all ingredients except the club soda with ice and strain into a tall glass filled with crushed ice.
Fill with soda water. Garnish with a cherry.

 

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