Summer's upon us like a heap of wet towels. Damp, steamy, uncomfortable.
Maybe things will break around Thanksgiving, just in time to turn the oven on for a very long spell.
One of the best ways to beat the summer heat is to hydrate, and nature's best quencher is water. So guzzle a lot of that. Sometimes, though, you crave liquid refreshment with punch — and that doesn't always mean alcohol. In essence, a drink with more fizz, more fruit, more flavor.
In tropical and subtropical countries all over the world, cold drinks are more than just liquid to wet the whistle. The ones that take advantage of luscious tropical fruits are snacks, too, more healthful than a candy bar or bag of chips. Indians have their creamy lassis; Cubans like their milky batidos. The Caribbean is famous for tropical fruit punches, ginger beer and teas flavored by hibiscus and other blooms. In Mexico, street stands sell agua frescas, usually made with sugar, fruit and water. Everyone loves fruit.
Many cold, refreshing drinks begin with simple syrup. You can buy bottled versions at liquor stores or easily make your own by bringing equal parts water and granulated sugar to a boil (say, a cup of water and sugar), then chilling in the refrigerator. Health food stores sell syrups made with agave nectar, and some artificial sweeteners can be used too. Check the packages for instruction.
Buy fruit on sale, puree, strain and freeze in plastic bags or ice cube trays. Pull a bag out and add to other ingredients to create a drink or add juicy ice cubes to lemonade or sparkling water. Citrus, apples, pears and bananas are among the fruits that don't work well as frozen purees, but melons, stone fruits and most tropicals are fine.
We hope these 25 ideas for summer drinks lift your flagging spirits and help you through the doggone days. We certainly have a lot of them in Florida.
Some of these ideas serve one, others quench more. These are non-alcoholic refreshments, but a splash of rum or vodka would work in many of them.
Start your blenders.
Janet K. Keeler and Lennie Bennett, Times staff writers
Melon and Strawberry Fizz
Combine halved strawberries and cubed honeydew and cantaloupe to fill tall glasses. Drizzle each with 1 tablespoon simple syrup. Add sparkling white grape juice just before serving and garnish with fresh mint. (If you want to get fancy, make melon balls instead of cubes.)
Raspberry Iced Tea
In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add ⅔ cup sugar; stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat; add 5 tea bags. Steep for 5 to 8 minutes. Discard tea bags. Add 4 cups more water. In another saucepan, bring 3 to 4 cups raspberries and ¼ cup water to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Strain and discard pulp. Add raspberry juice to the tea mixture. Serve in chilled glasses over ice.
Fizzy Cherry Limeade
Fill a tall glass with ice, pour in some Sprite or 7Up. Add the juice of 3 lime wedges and ¼ cup cherry juice. Serve with a straw.
Place 1 cup plain yogurt, 1 cup chopped mango, ½ cup milk and 4 teaspoons sugar in a blender. Process until smooth. Pour into two short glasses. Sprinkle with ground cardamom to garnish.
Sugar-Free Chamomile-Pomegranate Tea
Place 4 chamomile tea bags in a large, heat-proof measuring cup or pitcher; pour 3 cups boiling water over tea bags. Steep 1 hour, or until cooled to room temperature. Remove and discard tea bags. Add 1 cup pomegranate juice and ⅓ cup Splenda. Serve over ice and garnish with mint sprigs.
Blend 1 cup yogurt, 1 ¼ cups cold water, ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon dried mint. Process until smooth. Garnish with mint sprig and shake of cumin seeds.
Coconut Water Smoothie
In a blender, puree 1 cup pureed mango (or 2 cups cubed fresh), 2 cups crushed ice, 5 tablespoons passion fruit juice, ¼ cup coconut water (note: this is much thinner than coconut milk and is sold under brands such as Vita Coco) and, if desired, 1 teaspoon honey or simple syrup.
Pour 2 ounces cherry juice (about ¼ cup) into a short glass filled with ice. Top with club soda.
No Tequila Sunrise
Pour ¼ cup orange juice and the juice of ½ a lemon into a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake well and strain into a tall glass filled with 1 teaspoon grenadine syrup (the sunrise) and ice. Top with ginger ale.
Half and Half
Mix equal parts of iced tea and lemonade. Serve in a tall glass with ice and a lemon slice.
Blend 1 cup orange juice, 1 banana cut in chunks and 5 fresh or frozen strawberries with a cup of crushed ice. Pour into a tall, chilled glass. Garnish with lime slice.
Blend 1 cup papaya and 1 mango cut in pieces with a cup of crushed ice. Serve in a tall, chilled glass. Garnish with key lime slice.
In a blender, puree 1 cup milk, 1 cup diced mango, 1 cup diced papaya and crushed ice until smooth.
Sugar-Free Ginger Pear Lemonade
Combine 3 cups chilled pear nectar, ½ cup fresh lemon juice, ⅓ cup Splenda and 4 teaspoons ginger juice. Serve over ice. (To make ginger juice, capture liquid from grating fresh ginger or look for bottled varieties at liquor stores.)
Puree 1 large cantaloupe or half a seedless watermelon and strain through a fine sieve to eliminate pulp. In a pitcher, mix strained fruit puree with 1 ½ cups water. Mix in 2 to 4 tablespoons sugar, or to taste, and the juice of 2 to 3 limes.
Sugar-Free Blackberry Twist Lemonade
Combine 2 cups fresh blackberries, or unsweetened frozen blackberries thawed, 1 cup fresh lemon juice and 1 cup Splenda in a blender. Process until smooth. Scrape down sides. Press mixture through a sieve into a pitcher and discard the solids. Stir in 4 cups water. Serve over ice.
Place 1 can sliced pineapple with juice into blender. Add 2 cups water, a squeeze of honey and ¼ teaspoon ground ginger. Serve in two or three short glasses filled with ice.
Pour 2 ounces (about ¼ cup) 100 percent apple juice into a short glass with ice. Top with club soda.
Yogurt Fruit Smoothie
Puree 1 cup fruit or frozen pureed fruit, 1 container plain yogurt (whole or low fat), ½ cup ice cubes and, if desired, a tablespoon or two of simple syrup to taste.
Fill a glass with watermelon puree (or any other fruit puree) frozen as ice cubes and add sparkling water and a lime slice.
In a blender, combine 2 cups softened vanilla ice cream and 1 cup pitted fresh cherries. Garnish with fresh cherries.
Iced Spiced Coffee
To 1 cup leftover, cooled coffee, add 1 tablespoon (or more or less to taste) sugar, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon and a pinch of ground cloves. Pour over ice cubes in a tall glass. Top with milk or half-and-half.
Cranberry Sort-of Sangria
In a large pitcher or punch bowl, mix 7 cups cranberry juice, 5 small, sliced peaches or nectarines, 1 sliced lemon and 4 cups ice cubes. Top with club soda. Garnish glasses with mint sprigs.
Blend the juice of 1 lemon with 1 tablespoon sugar, 8 to 10 ripe strawberries and 1 cup water until smooth. Serve over ice.
Blend 1 cup grape juice, 1 cup club soda, 1 teaspoon honey and 1 tablespoon lemon juice until mixed. Pour into a tall glass with ice. Garnish with frozen grapes.
Sources: Tropic Cooking by Joyce LaFray (Ten Speed Press, 1987); A Taste of Cuba by Linette Creen (Plume Publishing, 1994); allrecipes.com; about.com; Splenda; simplyrecipes.com; drinksmixer.com; foodnetwork.com