Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tall, Cool Drinks

There is so much more you can imbibe on a hot afternoon besides sweet tea and diet soda.  These alternatives tempt your taste buds and really quench your body’s thirst for something cool and hydrating.

To start, there is nothing like pure water and if it is not already a staple for you at meals, jazz it up with a squeeze of lemon or lime or try seltzer (not high sodium club soda).  Spritz up your seltzer with a shot of pure juice like orange or grape for a light and low cal cooler that will replace nutrients as well as most energy drinks and with a lot fewer additives.

Caribbean and Central American cultures have worked out some fantastic recipes for cooling drinks.  Aguas Frescas (cold-fresh waters) use high-water content vegetables or fresh tropical fruits to create colorful concoctions that can compete at any cocktail party fare.  Varieties include watermelon, cantaloupe, mango, tamarind, pineapple, strawberry and even cucumber and tomato waters.  Start with a frothy melon refresher like cantaloupe:

Cantaloupe Agua Fresca
For each cup of cantaloupe, rind removed and cut in chunks
1-2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup cold water

Puree cantaloupe, limejuice, honey and water in a blender.  Puree for 45-60 seconds to break down all the melon pieces. Refrigerate or serve immediately over ice.

Horchata, cooling and restorative refreshment traces its origins to the Moors in Valencia, Spain.  Horchata was originally made from tigernuts (potassium-rich tubers called chufa) plus water and sugar.  Its many versions from Latin America use combinations of nuts, rice, water, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Cooked rice is considered a good hydrator.  You can buy pre-made mixes but it is so easy to whip up your own pure version in a blender for a wonderful morning drink that your kids will like as a summer alternative to hot oat and rice cereals.  Use leftover brown rice for a horchata with nutty, rice pudding notes and extra fiber. 

Brown Rice Horchata
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon honey
4 cups water or 1/2 water and 1/2 low fat milk

Puree all ingredients in blender.  Strain or serve over ice. 
(Optional: Add a scoop of unflavored or vanilla protein powder for a breakfast drink with enough protein to pull you through the morning.)

Finally, herbal teas mixed with fruit juices allow you to create your own house blends. Who knows?  A big beverage company may show up at your door one day to license recipe made with the best stuff on the planet and, conveniently, at your house.  Here’s our house blend to get you inspired:

Our Pure Mango Sunsation Tea Drink
4 tea bags fruit herbal tea (try Bigelow Chamomile Mango or a peach variety)
1 pint (2 cups) water
1 cup pure Apple Juice

Steep tea in 1 pint of boiled water.  When cool, combine with 1 cup apple juice.  Serve chilled or over ice. 

And if you haven’t made lemonade or limeade from scratch in ages, pick up one of the new citrus squeezers to create no fuss fast lemonade.  Use scant amounts of honey, agave syrup or simple syrup to sweeten your lemonade.  Your taste buds will quickly adjust to the tarter flavor and your body will thank you.  Too much sugar feels draining in the heat.

Pure Lemonade
Juice of 2 lemons
2 teaspoons simple syrup
1 pint cold water

Combine all ingredients and taste.  Add more water or sugar to suit your taste.

Adults Only
Alcohol is not your friend in the heat so keep it light and go slow.  Alternate drinks with a tall glass of water and remember to eat, especially hydrating appetizers like grapes from the cheese platter and just about any vegetable off the crudite plate.  If wine and sweet cocktails feel too heavy, try a Lemon Whiskey Cocktail at your next summer gathering.   Add 1 ounce of Scotch Whiskey and 1/2 ounce of Drambuie to 2 pints lemonade for a light alcoholic drink fro grown-ups.  Tastes like a whiskey sour but not as sugary.