Beat the heat with summer drinks

Published on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 00:49 - Written by Christine Gardner, food@tylerpaper.com

I think we all can agree that we’ve entered into the hottest days of summer. Our cool spring and mild summer has melted faster than an ice cream cone in July.

On Saturday, I attended an event in which I had to spend the entire day outside. It was OK until about noon and then the heat was on until after the sun went down.

I am glad I put some advance thought into a variety of cold drinks to take along in the cooler. That planning made the day somewhat bearable.

Of course, ice water always should be our first choice when trying to avoid overheating, but ice melts pretty fast and drinking tepid water does not quench your thirst.

Switching to an insulated plastic or metal cup helped slow the melting process and for a flavor boost I tried some sparkling water with a couple of tablespoons of pomegranate juice.

This also is what I reach for in my latest effort to kick sodas — diet or regular. From what they say, one is just as bad for you as the other.

Of course, nothing is better on a hot summer day than a tall glass of iced tea. Recently, a reader asked me about a problem they were having with their iced tea turning out cloudy.

I did some research and found that Good Housekeeping claims that not cooling the tea to room temperature before refrigerating can cause cloudiness.

A tea making method they recommend to prevent cloudiness is to brew it double strength (8 tea bags to 4 cups of boiling water) for 5 minutes, and add the same volume of ice cubes (4 cups) to the hot liquid when you remove the bags. Stir to melt the ice, and then refrigerate.

I also read that clouding can be caused by hard water that contains high concentrations of minerals. The minerals can take the form of visible solids that don’t dissolve at cooler temperatures. Brewing at a high temperature and cooling quickly (as in the Good Housekeeping method) can help reduce or dissipate those minerals.

Another great way to cool off is watermelon juice. After the Fourth of July I had half a watermelon that I knew would not be eaten anytime soon. I decided to put it through the blender and then strain out the solids.

The result was refreshing watermelon juice that can be made into popsicles, added to other drinks or enjoyed on its own.

On Saturday, we were cooking on the Tyler Paper grill so that, of course, raised the temperature even more. One of the guys helping had a Yeti cooler and I could not believe how well it kept things cold. He left the cooler outside from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning and there was still ice and very cold drinks in the bottom at the end of the weekend.

Might be a worthy investment. Especially for transporting groceries on hot summer days.

We might get a break from the heat for a few days this week, but then we still have to survive August. Here are some great mocktail recipes that can help beat the heat. They just might make the sweltering summer a bit more bearable. All of the recipes are pitcher style and low in sugar. More sugar can be added to taste.

Watermelon Mango Cooler

Ingredients

1 ripe mango, diced

1 cup watermelon

2 tablespoons lime juice

club soda

lime wedges

Directions

In a blender combine mango, watermelon and lime juice. Strain into a 2 quart pitcher. Fill the rest of the way with club soda. Add ice to glasses. Pour drink over ice. Garnish with lime wedges.

Blueberry-Lemon Sparkler

Ingredients

2 cups blueberries

1/4 cup lemon juice

sparkling water

lemon wedges and blueberries, for garnish

Directions

Puree blueberries with lemon juice. Strain into a 2 quart pitcher and top with sparkling water. Stir to combine. Add ice to glasses and pour. Garnish with blueberries and lemon wedges.

Peach-Honey Spritzer

Ingredients

2 cups frozen peaches, thawed

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

peach slices

club soda

Directions

In a blender, puree the frozen peaches with 1/4 cup water, lemon juice and honey. Pour into a large pitcher. Top with sparkling water. Stir to combine. Fill glasses with ice and pour in the spritzer. Garnish with fresh peach slices.

Virgin Blackberry Margarita

Ingredients

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 limes, juiced

2 teaspoons sugar

ice

1 pint of blackberries

Directions

In a shaker add a handful of blackberries and the sugar. With a muddler mash the blackberries into the sugar. Add the orange juice, almond extract, lime juice and ice. Shake for 10 to 15 seconds. Fill glasses with ice and strain liquid into the glasses. Garnish with blackberries and lime wedges. Makes 2. (Alternately, substitute orange juice and almond extract for 1/2 cup tequila, 2 ounces triple sec and 2 ounces amaretto.)