I have fond memories of summer, as I am certain most of us do, because not only was it play baseball! time, as well as no-school season, but it also meant that, at dinnertime, we kids were served iced tea instead of the usual cold-weather drink (milk). I like milk, but iced tea just went down easier and was more festive.

As I grew older, something I am still doing, I broke the milk habit and went directly to iced tea year-round. The freedom of maturity, and all that. Iced tea is that perfect drink, refreshing and no conflicts with a wide range of foods.

Let me pause here to make one comment: Whoever let loose on New Orleans restaurants asking if you want “sweetened or unsweetened” iced tea, please stop the madness. Our city is not part of the Deep South where sweetened tea is an integral part of dining. Our tea here is hot or iced. It’s not, by tradition, sweetened, except by the consumer, who has the good sense to add all the sugar required for personal taste just before the moment of ingestion.

Anyway, in many circles, mixing alcohol with tea is considered bad form, old sport. And before you get carried away with the retort, “But what about Long Island Iced Tea?” let me hasten to inform you that this particular cocktail contains not a whit of tea.

Long Island Iced Tea
1 part vodka
1 part tequila
1 part light rum
1 part gin
1 part Cointreau or triple sec
1 part fresh lemon juice 

Rim a collins glass with a lemon wedge, and then fill with ice cubes. Mix all alcohol ingredients with the lemon juice in a shaker, with ice. Shake well then strain into the glass. Top with cola to taste and garnish with lemon wedge.

Since I like drinks that practically make themselves, I was pleased to find a new product, just on the market, that seems to be an answer to many questions. Not really important questions but questions nevertheless.

Belvedere Vodka has introduced a Lemon Tea version of its quality spirit. It is, I confess, very good. Maybe too good. And it opens up many possibilities for great summertime cocktails. Belvedere Lemon Tea Vodka is made from green tea, black tea, chamomile, lemongrass, honey, ginger and lemon. Almost sounds like a drink that can make itself. See statement above, opening sentence, preceding paragraph.

Belvedere Lemon Tea Green Goddess Pitch
5 oz Belvedere Lemon Tea
10 oz green tea
3 oz lemon juice
3 oz simple syrup
1 bunch mint

Add all ingredients to a pitcher with ice and stir. Garnish with blueberries, cucumber and slices of lemon.

Belvedere Lemon Tea Honey Sour
1 ½ oz Belvedere Lemon Tea Vodka
1 ½ oz. lemon juice
1 oz honey water
Dash egg white
Dash Angostura bitters

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a rocks glass.

Up until a few years ago, mixing alcohol with coffee meant hot coffee and some sort of brandy or maybe a strong whisky. The classic Café Brulot is one of the great après-dinner treats, particularly when it is done in the classic style. It’s not only a great drink but a great show. Sadly, many of New Orleans' grand restaurants have abandoned Café Brulot completely, or now offer a pale staging of the proper preparation tableside.

With the rise in popularity of coffee shops and the many iterations of iced coffees available to even the most casual consumer, we now have a whole range of new directions and reasons for taking our caffeine and alcohol in one gulp.

Iced Jamaican Coffee
1 oz dark rum
1 oz Tia Maria
¾ oz. heavy cream
4 oz chilled coffee
Crushed ice

Combine spirits, coffee and cream. Partially fill a large, Bordeaux-style wine glass with crushed ice, and pour mixture. Serve.

Rum and Coffee
4 cups brewed coffee, chilled
6 ounces white rum
2 ounces dark rum
4 to 5 tablespoons sugar
Whipped cream for garnish

Per serving, combine coffee, rum, sugar and ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake well until combined.

Strain mixture into a highball glass and top with whipped cream.

So, don’t curse the heat and humidity. Make the best of it by enjoying an iced tea or an iced coffee. Oh, and don’t forget to add your own “special” touch.

P.S. For those of you who are really into coffee, and I mean, “really, really ‘into’ coffee.” This upcoming week, Merchant, the dynamite new coffee house at 800 Common Street, and Domenica, the amazing Italian restaurant operated by John Besh in The Roosevelt, will each be hosting a coffee-making and coffee-pairing session with Master Barista Giorgio Milos.

Signore Milos earned his designation from the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe, whose motto is “We Never Sleep.” Okay, so that’s not true, but I could not resist.

Anyway, Signore Milos will host a seminar, Demystifying Coffee, at Merchant on Monday, July 9, 6:30 – 8 p.m. Coffee, wine and crepes will be served and guests can learn about true Italian espresso from the Master. Incidentally, Merchant was just named by New Orleans Magazine as one of the Best New Restaurants of the Year.

The next evening, Tuesday, July 10, Domenica will host Signore Milos for a pizza-and-prosecco dinner, finishing with at least five different dessert and espresso pairings, 7:30-10 p.m.

Tickets are $100 for this two-night exploration of great Italian flavors and can be purchased at both Merchant and Domenica.

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