Cool Drinks for Summer

Am I the only Southerner who hates sweet tea? Worse, I can’t stand flavored coffee, and the only drinks I like from a can are Coke and beer. When did I get so picky?

I like sugar or sweetener in both tea and coffee, and certainly a little milk or cream in that coffee. Not the kind of creamer that’s labeled hazelnut or coconut cream. I like coffee to taste like coffee.

You notice these little things in life when you visit someone else’s home or have out-of-town guests at yours. My friend in Kansas bought expensive, flavored coffee just for us, and we couldn’t drink it.

Our most recent guest rises early so we set the coffee maker up the night before, but he didn’t expect to hear beans grinding; in his careful effort to be mouse-quiet he startled himself and woke up his wife at 5 a.m.

But that was only the beginning. He later walked outside to get the paper only to set off the alarm – “Burglary, burglary, leave immediately.” Then the motion lights caught him in the act and the sprinkler system went off all at once. He may never return to our little abode in River Ridge, hard as we try to be hospitable.

On the subject of tea, I grew up drinking iced tea for dinner and still do. My mother put loose tea in a pitcher, poured boiling water over it and strained it after it steeped. I use tea bags to make fresh tea every night. We like it kind of strong with fresh lemon and sweetener and lots of ice. If there’s any left over, I never refrigerate it because, in my experience, it turns cloudy when put in the refrigerator. In the warm months, we usually grow fresh mint in the yard and include a few leaves into each glass.

I know that sweet tea has been around in states like Mississippi for a long, long time. It seems that everyone is serving it these days, and people love it. My complaint is that it’s too sweet for me. I am told that simple syrup is usually made by melting sugar in boiling water and cooling it, and it’s then added to the tea. I think I might like it if less of the sweetener were used. In my continuous and usually unsuccessful effort to lose weight, I use sugar-free sweetener in tea – just one envelope, along with lemon. I prefer fresh lemon but will use a plastic packet if there’s nothing else available.

There is one additional flavor that I like in tea: crushed fresh mint.

For me, coffee is a must in the morning, but never from a coffee shop. Our handy pot delivers minutes after we get up. Dark roast or French roast is my preference, using freshly ground beans. One teaspoon of sugar or sweetener and a little whole milk make perfect cups of coffee for my husband and me. I learned to drink coffee when I was 5 with a version of “coffee milk” that hooked me right away. I gave my 4-year-old granddaughter a taste of the drink recently, but haven’t told her mother yet. Our morning coffee is always hot, although we prefer iced coffee if drinking it later in the day.

Summer drinks will keep us alive for the next two months. Alcoholic drinks should be held to a minimum during the heat wave but some are ever-so-thirst-quenching, such as the gin and tonic. A friend of mine switches from her usual Scotch to gin and tonic for the summer only. I choose chilled white wine with the occasional gin and tonic, although there’s nothing so seducing as iced tea and lemonade.

Root Beer Float
    Vanilla ice cream
    Root beer
    Canned whipped cream

Place a scoop of ice cream in a tall glass. Cover with root beer. Repeat with another layer. Top with a mountain of whipped cream.
Serve with a straw and long spoon.

Iced Tea My Way
2    family-sized tea bags
4    cups water, brought to a boil
2    cups ice
    Sugar or artificial sweetener
    Lemon wedges
    Fresh mint (optional)

Place tea bags in a 2-quart pitcher. Pour boiling water over tea, then cover and steep for at least 10 minutes. Add ice to the tea. When ice is melted, check strength of tea and add water according to taste. (I add about 2 cups.) Serve in tall glasses over ice with remaining ingredients on the side. If adding mint to a glass of tea, squeeze it to release the leaves’ oil as you drop it into the glass.

Serves 4 to 6.

Iced Coffee
    Coffee, preferably dark roast
      or Colombian, brewed
      strong, cooled
    Milk, preferably whole
    Sugar or artificial sweetener

Fill tall glasses with ice. Pour cooled coffee over ice, filling the glass 2/3 full. Fill the remainder with cold milk. Sweeten according to taste.

6    lemons
1    cup boiling water
1    cup sugar
4    cups cold water

Slice several thin slices of lemon for garnish. Squeeze the rest and set aside.

Bring water to a boil. Place sugar in a large pitcher and pour water over. Stir until completely melted. Cool and stir in lemon juice. Add cold water and garnish with lemon slices. Serve in tall ice-filled glasses or fill pitcher with ice and pour out into small cups for children.

Makes about 6 to 8 glasses or 13 to 14 small cups.

Fourth of July
Party Drinks
Cranberry juice cocktail
Lemonade (above recipe)
Blue food coloring
Starfruit (carambolas), strawberries, blueberries

Fill clear glasses – clear plastic for kids, glass for adults – with ice and cranberry juice cocktail or lemonade. Drop 1 drop per cup of blue food color into lemonade.

Use starfruit, if available. Slice into thin slices, make a slit halfway through and place on the glass rim, as you would lemon. If starfruit is unavailable, spear strawberries or several blueberries with wooden skewers or straws and serve in drinks. Place all drinks on a serving tray for a splash of the Fourth.

Summer Meal Tips
• Make cold soups such as gazpacho and cucumber soup.

• Use the microwave for “baking” to keep the kitchen cool.

• Place chopped vegetables, nuts and rotisseried chicken (from the store) in lettuce leaves and drizzle on an Asian sauce for tasty lettuce wraps.

• Eats lots of salads topped with cooked shrimp, boiled eggs or strips of meat from the deli.

• For dessert, eat ice cream with summer berries or sugared peaches with canned whipped cream

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