It seems like people don’t really do yummy summer refreshers just for everyday enjoyment. We go on walks in the afternoon, and by the time we get home, we are hot, sweaty, and lethargic. Snacks never sound good, but cold drinks are always desperately needed. Here are 3 of my favorites. These are especially great for serving to non-imbibing friends and children.

Agua de Jamaica

This is the deep red, sweet-tart drink served in Mexican restaurants. I love it so much that I buy a bunch of jamaica blossoms at a time, so I can make it all summer. It’s about as hard to make as a pot of tea.

2 ounces dried jamaica blossoms, aka hibiscus blossoms*
6 cups water
1 1/4 cup sugar

In a saucepan, combine jamaica, water, and sugar and bring to a boil. Lower heat and boil for 2 minutes. Transfer to a glass bowl or pitcher and let cool. Refrigerate overnight. Strain out the blossoms. Taste it, and dilute with a little filtered water if it’s too strong. Serve with ice.

*You can buy Jamaica flowers at Mexican and International markets, and at regular supermarkets in areas with a large Mexican population. They come prepackaged in 2 ounce bags, and are usually near the dried pasilla and ancho chiles, and all those little bags of spices.

Persian Rhubarb drink

This one is made from a syrup, or sherbet in Persian. And now’s  the time, since rhubarb is in season. You can also pick lots of rhubarb, chop it, and freeze for a later date. The frozen rhubarb gets a little mushy, so it’s not ideal for pie or crisp, but great for something like this drink.

1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup water
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup fresh lime juice
fresh mint sprigs

In a stainless steel saucepan, bring the rhubarb and water to a boil, cover, lower heat and simmer for about 1/2 hour. Strain, discard the fiber, and return to the pan, with the sugar and lime juice. Simmer on low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Simmer another 1/2 hour, until it looks syrupy. Strain into a glass bowl and cool.

To make the drink, combine about 1 cup syrup with 4 cups ice water, stir, and taste. If it’s too strong, add more water, and add more syrup if you like it stronger. Pour over into ice-filled cups and add a sprig of mint.

Mango Lassi

Who hasn’t gone to an Indian Restaurant and ordered the mango lassi? If you haven’t, something is wrong with you.

1 cup chopped fresh mango, or 1 cup canned mango puree*
1 cup plain yogurt (be sure it is made with no gelatin)**
1 cup milk
sugar
1/8-1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
ice cubes

In a blender, combine all ingredients except ice, starting with just a Tablespoon or so of sugar. Depending on the variety of mango you use, it will need different amounts of sugar. Yellow Manila mangoes are less fibrous and sweeter that the green and red fatter mangoes at the supermarket. I’ve seen similar yellow ones labelled Champagne. If you want a thicker lassi, add more yogurt. For thinner, more milk. When the flavor and consistency are good, throw in a bunch of ice cubes and blend until frothy.

*Mango puree can be found at Indian and International markets. It is always sweetened. It is pretty runny, so you may need less milk.

**If you use low-fat or fat free yogurt, you will probably need more sugar to offset the tartness of the yogurt.

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