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Sweet Summer Drinks

Food Fitness to Nourish Your Body

There are two key ingredients to summer drinks: Ice and sugar syrup. Undoubtedly, you can handle the ice part.

Summer Cocktail

Sugar syrup, however, is a basic preparation that has not made it into the repertoires of most home cooks, though in the past it was a staple. Made in ten minutes or less and with nearly infinite keeping powers, along with the ability to effortlessly sweeten the frostiest of cold drinks, sugar syrup is invaluable. It makes lemonade the work of a moment: Simply squeeze the juice of a couple of lemons into a glass, fill it with ice and water, stir in sugar syrup and you're done -- no vigorous stirring or shaking, no granules sitting at the bottom of the glass, no slightly sour sips followed by too-sweet ones.

Sugar syrup also can turn you into an instant bartender. With a blender, fruit, an herb (most often mint) and acidity -- almost always essential for balance -- you can create dazzling drinks in minutes.

The recipe for watermelon cooler is a template that can use almost any fruit. In similar proportions (which need not be exact, with much of this done to taste), you can use any other seeded melon, berries or pitted stone fruit.

For drinks, most berries are best pureed in advance and put through a fine sieve to remove their tiny seeds. Stone fruit is best peeled. To do this, drop it into boiling water for 30 seconds or so, until the skin loosens, then drop it into ice water until cool enough to handle. Remove the peel with a paring knife. Obviously, melons are the easiest choice.

Ginger Then there is ginger beer. Combine sugar syrup and a load of ginger to make ginger syrup. To this, just add ice, lime and sparkling water.

Any of the following drinks can be turned into cocktails.

Examples

  1. For a watermelon daiquiri, add six ounces of rum to the blender.
  2. For a Dark and Stormy, mix rum with the ginger beer.
  3. The usual alcohol added to a lime rickey is gin, but vodka or tequila are good choices, too.

Sugar Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Combine sugar and water in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring once or twice, until sugar dissolves. Store in refrigerator. Recipe makes one-cup.

Watermelon Cooler

Watermelon Cooler 2 cups seedless watermelon
1 cup crushed ice
1 /4 cup sugar syrup
1 /4 cup minced mint, plus a few mint springs for garnish
Sparkling water
1 lime, quartered

Combine watermelon, ice and syrup in a blender, and process until watermelon is pureed and ice is slushy. Taste and add more syrup if necessary.
Stir in mint. Divide among four eight to ten ounce glasses and top off with sparkling water. Squeeze lime into each one. Garnish with a mint sprig or two. Serve with a straw. Recipe makes four servings.
Note: To make a watermelon daiquiri, add six ounces rum to blender.

Nutrition Nibble: Containing high levels of glutathione, the pulp in watermelon is a powerful antioxidant. Because watermelon is made up of so much water, it can also help with dehydration. This is especially important when you are active in hot weather.

Ginger Beer

Ginger Beer

1 cup sugar syrup
3/4 pound ginger, roughly chopped (don't bother peeling)
2 cups tap water
Sparkling water
3 to 4 lemons or limes

Combine syrup and ginger in a saucepan with tap water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until ginger is tender and volume has decreased by about half. Strain liquid.
Fill a tall glass with ice and add 1 /4 cup ginger syrup; fill to top with sparkling water and juice of 1 /2 lemon or lime. Serve with a straw. Recipe makes six to eight servings.
Note: To make a Dark and Stormy, add 1-1/2 ounces rum to each drink.

Raspberry-Lime Rickey

1 cup raspberries, picked over and gently rinsed
3 /4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 cups sparkling water
About 1/2 cup sugar syrup
Mint sprigs for garnish

Mash raspberries to a puree, or puree them in a blender; force through a sieve to remove seeds. Combine raspberry pulp and lime juice in a pitcher with sparkling water. Add sugar syrup.
Fill four large glasses with cracked ice, and pour liquid over it. Garnish with mint and serve with a straw. Recipe makes four servings.
Note: If desired, 1-1/2 ounce vodka or gin can be added to each drink.

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