Most importantly, we need to drink more water. Try to always keep a full pitcher of filtered water on hand in the refrigerator, as well as ice cubes on hand in the freezer. Another good thing to do at the beginning of the season is to stock up on full cases of small bottles of water. Whether you like the artisan spa waters such as Fiji or Evian, a fizzier version such as Perrier or San Pellegrino, or perhaps you are less finicky and are easily satiated with basic local bottles, buy a large quantity in bulk to take you through a whole season of on-the-go outdoor activities. When an afternoon hike, a trip to the beach, or a simple picnic in the park is on your social calendar, grab a couple of those water bottles for each person to take along. If room allows, store a case in the refrigerator; if not, then take out the bottles you will need the night before and place them in the refrigerator to chill overnight. While it may seem so easy to store the cases in the trunk of your car, thereby allowing you handy access wherever you go, this is not recommended since studies are being pursued to prove a link between high temperatures breaking down the plastic of the bottles and thus increasing chances for cancer.
Many of us associate summer warmth with classic beverages such as lemonade and iced tea. We all remember the advertisements that infiltrated the commercial breaks during our cartoon watching when we were kids: the one with the kids playing outdoors (do kids still do that??) and whining "I'm hot and thirsty, hey, Kool Aid!" and the lumbering smiley pitcher would burst on the scene like gang busters through the backyard fence to their rescue. It came in grape, it came in cherry, it even came in mountain berry punch. We all loved it, the unnaturally bright lip-staining colors and sickening sweetness were what every kid craved. Did your parents ever actually read the ingredient list on one of those packets? Mine did and my mother was so put off that I was only allowed the lemonade flavor because it didn't contain quite as many artificial ingredients - unless of course I spent the day at Grandma's, she would always buy me anything, because that's just what grandmothers do. Well, as a kid I thanked Grandma, and I still do for always trying to make my visits with her so enjoyable. As an adult, well, Mom was right. Darn it, aren't they always?!
Well for those of you who still desire a tall cold glass of lemonade on a hot day, you can do so without any of the guilt of filling your body with that chemical-laden mystery powder. All you need is an electric citrus juicer and making your own is so, so simple that you'll wonder why there were ever packets of powdered artificial ingredients to make such a simple summertime pleasure. Lemonade contains only three ingredients: lemons, sugar and water. Juice about one cup of lemon juice with the juicer, you'll probably need five to six lemons to yield a cup of juice. Add that to a pitcher and vigorously stir in about three-quarters of a cup of sugar until the sugar dissolves (if you buy superfine sugar, that works even better). Then stir in about three to four cups of water, taste it after three and add more if you need to. Finally, add some ice cubes and thin lemon slices to the pitcher and chill. For limeade, perform the same procedure, substituting limes for the lemons.
Making iced tea at home is also as easy as boiling water. Boil four cups of water. Then steep two tea bags of a good English tea, such as English breakfast. Make a simple syrup by stirring a cup of sugar into a cup of water over low heat, until the sugar dissolves. Remove the tea bags from the tea and discard, then stir in the simple syrup. Chill overnight and you'll have iced tea waiting for you the next day. Want to make something really special? Add equal parts of the iced tea recipe to the lemonade and combine, then stir in a few mint leaves.
For an even healthier alternative, try making an herbal iced tea by remembering the rule of 'four'. Boil four cups of water. Steep four bags each (that's eight bags total) of any two fruity herbal teas you like that would work well together. Once the tea has steeped for a half hour, remove the bags and discard. Then stir in four cups of a fruit juice that would work well with the selected tea flavors. The juice is what sweetens the tea. I have used lemon zinger and red zinger from Celestial Seasonings, with apple juice. I have also used the peach and cherry berry teas with cranberry juice. There are plenty of combinations you can come up with.
Now of course we all like our weekend cocktails as well. Keep in mind that these beverages are merely enhancements to your dining and social pleasure, alcohol does nothing to aid in dehydration. One of my favorite hot weather drinks hails from Mexico: the margarita. The classic margarita is actually not frozen, and it's easy to make. Simply combine equal parts lime juice, tequila, and orange liquor (I like Cointreau, but you can use triple sec as well). Rub a cut lime wedge along the rim of a glass, dip the rim into a plate of salt and allow to dry. Then add in your margarita and enjoy. These days there are a lot of margaritas out there with added fruit flavors. If you want to mix things up a bit, simply add another equal part of the juice you are looking for, such as pineapple for instance. Another refreshing hot weather cocktail is the Cuban mojito. This takes a bit of work, but it is so cooling and refreshing that the effort is well worth the enjoyment. First, in a pitcher muddle two cups of fresh mint leaves with about a third cup of sugar. Once the oils are released from the mint leaves, stir in a cup of light rum and a quarter cup of lime juice. Top it off with four cups of seltzer and stir. Pour into glasses with ice, garnish with a lime wedge and a sprig of mint. One last summer beverage hailing from New Orleans is the Hurricane. This would be a beginner's drink in the study of mixology: one quarter cup each of rum, orange juice and pineapple juice, plus one eighth cup of grenadine syrup. Stir to combine and serve over ice in a tall glass.
While my husband Brian could write pages and pages on the subject, I will spare you all the long version and give you the accelerated course. Guys, as the heat rises, so too does your craved consumption of brew. Then come the end of the season you complain about your proportionate increase in gut size. 'But I buy light beer!' you protest. You are drinking the wrong beer. Next time you buy beer for your weekend barbecue, go to a beverage store. For those on Long Island, there is Shore Line Beverage in Huntington, Selden Beverage in Selden, and Bellport Beer and Soda in Bellport. Veer away from the displays of Coors, Bud, Corona and Miller. Instead, peruse the aisles with the funky labels. You see, those are the real deal. A beer should have color, depth of flavor and substance. It should feel substantial when you drink it. When you drink a stout, it's a heavy beer. It's satisfying, it will fill you up and slow you down. When you drink a mass produced Miller Light, which is so light that it sports the same color going into your body as it does coming out, it really is like drinking water. You will not fill up on it. So you'll grab another one, and another, and before you know it you have consumed six beers in three hours. Lower calorie or not, it adds up and it will add up to more calories than one or two craft beers. We inadvertently did a little experiment one evening. We had a prospective guinea pig over one evening, a guy who is famous for imbibing an entire six pack of Bud or Miller over three hours. Brian served him a couple of craft beers. The guy is open-minded to food and drink and enjoys trying new things, so he was very curious and interested in trying something new. He clearly enjoyed the first as he did finish it and accepted an offer of a second. Brian expected to have to introduce him to a third beer, but the opportunity did not arise that night. Even this guy was slowed down. Again, alcohol is not going to rehydrate you, it is not going to quench your thirst. We drink it to enhance our social and dining experiences. Therefore, one or two should suffice and when you aim for quality and not quantity, you'll be satisfied and your waist size won't suffer. If you feel intimidated by all of the choices in the beverage store and your lack of experience is not helping to guide you into a selection, try visiting either a local brewery or a brewery restaurant where you can sample different brews that are produced on the premises. There are a number of such places on Long Island and it can be a good excuse for a fun night out. Once you start on your journey of craft beer exploration, you'll enjoy them more and more; and then those light beers will be almost undrinkable because when you go to sample one again for old times' sake, you'll notice right away that something is missing from them. I have to say, when a Corona Light came out, I had to ask myself 'How could Corona get any lighter?? Original Corona has almost no flavor, might as well drink water!' By the way, ladies, craft beer isn't exclusively a men's club you know. I love my wine, but I do also enjoy trying a new craft beer with Brian. And it's such a smug feeling to be in a brew pub, order a stout, watch the waiter try to hide his shock and watch the guy at the next table looks on in admiration. I can hold my own with dark beers better than a lot of guys I know!
Simpler summer drinking pleasures can be a glass of a chilled fine white or rose, or a refreshing limoncello straight up on ice. Whatever your pleasure, I raise my glass and toast with my readers, to the summer sun we say: bring it on, we're all hooked up with our fluids - bottoms up!