Cool Labor Day Sipping

Cool Labor Day Sipping

In a British pub, lemonade is a clear, lemon soda. In India, Nimbu Paani (literally lemon water) is made with limes and honey instead of lemons and sugar. Some people quench their thirst with an Arnold Palmer, a combination of lemonade and iced tea. Others want nothing more than to sip a tall glass of iced tea. This Labor Day, why not venture into the world of citrus, teas and herbal blends and satisfy your thirst with an accent on flavor?

Iced teas and lemonades require few ingredients and little time to make. Easiest to make is iced tea"¦ not the excessively sweet raspberry or peach teas many restaurants serve, but proper iced tea. Start by bringing four cups (one quart) of fresh, cold water to a boil. Then pour the boiling water over five tea bags (Lipton is the most popular, but Rooibos and black teas are tasty) in a heatproof pitcher. Let steep for an hour, remove the teabags, add two cups of water, chill, and pour over ice. Garnish with a lemon wedge, not a slice of lemon. Although the slice may be more aesthetically pleasing, it's much more difficult to squeeze into the tea.

However, thin lemon slices are great for floating in rounded pitchers of lemonade. Fresh lemon juice, water and sugar are all you need. Heat sugar and water to make a simple syrup and add lemon juice. That's it. For added flavors, flavor the syrup. Nancy Groth, owner of Summer Jo's Restaurant in Grants Pass, experimented with many herbs before she was pleased (as punch) with her Lavender Lemonade. She says, "lemon verbena, rose geranium and mints would be good, as well. Use anything you like, just make sure you use fresh lemons."

Roanna Rosewood, co-owner of Ashland's Pangea restaurant, enjoys the floral taste of rosewater, which is used in cooking around the world. She created unique, pink rosewater lemonade for their restaurant. "I thought that rosewater lemonade should be pink. So, we add fruit juice concentrate for color," says Rosewood.

Pangea also created a zesty raspberry spritzer that's easy to make at home. "It's such a great drink. Use Perrier, club soda or any bubbly water and add a few tablespoons of frozen juice concentrate. Basically, you are reconstituting the juice with bubbly water," says Rosewood. Create spritzers with mango-passion fruit or cranberry frozen juice concentrates and have a healthier alternative to sodas.

To transform the spritzer into a creamy soda, Rosewood suggests adding a little heavy cream or half-and-half. Serve it in a tall glass with ice. Not just an American treat, milk products sweeten many iced drinks throughout Asia, the Caribbean, and South America. Less perishable than fresh cream, canned, sweetened condensed milk gives Thai, Jamaican and Brazilian teas their smooth, sweet taste that complements the spiciness of the tea blends.

In a Thai iced tea, Thai red tea leaves are mixed with star anise, cinnamon and vanilla. Once brewed, sugar is added to the hot tea; mixed to dissolve and cooled. It is then poured over ice and topped with cream and sweetened, condensed milk. South Americans use nutritious, stimulating Yerba Mate as the base, while Jamaica flower refreshes folks from Malaysia to Madrid.

Add Rogue Valley flavors to a tempting beverage. Combine blackberry juice with black tea, sliced pears with delicate white tea, or whirl blueberries into lemonade for a pink drink. Or, for a "very Martha Stewart touch," says Rosewood, "freeze rose petals, berries or fruit in ice cubes. It's a beautiful way to dress up your beverage."

With Labor Day on the way, there are plenty of opportunities to create cool concoctions.

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