Monday, July 09, 2012

It's a Heat Wave! Summer Drinks That Don't Break the Bank

Reader! We love cold summer drinks but don't want to pay an arm and a leg for them, right? I feel your pain. Here are two life-changing recipes for you.
Iced coffee. Seems so easy, right? It is surprisingly hard to find properly made iced coffee, even here in the lah-dee-dah Bay area. An appalling, horrifying number of establishments will offer to make you iced coffee by pouring hot coffee over ice. When this happens, which is all the damn time, it takes all of my self-control not to dissolve into a puddle like the Wicked Witch of the West. ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME HERE? I DON'T WANT YOUR LUKEWARM COFFEE WATER FEH FEH FEH!  All dramatics aside, any establishment that serves hot coffee poured over ice should be DEAD TO YOU. The same goes for those that serve refrigerated leftover hot brewed coffee. Like we don't see all the bitter oils floating on the top like pond scum? BLECH.

The good news, and there is good news to be found in this thorny thicket of First World Problems, is that you can make awesomely shit-kicking iced coffee in the comfort of your own home without having to put pants on. However, like all good things, iced coffee cannot be rushed. It's an overnight process, maybe a 6 hour process if you're really in a hurry. But beyond that, it's not rocket science. Grind the coffee, not too fine. Pour cool water over it, four to one-ish ratio. Let it sit, unrefrigerated.  Cover it to keep out the cat hair or don't. Strain it. Pour over ice, doctor to your liking. The end. Here is a recipe if you want it.

So you're not a coffee drinker. Hopefully you're not one of those people who are all, I just don't need caffeine because seriously? SHUT UP. So you're a non self-righteous non-coffee drinker and you've become addicted to those fancy herbal tea coolers? Understandable, because YUM. Except they are forking expensive, right? Around four dollars each, which when one reflects, is really an absurd amount of money.  No problem. You can make your own delicious tea coolers.

First, the tea. I like Tazo Passion Herbal Infusion. Definitely do not buy this at Amazon, despite my link here as this is not a good price at all. I found the tea last week on sale at Safeway for $3/box. If that isn't to your liking, do some taste tasting. You want a tea that has some oomph to it so it can stand up to being watered down with ice. Tazo recommends brewing at double strength, two bags for every 8 ounces of water. I did it this way the first time and it was super tart. The next time with six bags for 32 ounces of water was a mellower result that was more to my liking, but this is your thing, so whatever floats your summer drinks boat. Your tea will need a good chunk of time to cool down in the fridge. Overnight is ideal. If you are a fizzy water/Soda Stream kind of person, you might enjoy making your cooler a spritzer. A slug of juice for extra flavor and sweetness, why not? Slices of fruit, sure! You're limited only by what's in your house.

In order to sugar our cold drinks, we have to recognize a painful truth: table sugar doesn't dissolve in cold drinks, leaving us with equal parts syrupy grit and sadness. The correct way to address this is to make a simple syrup, equal parts sugar and water, brought to a short boil. Or you can do it without heat, same proportions, but shaken until dissolved. This will be thinner than the boiled variety but taste just fine.

To complete your mastery of the summer drink, buy yourself one of these nifty double-insulated cold cups with a built-in straw. These oversized sippy cups for grown-ups keep your ice from melting and your cup from sweating all over your table tops. But for the love of Baby Jesus, don't buy this at Starbucks or Peet's. Go to Marshall's or TJ Maxx--you'll find just what you're looking for, max five dollars. Professional Critic pinky swear.

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