It's hot. It's really hot. It's offensively, ickily, dangerously hot, and you need to hydrate.
First up, there's water. Chug, chug, chug. But not everyone is keen on plain old, boring old water, and I'm not here to be a judgmental schmuck about that. All I'm saying is that you should introduce some H20 into your body several times a day in the midst of this heat, and there are ways to make that less deadly dull.
I'm also a sucker for Polar Seltzer's seasonal flavors, but they're not always easy to find. I've also been known to freeze orange juice into cubes just to add a pop of color or add a splash of pickle juice to the glass, but again, I have issues.
So yes - water. Drink lots of it.
Now that's out of the way, let's talk limeade. It's the little black dress of the beverage world - fresh, fabulous and endlessly adaptable. Serve it at a party and everyone's all, "Oooohh! You made limeade?"
It's a shade more sophisticated than lemonade - the stuff of sidewalk stands and summer camps - and it's shockingly easy to make.
What you'll need:
12-24 limes, 2 cups of sugar, water
First, squeeze 12-24 limes until you have one cup of juice. The amount of juice in any given lime varies wildly (hence the wide range), but you can maximize the yield and release the oils in the rind by rolling the fruit between your palm and a countertop or microwaving it on high for 10-15 seconds.
Once that's done, slice the limes in half along the equator and either use an electric juicer or prick the open sides with the fork tines a few times, and then twist the fork against the sides in a circular motion until you've squeezed out every last drop.
You've got to balance the sweet and the sour, and while it seems like common sense to stir in plain old sugar at this point (or agave nectar if that's your thing), there's actually a better option: simple syrup. It's an extra step or two, to be sure, but it blends into drinks smoothly and thoroughly, and you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.
To make simple syrup, stir two cups sugar and one cup water in a small saucepan, and bring the mixture a gentle boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer it until the mixture is slightly thickened. Remove it from the heat (carefully – sugar burns are serious business), and let it cool. The syrup can be stored in a clean, sealed jar in the refrigerator until it's needed.
Once it's cooled, pour the cup of lime juice into a pitcher, and then add 3/4 cup of the simple syrup and take a small taste. Is it too sour? Add a bit more of the syrup (you'll have plenty – and in fact, you'll have enough on hand for another batch or two, or for sweetening your iced tea or cocktails) until you're happy with the balance. Some people enjoy stevia, Splenda or some other sweetener. That's their business.
Next add two cups of water. Taste, taking into account that you'll likely be adding ice cubes that will dilute the finished product. Add water to taste, chill, pour over ice and serve it straight as an all-purpose refresher, or get a little bit schmancy.
Swap seltzer or club soda for water and bask in the fizzy fun. Muddle berries or cherries at the bottom of each glass for a pop of seasonal flavor, or spike it with tequila, vodka, bourbon, gin or Pimms for an instant highball or punch. (And yes, alcohol leads to dehydration, so back that up with some water.)
Want to go all rogue? Add a little or a lot of hot sauce or halved, seeded jalapeño (or hotter) peppers to the pitcher for a one-two punch of heat and relief. If you're cooking out, anyway, smoke some limes for about half an hour, and mix them in equal parts with fresh lime juice.
To make the exceptionally delicious beverage above, while I was making the simple syrup, I peeled and sliced about a quarter cup of ginger, folded a few stalks of lemongrass and added them to the pot. I strained them out when the mixture had cooled and used the now deeply flavorful syrup to sweeten the drink and used fresh slices and stalks to garnish the glass.
This might seem like an awful lot of fuss when there are flavor crystals you can just pour in and stir, but try it once and you'll see that all other versions just taste like sour grapes.
And yes, I've mentioned bourbon slush before, but it bears repeating. Bourbon slush was standard on party buffet tables when I was growing up in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, but I've rarely – if ever – seen it served outside of Northern Kentucky. That's a real shame.
Here's a fairly standard recipe that packs a solid, sneaky alcohol wallop, as it goes down so very smoothly. It's easy to double, triple or quadruple, but fair warning – you can never have enough on hand, because no one ever has just one.
My husband and I serve it at our annual Derby Day party and made an octuple batch for our wedding. Now guests to subsequent soirees barely say hello upon arrival. Even the most demure bee-line for the freezer to scoop out a drink and then start in with the pleasantries.
12 ounces lemonade frozen concentrate
In a lidded, freezer-proof container or two (Tupperware and Rubbermaid pitchers work well), stir together all ingredients except ginger ale until thoroughly blended. The concentrate should not be prediluted with water, and plain tea like Lipton or Red Rose works well.
Place the container(s) in the freezer overnight or for at least 4-6 hours depending on the make and model of your appliance. It should be firm all the way through, but it will not freeze completely solid.
Scoop around half to three quarters of a cup of the slush into a tumbler, top with ginger ale or lemon-lime soda to taste and serve.
And did I mention how sneaky it is? Keep an eye on your guests and back with LOTS of water, lest they slip too far into the slush pile.
Note: Don't splurge on the good stuff for this. Save your Woodford and Booker's for sipping and juleps (and hand your Van Winkle on over this way). Evan Williams is cheap, respectable and gets the job done.
Got a favorite way to kick up water? Please share it in the comments below.
Previously - Brew your way to iced tea perfection
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