We’re smack-bang in the dog days of summer, which means everyone is hot, bothered and probably panting. Heat is shimmering off the roads and the grass is so dry it crackles. The temptation to sit on a front verandah, porch or stoop and sink a cold one is too tempting to pass up.
No, it’s not time to ditch the new year’s vow to cut down on alcohol. Not quite yet. While downing a coldie might be the classic Aussie way to cool down on a hot day, there are plenty of alcohol-free ways to beat the heat just as well.
Here’s how to revive the true art of summer refreshment with a mocktail, lassi or iced tea.
There’s no denying that the mocktail is having a moment. The booze is being stripped out of umbrella-festooned drinks in bars across the country. These drinks are every bit as refreshing as their drunken counterparts, only without the nasty hangover.
To balance a mocktail, you’ve got to add interest with sharp flavours like muddled mint, cranberry, lemon and bitters. Without the sharpness to bring sophistication, you’re in danger of serving up something more juice box than on-the-rocks…
Mock mint julep
The mint julep started as a medicinal tonic – most likely the magical healing powers were brought on by the generous pour of whiskey or rum that went into the cocktail – but these days it’s more highly associated with horseracing in America’s Deep South. The drink is traditionally served in a pewter cup, but since we are leaving out the whiskey, we can let go of the pewter cup too…
¼ cup water
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 cups crushed ice
½ cup lemonade
Fresh mint leaves to garnish
Combine the water, sugar and chopped mint in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir until sugar has dissolved, then remove from heat. Set aside to cool and let the mint steep.
Fill two tall cocktail glasses with crushed ice. Pour half the lemonade into each glass and add a splash of the mint sugar syrup to taste. Garnish with fresh mint leaves and serve.
You can make the mint syrup as a shrub to further enhance flavours and longevity. Here’s how to make a shrub.
While mixing fruit and dairy is a no for many, it’s a big yes for most. For a start, dairy-based drinks are generally big on health factors. Yoghurt mixes are particularly good as a digestion aid and general coolant.
From ayran to kefir to cholado and licuado, the world has no shortage of dairy beverages to help you keep your cool. The most accessible is India’s mighty lassi.
A ‘lassi’ is a yoghurt-based drink that’s ubiquitous across the Indian subcontinent. They are known to tame the heat of a spicy curry, so it’s worth giving one a go to tame an Aussie summer.
1 cup diced fresh mango, or frozen mango
1 cup plain non-fat yoghurt
½ cup low-fat milk
1 tablespoon white sugar (or more or less to taste)
Dash of cardamom or cinnamon
Put all ingredients into a blender and whizz until creamy and frothy. Serve well-chilled.
Feel free to substitute another stone fruit for the mango – peaches, pomegranates and berries all work well.
Hot tea is drunk around the world to cool down on a hot day. There’s science behind why it works – the hot tea makes you sweat, which evaporates and cools you down. Or you could just drink iced tea instead.
Taiwan’s whacky export is having a moment with bubble tea stands popping up across Australia. If you lack access to a boba establishment, don’t miss out. It’s surprisingly easy to make yourself. The best thing about making it at home is you can dial down the excessive sweetness that bobo is renowned for.
10 black tea bags
4 tablespoons white sugar (add more or less to taste)
6 cups boiling water
250 g bag quick-cooking tapioca pearls (boba)
Reduced fat milk
Extra sugar, optional
Put the tea bags and sugar into a jug and pour in the boiling water. Leave to steep until water cools to room temperature. Remove tea bags and place tea in the fridge to cool.
To prepare the boba, bring a small pot of water to boil, add the tapioca pearls and stir immediately to prevent them from sticking together. Cook until the balls float to the top of the pot – about 5-7 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.
Divide the boba between four glasses and fill glass with ice. Pour each glass two-thirds full with tea, add a generous dash of milk. Mix well and add extra sugar to taste.
Tapioca pearls are available in Asian food stores and some supermarkets.
Lemon basil iced green tea
It’s been cooling down the southern states of America for almost two centuries, but iced tea has been slow to make its way into Australia’s favour. That’s probably because we’re not doing it right…
½ lemon, very thinly sliced
5 fresh basil leaves
2 green tea bags
3 cups hot water (cooled from boiled)
raw honey, optional
Put the lemon slices, basil leaves and green tea bags into a large jar.
Pour the hot water into the jar and leave for about 20 minutes. Remove the tea bags, seal the jar and place in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours, though longer is better. The flavour will improve the longer you leave the jar to steep.
Serve over ice and stir through a dash of honey for sweetness, if desired.
You can switch out the green tea for black, if that’s your preference.