There’s been plenty of rain around this summer, which makes us very happy indeed. Of course, it hasn’t exactly been what you’d call an outdoorsy season. Between the rain, social restrictions and abnormally cool temperatures, the beaches and parks have been all but deserted.
Fortunately, autumn is on her way to lure us back outside. We’re banking on slightly less of the rain, more of the dappled, warm sunshine that the season is so beloved for. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t love soaking up the glow of an autumn sun with a portable drink in hand?
This is exactly why autumn has always been the true picnic and barbecue season. Summer is often far too hot (or wet!) to bother with packing a picnic; but autumn delivers. Balmy Sunday lunches under rustling trees. A lazy game of cricket slowly unfolding as lunch drifts hazily into orange-stoked twilight chats.
There’s nothing quite like a late afternoon autumnal cocktail, sipped somewhere – and with someone – pretty.
Here are two pic-sipping options to help you make the most of the dog days of warm weather. Make your drinks before you go and seal them in jars for easy transportation. Add some ice from the bag you’ve conveniently packed in your esky before serving.
Hibiscus Iced Tea
Tea made from the dried petals of the hibiscus flower has been imbibed for wellbeing for centuries. It’s caffeine-free, packed with antioxidants, and has even been proven to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. For our purposes, though, it’s enough that this refreshing tea tastes amazing.
1 litre of water
½ cup of raw sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup dried hibiscus flowers (or 4 hibiscus tea bags)
Heat the water, sugar and cinnamon stick together until all the sugar is dissolved and the water is boiling.
Remove from the heat then add the hibiscus leaves. Cover the saucepan with a lid and let sit for 20 minutes.
Strain the brew into a jug and discard the hibiscus flowers and cinnamon stick.
Refrigerate until cold then pour into individual jars for taking to your picnic. Leave enough room at the top of the jar to add a good handful of ice and a sprig of mint when you are ready to serve.
Maple Bourbon Smash
If you’re after something with a little more punch, then a bourbon smash is the pic-sip you. A smash is any cocktail that highlights fruit or herbs and this tangy cocktail that’s packed with mint and lemon fits the bill perfectly. It’s every bit as refreshing as it sounds.
1 lemon, sliced into 8 wedges
20 large mint leaves
Four shots of bourbon
100 ml maple syrup
Soda water – optional for serving
Put the lemon and mint into a cocktail shaker and muddle five times to extract flavour (see notes below).
Add the bourbon and maple syrup and fill the shaker with ice. Shake until cold, then strain into four jars for easy transporting.
When you’re ready to serve, add a splash of soda water and a small scoop of crushed ice.
How to muddle fruit and herbs
Put your ingredients in the base of a cocktail shaker, then use a cocktail muddler (or a wooden spoon if you don’t have one) to gently press to release the juices. Don’t want to ‘mash’ your ingredients to a pulp, pressing is enough to extract what you need.
Some notes on packing
Any jar will do, as long it’s got a screw-top lid that seals completely. Jam jars are often the perfect size for a single-serve beverage.
To clean jam jars, wash in hot, soapy water and then leave to soak to release the glue from the label. Peel off label once softened enough. Remove any residual glue marks by rubbing with a cotton pad soaked in eucalyptus oil. Wash again in hot, soapy water.
It’s a good idea to sterilise your jars before adding your drinks. To do this, preheat your oven to 120°C, place your jars upright on a baking tray and heat for about 20 minutes. Allow to cool before adding your drinks.
Transport your drinks to your picnic in their jars, upright in an esky.