Ten Best: Hot weather drinks

by Brian Clarey

Gin and tonic Youdon’t have to tell me how hot it is outside. But during my years in theSouth, I’ve developed a few strategies for summer survival. First andforemost is: Keep the liquids coming. Also, in the warmer months, a lotof people switch from brown liquors to clear. That’s why so many ginand tonics get thrown back between March and October. And the drink isnot without its salubrious benefits. In the old days, the Brits used toswear by the quinine in the tonic water to ward off malaria, and thejuniper in the gin has got to be good for something. Urinary tractinfections? Add a squeeze of lime and it’s practically a health drink. Lemonade Alcoholis fine, a legitimate weapon against the heat, but you’re not gonna doso well knocking back water glasses of gin in the hot sun all day, nomatter how much ice you use. If you’re neighborhood is precious enough,you’ll likely be seeing the budding young entrepreneurs out on thesidewalks after school lets out for the summer. Go ahead and getyourself a glass of that lemony-sweet concoction – if it’s made withreal lemons (doubtful) your body will appreciate the vital nutrientsthey supply. And be a sport: Give the kid an extra buck. Sweet tea/iced coffee Sweettea, when properly prepared, can be called Southern go-juice. It’s gotcaffeine and loads of sugar, and on the refreshing scale you simplymust give it an 8 or better. Iced coffee is nice, too, though it’s kindof a Yankee thing, I guess. But my favorite all-time cold-coffeeconcoction is the granita at PJ’s Coffee & Tea, and the only placeto get it around here is the Palladium in High Point. Until I figureout how to make it on my own and start selling them out of the back ofmy car. Daiquiris Speaking of frozen drinks, eventhe burliest, hairiest and most-tattooed of tough guys can sip on afruity, icy blender drink during the hottest months without callingtheir manhood into question. I myself once drank about 15 strawberrydaiquiris poolside at the Mirage in Las Vegas, and then went on to wina half a grand at the blackjack tables. And no less an authority thanErnest Hemingway was a fan of the daiquiri when he was in Cuba, thoughhe took them in the traditional manner, with rum, the juice from acouple Key limes and half a grapefruit, some maraschino liqueur andcane syrup. On the rocks. Water You mean like fromthe toilet? Yes, dumbass, I know how much you like your Brawndo – It’sgot electrolytes! – but water, as the pre-Socratic philosopher Thaleswould tell you, is the source of all things. Your brain is 70 percentwater. Your lungs more than 90. So, you know, have a glass every oncein a while – at least enough to lighten up your pee. Beer Sometimesthere is nothing better than a cold beer on a hot day. After a bout oflandscaping, a workout in the hot sun or on a balmy afternoon when theweekend is close at hand – nothing beats a cold beer, fresh from theice, freezing drops falling like a short, refreshing shower off thebottle. In summertime try a wheat beer with a slice of orange. Or youcould just shotgun a lukewarm can of Miller Lite. Your call. Pimm’s cup I’mnot sure if this is a real Southern thing, or a British thing, or what.But I do know that the only place I’ve ever drank them is at theNapoleon House in the French Quarter, an ancient structure built tohouse the deposed leader after the pirate Jean Lafitte sprang him fromexile on the island of Elba. Alas, Bonaparte died before the plan borefruit. Anyway, in a tall Collins glass loaded with ice, add a healthyslug of British liqueur Pimm’s No. 1, top off with sour mix and 7-Up orsoda, and garnish with mint and a cucumber slice. The entire white wine family Chardonnay,pinot grigio, pinot blanc, Riesling, white Bordeaux, even Champagne andsparkling whites make for great summer sipping. Add a touch of crème decassis for a kir and act like it’s no big deal. Margarita Ahundred million Mexicans can’t be wrong. And while tequila is a moreversatile spirit than one would instinctually think, it does best whenmixed three to two with Cointreau (triple sec is so pedestrian, don’tyou think?), a quality sour mix, a salted glass and a nice tray ofchips and salsa. Also a favorite of nurses and sorority girls. Mint julep/mojito Nomatter what Brazilian club girls and red-faced Kentucky colonels willtell you, these are pretty much the same drink: mint and sugar muddledin the glass, lots of ice, soda water and booze – it’s the choicebetween rum and bourbon that makes all the difference. And, dare I say,you can even make this cocktail with vodka or – gasp! – a lighttequila. But the mixture is perfect for cruising the infield at theKentucky Derby, rocking a thong at Carnevale in Rio or anything inbetween.