Cold Drinks for Hot Days

I have always been a water drinker. As a child, I was banned from drinking any carbonated drinks, notably Coca Cola, for the reason of their high sugar content and effective tooth rotting abilities. My cousins were always given little dummies filled with a drop or two of Coca Cola or an equally sugar laden cordial (orange or blackcurrant) and the fact that their baby teeth eventually turned rotten was all the vindication that my Mum needed. I was also banned from chewing gum for the same reason. It must have worked though: to this day I don't drink any carbonated drinks (except as mixers) and hate chewing gum.
Of course, I'm not here to be a moral guardian with regards to your own personal intake of sugary drinks, I'm simply observing the fact that eating habits are set up in children from a young age. But, because children (and adults!) do like flavoured drinks, if you are concerned about your children having too much sugar in their diet and find the sugar-free options of carbonated drinks to be not entirely satisfactory, there are some simple options.
Firstly, you can make your own Ginger Ale. I know that you probably don't want to be bothered with the whole fermentation stage but there is an easier way. Simply stew some fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped, in a little water, add some spices if you want, strain then use this as your cordial: pour a little in a glass (depending on how hot you like your ginger ale), top up with Sparkling Water and add a little sugar syrup to taste. Whilst these homemade drinks do still contain sugar, you now have absolute control over how much. You can also add a little honey or unrefined sugar if you prefer an entirely organic approach too.
1 Pint Sparkling Water or Soda Water
1 Cupful of Peeled and finely chopped Fresh Ginger
2 Cloves (optional)
2 Cardomom Pods (optional)
1 Stick Cinnamon (optional)
1 Cupful of Tap Water
For the sugar syrup:
1 Cupful of Water
1 Cupful of Sugar
Bring the cupful of water to a boil, then add the chopped ginger and spices. Turn down to a simmer and cook for five minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to steep for at least half an hour.
To make the sugar syrup, simply boil up the cupful of sugar and water until the grains of sugar have dissolved. Leave to cool.
To serve, strain the ginger cordial through a sieve, discarding the chopped fragrant root and any spices used.
Divide between four glasses. Add some sugar syrup to taste (everyone's tastes are different of course) then top up the glasses with the sparkling water and some ice. Serve immediately and enjoy!

The second drink is a Spanish Agua Fresca which literally translates as Fresh Water. The Aguq Fresca is a long drink comprising of cold, cold water that is flavoured with fruit juices. They are very simple to make and incredibly refreshing, reminiscent of old-fashioned street vendors, squeezing lemons into little paper cups for you, to make fresh lemonade.
Agua Frescas require very little effort, save for a little patience and some chopping and squeezing. They are perfect for experimentation and make good mixers too. When frozen, they make delicious ice cubes, or slushy style drinks if left to thaw a little.
The simplest of the Agua Frescas, are those flavoured with citrus fruits. Simply grate the zest and squeeze the juice from lemons, limes and/or oranges and stir into chilled water with some sugar (icing/confectioners sugar is best as it dissolves almost instantly, but caster works well too), then leaving to steep in the fridge until you are ready to drink it, poured into long glasses with some ice.
Other, more interesting variations would be pureed pineapple, sieved into the chilled water, tamarind paste, soaked and again, sieved and stirred into the water. You can also experiment with herb/spice drenched sugar syrups (try steeping basil leaves or cloves in some the syrup, then mixing with a strawberry Agua Fresca for a haunting flavour), or flavoured sugars (imagine vanilla flavoured sugar syrup with a peach Agua Fresca). You could also use Soda Water or Sparkling Water if you prefer a slightly fizzy drink.

A basic Agua Fresca recipe for a citrus drink would be:
3 Pints Water
6 Tablespoons Icing or Caster Sugar
Juice of 10 Limes (or a combination of limes, lemons, oranges) plus their zest, grated
Fill a large jug with the water and sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Chill until really cold, an hour or so.
Pour the citrus juices into the chilled sweetned water, plus the zest and stir well. Taste for more sugar or juice if necessary. Chill until ready to serve.

Some variations:
A slightly more substantial drink which is a beautiful, sunny colour and will transport you to a tropical beach (in theory) is...
475ml Water
2 Pineapples, peeled and diced
2 Limes, juiced and zested
50g Sugar
As with the above recipe, stir the sugar in a jug until dissolved. Chill.
Puree the chopped pineapple in a blender until smooth.
Sieve the pineapple puree into the jug of water. Add the lime juice and zest and stir well.
Taste this canary yellow beverage for extra sweetener or lime juice then chill until ready for use.

A pale pink treat in a glass, this offers pure refreshing on the hottest day. This is slightly different to the above recipes as it is sweetened with honey, but you could use sugar if you prefer.
1 Watermelon, peeled and diced
1 Litre Chilled Water
Juice and zest of 2 Limes
Honey to taste.
Chill the water in a large jug.
Meanwhile prepare the melon, peeling, dicing and deseeding it.
Place in a large bowl and pour over the chilled water.
Leave to steep for at least 10 minutes. This will help to soften the fruit.
Then, using the of a wooden spoon, press through a sieve into a waiting bowl, including the soaking liquid.
Stir in the lime juice and zest and honey to taste, decant into a jug. Chill until ready to serve.
p.s. for those of you who have been missing the picture element, we should have some uploading for you all tonight!


Pille said...

Oh, I love ginger ale, and as it's hard to find here in Estonia (unless you're happy with the carbonated Swepps (?) version), then I've been wondering if it'd be possible to make it at home.
Thank you so much for the recipe, Freya!!

wheresmymind said...

Where the alchohol at??? ;)

mooncrazy said...

These sound great! We did a watermellon cooler last weekend that was so refreshing but I'm gonna try that ginger ale

Joanna said...

These sound great ... one of the biggest advantages of making your own soft drinks is that you see how much sugar there is - and it's startlingly large amounts, even though substantially less than in Coca Cola et al

I love a glass of tapwater with my lunch


Susan said...

All light yet brisk flavors. Great post, like a dip in a sparkling, chilly pool. I'll need some of this; I'm off into the 90 degree F heat. Your mom did right by you, Freya. Cola's phosphoric acid helps rot the teeth, too.

Toni said...

Freya, these look so good, I'm putting your permalink on my health blog. Good for your mom, and good for you!

Lydia said...

I'm bookmarking these recipes immediately -- they look so delicious and refreshing!!!

ros said...

Now, if only we had some hots days to enjoy these great cold drink recipes.

Meeta said...

Oh this is good - this is really good!! i love ginger ale but stay away from it for the same reasons you stated. In Germany we have something called Bionade which is an organic version of ginger ale with a lot less sugar. It's great but so is the price. Now this is gonna be at the top of my list for our drinks! Thanks to you!

ostwestwind said...

I like the ginger ale!

Claude-Olivier said...

It's not so hot here in switzerland but I like your recipe...yeah, sounds good!!!


Kelly-Jane said...

They all sound and look so refreshing and cool. I haven't had ginger beer for yonks, that would be good right now, mmm.

Kristen said...

I had the opposite happen. My parents never let us have sugared cereal. When I got out on my own, I went sugared cereal crazy, most notably with Golden Grahams!
I am now over that and my kids don't get sugared cereal unless it is for a special treat.

These drinks look refreshing!

tigerfish said...

Oh ye, just in time for the hotter days to come here. They all sounds easy to make, provided I get the ingredients. :D

lululu said...

I love both ginger ale and fresca!!!
I've just tried your "pineapple and lime agua fresca", I put soda instead of water!!! LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THANKS!!!

Jasmine said...

I agree--these look so refreshing. I'll probably try the ginger ale...


Sara said...

These all sound delicious, especially the ginger ale. If it ever warms up here, I will certainly try that.

Nora B. said...

Yay, Freya! You finally got photos up!!! I love ginger beer, as in the alcoholic ones. The best one I think in Oz is "Stones".

Carolyn T said...

Gee, the ginger ale sounds wonderful. And not all that difficult. Just never thought about the fact that it might be an easy beverage to make. I'll TRY it. Thank you!

Mulligan Stew said...

Hello Freya,

I just linked to your post from our team blog: and borrowed your photo which I also credited and linked to.

Please let me know if that is not okay and I'll remove the photo.


Dave Smith

Linda said...

And what about hot drinks? I think that tea is the best one! Here's some tea information, and also you can have an ice tea, it's really good for hot time!