Drinks: From Mocktails to Cocktails– Cooling Healthy Summer Drinks

Mocktail Cocktails

Let’s face it–it’s hot and we need to cool off. Keeping hydrated is not only essential for our body, but also for the health of our skin and hair. I don’t drink sodas (which I’m very proud of)…. In a hot summer day like today, an unsweetened iced tea or  coffee is usually the drinks of my choice (when beer is not an option). But both coffee and tea are actually diuretics, they are not exactly the best for hydration, but sometimes plain water is just not exciting enough in a fun summer afternoon!! Well, this is the kind of time the bartender side of me starts to come out to play…. I did my share of bartending in some of the best restaurants in New York, I did take away some useful knowledge and tricks, and this is when they come in handy.  Here are some of my favorite summer-drink recipes, they are easy to make and are all pretty healthy, too…. we all gotta watch that waistline, don’t we?

1).  Homemade Ginger Ale

This drink is awesome and tasty, but it’s extra awesome and calming when your stomach is feeling a bit funky…. it is also very popular with pregnant ladies, if you have friends who are expecting.

Homemade Ginger Ale

Ingredients (for 4-6 drinks):
— 1 1/2 cups chopped peeled ginger (7 ounces)
  — 2 cups water
  — 3/4 cup sugar (OR if you have candied ginger, use that instead for a deeper flavor)
  — 1 quart chilled sparkling water
  — 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
To make the syrup, cook the ginger and sugar (or candied ginger) in a small saucepan at a low simmer (partially covered) for 45 min. Remove from heat and let steep (covered0 for 20 min. Strain mixture through a sieve into a bowl, pressing on ginger and then discarding. Chill syrup until cold.  For the ginger ale, mix ginger syrup with sparkling water and lime juice to your liking.
Kick it up a notch:
For the times when  you don’t have other concerns and just want to have a good time, add 1 oz of vodka or rum,… it tastes so good it’s dangerous!!
2). Raspberry Lemonade
I can’t get enough of natural lemonade in summer,  and it is actually healthy and beautifying. Once in a while I like to add some colors and flavors to give it a boost. My favorite is raspberries when they are in season, they add a tanginess to the drink, you can also use strawberries if you like something sweeter instead.
Raspberry Limeade
Ingredients (for 4 drinks):
  — 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  — 1/3 cup sugar (or to taste)
  — 1 tablespoon fresh or frozen raspberry (puréed or muddled)
  — Ice cubes
Mix 2 cups water with lemon juice, sugar and raspberry until the gar is dissolved. Fill 4 glasses half full with ice, and pour the lemonade over the ice to chill it. Add extra raspberries for garnish if desired.

Kick it up a notch:
Tequila tequila tequila!!  Add 1 1/2 oz of tequila and rim the glasses with salt, and ta-da…. raspberry margarita!!! drink up!!

3). Crushed Watermelon and Basil Cooler
When I think of summer fruit, I always think of watermelon! Just the thought of the watermelon juice dripping down the from the corner of the mouth when biting into fruit makes me feel cooler in a hot humid day! With basil in this drink, it adds another layer of unexpected flavor and gives the drink a sophisticated twist.
Watermelon and Basil Cooler
Ingredients (for 4 drinks):
  — 4 cups red or yellow seedless watermelon chunks (about 1/4 large melon)
  — 6-8 large basil leaves
  — Pinch of sea salt
  — 1/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  — 4 cups chilled water
Combine watermelon chunks and basil leaves in a colander placed over a large bowl. Using a metal ladle or spoon, press watermelon to extract as much juice as possible. (The remaining pulp should be fairly dry.) Season the juice with sea salt and white wine vinegar, and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large pitcher. Add 4 cups chilled water, stir, and serve.

Kick it up a notch:
Instead of water, use 2 oz of gin (or vodka) in each serving, pour it over ice in a shaker, shake and strain into martini glasses. Cut a wedge of watermelon for garnish to make it even fancier.


If these drinks are not cool enough for you to chill of in a hot day….. add more fruits in the drinks and put them in the freezer, (Note: no liquor in these, or it front froze right)… you can make some colorful fruit popsicles and eat them without feeling guilty!  Alright, drink up, people…. I’m getting thirsty here!