How to fill the chill bill


Southerners have a rich tradition of making iced drinks an important part of their summer entertaining.

I spent my childhood in the South, where the thermometer hovered daily in the 90s from May to September, and I remember well the joys of sitting on the porch, sipping a tall glass of iced tea or lemonade on a hot, humid day.

My mother, my grandmother, my aunts, just about everyone in our family had a pitcher of iced tea in the refrigerator, ready to pull out when friends stopped by for a visit, usually unannounced. The makings for homemade lemonade were also on hand to quench our thirsts.

Iced tea and lemonade were served at lunch and at supper as well as for mid-afternoon breaks. These beverages were always made from scratch. Drinks from powder mixes were unacceptable.

I still love to make icy-cold drinks as soon as our New England weather turns warm. Two favorites include Julep Iced Tea and Old Fashioned Lemonade. The first is a new recipe shared with me by a fellow Southerner. The other is a variation on an old family recipe.

Julep Iced Tea, the creation of Mississippian Lynn Wilkins, takes its name from the famous mint julep.

Like the mint julep, this thirst-quenching drink is prepared by combining crushed mint leaves with sugar. However, strong brewed tea and freshly squeezed lemon juice replace the conventional bourbon. The delectable lemonade consists of a sugar syrup base blended with lemon and lime juices, infused with mint leaves, then combined with water.

Both of these drinks can be prepared several days in advance and kept on hand in the refrigerator. Either would make a perfect refreshment to enjoy when friends stop by, either invited or unannounced, or to just to help stave off summer's heat.

Julep Iced Tea

Makes 2 quarts. Serves 6 to 8

4 to 5 lemons

2 cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves

6 standard-size black tea bags, preferably English Breakfast tea

1 cup sugar

fresh mint sprigs for garnish, optional

Carefully, with a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler, remove the rind from 1 1/2 lemons. (Be careful to cut away just the colored portion of the rind and not the bitter white pith beneath.) Cut into thin julienne strips and set aside. Juice enough of the lemons to yield 2 / 3 cup and set aside.

Place 2 cups mint leaves in a large, heat-proof glass bowl or measuring cup and use your fingers to rub the leaves against the bottom of the bowl to bruise and break them and help release the flavor. Add lemon rind and tea bags and cover with 4 cups boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes, then remove tea bags. Mix in sugar and lemon juice and steep another 10 minutes. Strain mixture into a nonreactive pitcher and add 4 cups cold water. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

To serve, pour tea over ice cubes in tall glasses, each garnished with a mint sprig, if desired.

Old-Fashioned Lemonade

Serves 12

2 cups sugar

1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 6 lemons)

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (2 to 3 limes)

3/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves

fresh mint sprigs for garnish, optional

thin lemon slices for garnish, optional

Combine 2 1/2 cups water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves, then simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool about 20 minutes. Add lemon and lime juices to the sugar syrup. Place 3/4 cup mint leaves in a medium nonreactive bowl and pour lemon-lime mixture over. Let the mixture stand for 1 hour. Strain lemonade into a jar and keep it covered in the refrigerator. (It can be stored in the refrigerator for 4 days.)

To serve, pour 1/3 cup lemonade base into a glass. Stir in 2 / 3 cup water. Fill glass with ice cubes and garnish with a sprig of mint and a lemon slice, if desired.

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