Chill Out with Refreshing Summer Drinks

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There’s nothing like relaxing on your patio, deck or porch on a warm summer day with an ice cold beverage. You can always grab a beer or soda out of the fridge, but I have a better idea – mix up specialty drinks for two or invite friends over for cocktails! I’ve included easy recipes for delicious concoctions (some with and some without alcohol) that are sure to satisfy your taste buds, quench your thirst and impress your guests. Best of all, you don’t have to be a professional bartender (or, should I say mixologist?) to make them. I’ll drink to that!

CRAVE-WORTHY COCKTAILS

160_F_105738118_6AhBQQSOTMctNcNdLmA53j0oOyS2Q2qMClassic Mojito  
Ingredients:
2 oz. light rum
1 lime
Bunch of mint leaves (about 8)
2 heaping bar spoons of fine sugar – add more to taste
Club soda (amount depends on size of glass)
Ice, cubed & crushed

Directions:
(1) Add juice of 1/2 lime to glass, then sugar. Use a muddler to squish everything together and make a syrup.
(2) Drop mint leaves in glass and use muddler to gently push the mint down into the syrup.
(3) Add crushed ice and pour in the rum. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
(4) Top off with club soda.
(5) Rim glass with lime and garnish with a sprig of mint and lime slices.
(Makes 1 drink)

Layered Lemonade Drops

lemonade cocktails

Ingredients:
6 oz. vodka
1 cup mango lemonade
1 cup pink lemonade blended with ½ cup of strawberries
1 cup regular lemonade
1 cup ice

Directions: Fill blender with 1/3 of vodka and mango lemonade and ice. Blend and set aside. Repeat 2 more times, first with strawberry/pink lemonade then regular lemonade.  Chill each mixture, and keep each layer chilled until ready to pour in glass. Pour into serving glass in layers starting with mango mix, then strawberry/pink lemonade mix, and lastly regular lemonade. Serves 4.  Photo & recipe from Delish.

Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Perfect Margarita
Ingredients:
1 oz. gold tequila
1/2 oz. silver tequila
1/2 oz. triple sec
1/2 oz. orange curacao
1/2 oz. lime juice
2 lime wedges
Crushed ice
Directions: Rim margarita glass with salt. Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Squeeze limes and add to shaker. Shake vigorously and pour into margarita glass. Makes 1 serving. See more recipes like this on margaritaville.com

Blue Hawaii  blue hawaii
Ingredients:
1 oz. light rum
1 oz. blue curacao
2 oz. pineapple Juice
1 oz. cream of coconut
1 cup crushed Ice
Pineapple slice and maraschino cherry for garnish

Directions: Place first four ingredients in blender with ice. Blend for 15 seconds, or until frothy. Pour into tall glass and garnish with pineapple slice and cherry. Makes 1 drink. Photo & recipe from stepbystep.com

MARVELOUS MOCKTAILS (non-alcoholic beverages)

June Bug
Ingredients:
3 cups ginger ale
4 tbsp. grenadine
4 tbsp. orange juice
3 scoops orange sherbet

Directions: Blend together ginger ale, grenadine, orange juice and sherbet. Pour into ice-filled cocktail glasses. Variation: substitute orange with another flavored sherbet like lime, lemon or pineapple. Make 4 servings. Recipe from food.com

160_F_86742716_PqmU5KJr0NkBZPynoCm4pW0e9U1UA0GQSparkling Raspberry Tea
Ingredients
:
2 cups cold brewed tea
2 cups chilled raspberry or cranberry-raspberry juice
2 cups chilled sparkling water
Raspberries
Lemon slices and mint leaves for garnish, if desired

Directions: In a large pitcher, mix tea, juice and sparking water. Serve tea over ice. Garnish with raspberries, lemon slices and fresh mint leaves. Makes 4-6 servings. Recipe from Bettycrocker.com


Cactus Cooler

Ingredients:
4 cups orange juice
1½ cups pineapple juice
½ cup lemon juice
Grenadine, to taste
Citrus slices (limes, oranges, lemons) for garnish, if desired

Directions: In a pitcher combine the orange juice, pineapple juice and lemon juice. Fill glasses with ice. Drizzle a little grenadine into each glass. Top with the orange juice mixture. Garnish with citrus slices, if desired. Makes 6 servings. Recipe from lovebakesgoodcakes.com

160_F_52392039_kcMs40e82dkZs2DatVHFnXwrMzI7yDxZVirgin Strawberry Colada
Ingredients:
7 ripe strawberries
5 oz. pineapple juice
1-1/2 oz. coconut cream
1 cup crushed ice
Pineapple slice and maraschino cherry for garnish

Directions: Blend all ingredients in a blender at high speed. Pour into a tall glass and garnish with maraschino cherry and pineapple slice. Makes 1 drink. Recipe from food.com

Find more delightful summer drink recipes  at foodandwine.com

One more thing, when enjoying your favorite cocktails always drink responsibly and have a designated driver if you’re planning to go anywhere.

Cheers!

Smart Perks Blogger Catherine B. likes to sip on margaritas or rum cocktails on the patio, but her go-to summer beverage is iced tea.

Wine a Little, You’ll Feel Better!

“Wine is bottled poetry.”
Robert Louis Stevenson

I’m an honest-to-goodness wine-o. No, I don’t drink a bottle out of a paper bag. Let’s just say wine is a passion of mine. I enjoy sharing a bottle of Merlot or Malbec with my husband on the weekend or unwinding with a glass of rosé or Pinot Grigio after a long day. At book club we always have a little vino with pizza as we discuss our latest reads (actually, we could skip the books and just call it “I think I’ll have another glass of wine club”). And, once a month I join my friend Kathy for wine and wings at our favorite bar & grill.

Wine RackEven my kitchen décor revolves around wine. I have two cork holders – one shaped like a guitar that I bought at a winery in Sonoma (the owner is the manager of the Doobie Brothers) – and another in the shape of a wine barrel that’s crammed full of corks. I also have lighted wine bottles, wine signs, as well as a clock, dish towels and rugs with some kind of wine motif. But, nothing compares to the big wine rack/display I got for a steal at an antique shop. It even came with a grapevine and grape lights! Isn’t it awesome?!

You may think I’m a little obsessed with this whole wine culture thing, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. With more and more wineries popping up all over the country, I’d say there are quite a few wine enthusiasts out there.

Of course, we all know California is the wine capital of the U.S. and if you’re planning a trip to Northern California I highly recommend a visit to Anderson Valley. My husband and I toured some vineyards there last year and they were incredible! The wines were some of the best we’ve ever tasted. A local told me this area is a lot like Napa Valley in the early days, before it became “snooty and expensive” (his words, not mine). We also checked out a few wineries in Sonoma Valley. and spent a few hours in downtown Sonoma – what a charming place! (We may have to hit Napa Valley on another trip to see if it lives up to its reputation.)Wine

More proof that I’m not alone in this… just look at all the websites devoted exclusively to wine! Besides hundreds of online merchants selling every variety of red and white imaginable, there’s a whole slew of sites peddling things like coasters, plaques, towels, and t-shirts with catchy phrases like “Save Water, Drink Wine,” “Wine Flies When You’re Having Fun,” and “You had me at Merlot.” Of course, I have four or five such tees myself!

“Wine Flies When You’re Having Fun”

My girlfriends share my infatuation with wine and we always make a point to stop at two or three (or four or five) wineries on our annual getaways. We love the whole experience ― sampling assorted wines in intimate tasting rooms, chatting with fellow tasters and listening to the owners expound on the various grapes used to create their own unique blends. So far, we’ve been to wineries in Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Wisconsin and our home state of Minnesota. (The University of Minnesota developed heartier grapes that can withstand colder climates so vintners in this region are able to grow their own.)

WineryOne of the most memorable places we’ve been to is PromiseLand Winery in northern Iowa. We thought the outside was impressive until we walked through the door. The event room resembles a quaint Italian village, complete with old fashioned lamp posts and charming boutiques and the tasting area has two fireplaces and lounge chairs to create a cozy atmosphere. There are also outdoor patios surrounded by beautiful gardens. I should probably mention that we were quite impressed with their wine too!

Some wineries charge a small fee for the tastings, while others waive the fee if you purchase their wine. Hint: if you plan on visiting more than one winery in a day, you’ll want to pace yourself and pick a designated driver beforehand.

The best way to discover wines from around the world is to join a wine club. It allows you to try different types of wine you won’t find at your local liquor store and your selections are delivered right to your door! My recommendation ― Club W.

For more on this scintillating subject, visit www.winemag.com. This site is considered the world’s number one source for wine information, education, merchandise, events and travel.

After all this talk about wine, I think I’ll uncork a Cabernet and enjoy a glass right now!

Cheers!

Besides wine, Catherine B. enjoys traveling, mysteries, hunky superheroes, and gossiping (as long as it’s not about her).

Check out these websites for cool wine-related gifts, apparel and paraphernalia:
giftedgrape.com
thetipsygrape.com
www.zazzle.com