Summer sips will wet your lips

Every season heralds in its signature whistle wetters to invigorate the taste buds and soothe the soul. Winter serves up a wonderland of spiced ciders and eggnogs to celebrate the holiday season. Autumn transitions in with pumpkin, cranberry and other harvest flavors infused in teas and coffees, while spring is abloom with freshly juiced green drinks and floral teas.

Now for summer, the "funnest" one of the bunch, a caffeine buzz is replaced by a brain freeze as iced teas, coffees and slushes take over; when smoothies and Slurpees are the new drinks of hydration; and when cocktails and mocktails take a tropical twist.

This summer, beverages and libations have gone bipolar bananas, whipping up oddball combinations of sweet and savory herbs and spices, juices and liqueurs and nutty-flavored milks. The oldies but goodies such as handcrafted lemonade are still around but have been excitingly reinvented.

Here's the hot list to shake things up and refresh your spirits:

A smooth operator: Before Jamba Juice hit the smoothie scene, Steve Kuhnau, aka "The Smoothie King," was a lactose-intolerant soda fountain "jerk" who pioneered the smoothie by whipping up frozen drinks with fruits and ices sans the milk.

True to its namesake, they have a smooth and creamy consistency much like milkshakes, but are targeted to the healthy-minded, and some also have herbal supplements blended in the works.

You can make fabulous berry brain freeze blasts and mango meltdowns at home. Invest in a good blender with ice-crushing features. Use a smorgasbord of frozen fruit such as blueberries, mangos, pineapple and especially bananas for a creamy, dreamy texture. Add a splash of almond, soy or hazelnut milk and serve in a chilled margarita glass with whimsy garnishes and a straw.

Smoothies can also be made savory and spicy using plain yogurt blended with basil leaves, zest of lemon and a dash of killer cayenne. Ayran, a cool, Middle Eastern refresher, simply blends yogurt, skim milk and salt served in a tall tumbler over ice.

If you have a lemon, make lemonade:

In 14th century Egypt along the Mediterranean coast, a popular medieval concoction called kashkab, blending fermented barley and mint, pepper, rue and the citron leaf, was a precursor to today's lip-puckering, all-American summer quencher.

A twist on the traditional lemonade recipe of water, sugar and fresh-squeezed lemon juice includes adding fresh raspberries, strawberries, cranberry or orange juice, honey, brown sugar, peppermint, lavender and ginger root with berries and citrus slices floating on top.

Iced tea-totalers:

The 1904 World's Fair popularized this novelty drink along with the invention of iceboxes and commercially produced ice. Now Americans drink nearly 100 million glasses of iced tea daily. Tea, especially the green variety, is a powerhouse immune booster of antioxidants.

Try a glass of mellow summery sun tea by seeping your favorite fresh herbs such as lemon verbena or mint in spring water, and baking in the sun in a covered glass jar for four hours. Sweeten with agave syrup and pour over ice.

Wet your lips with the Arnold Palmer, which is half iced tea and half lemonade; a spiked John Daly with Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka and lemonade; or a Chris Rock, a half-sweetened, half-unsweetened iced tea.



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