Food Friday: Keeping Cool in August


Welcome to the dog days of summer. We have just started our long slog through August, yearning for relief while gasping for a cool breeze and grasping at (paper) straws in our cocktails. Through this wretchedly long month we droop, we melt, and we puddle in the heat. Thank goodness today is Friday.

During the week we will enjoy cheap white wine with dinner, but with the weekend comes a little freedom to imbibe more exotic nectars. Although Mr. Friday will tell you that the best thing on a hot day is an icy cold beer, pulled from a galvanized cooler, dripping with melting ice and condensation. I prefer a little frippery in my life, although my New England forebears would look askance, and tut tut. Obviously they will have forgotten about August, the hottest month in our hemisphere. We enjoy air conditioning in our cars and houses, and any time we spend outdoors seems hellishly warm. Even Luke the wonder dog is tired of the heat. Halfway through our morning walk he lay down in the shade, and refused to budge. He is not a fan of the dog days.

My favorite cocktail is the French 75, which offers a nice kick, but not much in the way of coolth. It is shaken with ice, and it quickly warms up outside in the real world. Unlike Nick and Nora Charles, I cannot be witty or clever after a few cocktails. Instead, as we sit in the early evening shade in the Adirondack chairs, I want to hear the clink of ice cubes in a tall, light and fruity drink as we wait for the fireflies to start lighting up the back yard. Luke, never far away, sits on the grass with the ball between his paws, hoping for one more game.

Find some backyard cocktail glasses before you start mixing up your own concoctions – something colorful and durable. Something to flash color and spark back to the fireflies as we all sit out the hot month in our backyards, waiting for the Perseid meteor showers to begin.

I am informed by the young and impossibly cool young folk I know that rosé wine is the way to go this summer. And, if possible, sparkling rosé is even more sought after. My exposure to rosé was limited to my parents discovering Mateus rosé the summer they went to England. Interesting that it skipped a generation. So try to be young and impossibly cool, too, with this:

Rosé-Aperol Spritz

¾ cup passion fruit juice, chilled

¼ cup Aperol

¼ cup fresh lime juice

4 teaspoons sugar

1 750ml bottle sparkling rosé, chilled

Ruby red grapefruit wedges (for serving)

Whisk passion fruit juice, Aperol, lime juice, and sugar in a large pitcher until sugar is dissolved. Stir in rosé. Serve spritz in large ice-filled wine glasses. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge.

This brings sweet relief:
Sour-Cherry Gin Smash

2 ounces gin
6 sour cherries

1 sugar cube
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

Ginger ale

1 lime wedge

In a cocktail shaker, combine the cherries and the sugar cube. Muddle until the sugar is broken down. Add the lime juice and gin, and then shake. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with a splash of ginger ale and garnish with a lime wedge.

Perfect for the backyard at twilight:
Firefly Lemonade

4 cups lemonade
4 cups tonic water
1 cup Blue Curacao
1 cup Midori
1/2 cup vodka
4 glow sticks

To four glasses, add crushed ice. Add in 1 cup tonic, 1/4 cup Blue Curacao, 1/4 cup Midori, and 1 ounce vodka.
Stir with a glow sticks to combine. (If you prefer a lot of ice, stir together mixture first, then pour over ice.)

This is pretty kicky – The Frida. I’m sure Frida Kahlo, the ultimate in cool, knew how to refresh in the summer heat of Mexico.

1.5 ounce jalapeño-infused tequila

2 ounce of watermelon purée (purée pieces of watermelon in blender)
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

3/4 ounce simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a glass, garnish with lime, and serve.

But this is my favorite summer cocktail, hopelessly old-fashioned:
Pimm’s Cup

Moonlight croquet, anyone?

1 3-inch piece English cucumber, cut into 1/2-inch slices, plus 2 spears (for garnish)

3/4 cup Pimm’s No. 1*

3 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice or regular lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Ice cubes

2 sprigs each fresh rosemary, thyme, and mint

2 lemon slices

2 fresh strawberries, halved

Ginger beer, chilled

2 rhubarb stalks (for garnish)

Place 1/2-inch-thick cucumber slices in cocktail shaker. Using muddler or handle of wooden spoon, mash well. Add Pimm’s, lemon juice, and sugar. Fill 2 Pilsner glasses with ice; set aside. Add ice to Pimm’s mixture, cover, and shake vigorously 20 times. Strain into glasses. Push 1 rosemary sprig, 1 thyme sprig, 1 mint sprig, 1 lemon slice, and 2 strawberry halves down into each glass. Fill glasses with ginger beer. Garnish with cucumber spears and rhubarb stalks.

“My old grandmother always used to say, Summer friends will melt away like summer snows, but winter friends are friends forever.” 
― George R.R. Martin

About Jean Sanders

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