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Food & Entertaining

Summertime Sips

Author: Sydney dye
Issue: July, 2014, Page 42

Forget soda pop! Instead, harvest the bounty of the summer herb garden to create natural and refreshing summertime drinks.

Herbal teas can be easily made with any combination of fresh and dried herbs steeped in boiling water. Or try combining herb-infused simple syrups with club soda, sparkling water, sparkling wine, gin or vodka for a warm-weather “mocktail” or cocktail.

Not only do these teas and coolers taste delicious, they also have health benefits. Fresh herbs are loaded with vitamins, essential oils, antioxidants, enzymes and chlorophyll, which help boost immunity levels and detoxify the body.

Rosemary, mint, lemon balm, basil, thyme and oregano will grow throughout the summer in the low desert. These herbs thrive in well-drained soil and afternoon shade with minimal watering.

It is best to harvest herbs in the morning, before temperatures soar. Also, the concentration of essential oils is highest at this time of day. When harvesting, cut from the base of new growth, as it takes the plant longer to send out new shoots from woody growth.

Lemon Balm and Honey Iced Tea

2 cups water
1 cup fresh lemon balm leaves and stems, tightly packed
1/2 cup local honey
1/2 cup juice from lemon and/or lime
Fresh lemon balm and lemon/lime wedges for garnish

Yields 2 cups

Sparkling Herb and ?
Citrus Cooler
1 lemon and 1 orange, peel and juice (Cut peels in one long strip, avoiding the white pith.)
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup local honey
Club soda or sparkling water
Herbs and citrus for garnish

Yields 2 cups

Cucumber, Ginger and Mint Cooler
1-2 tablespoons mint-infused simple syrup (Recipe follows.)
2 slices unpeeled English cucumber, cut as thinly as possible
3 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
8 ounces club soda or sparkling water
Lime wedges and mint leaves for garnish

Yields one 8-ounce drink

Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
photography by Garrett Cook
Lemon Balm and Honey Iced Tea
PUT water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.

REMOVE from heat and add lemon balm and honey; stir and let steep for 5-10 minutes.

ALLOW to cool completely; then strain and whisk in lemon and/or lime juice.

SERVE in glasses over ice; garnish with a lemon and/or lime wedge and fresh lemon balm.

Sparkling Herb and ?
Citrus Cooler

PLACE peels and juice in a measuring vessel and add tap water to equal 1 cup; then, transfer its contents, plus herbs, sugar and honey, to a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the honey and sugar dissolve. 

REMOVE from heat and let syrup stand until completely cool (at least 10 minutes). 

DRAIN and discard herbs and peels. 

FILL glasses with ice and 2-3 tablespoons of syrup; top off with club soda or sparkling water. 

GARNISH with herbs and citrus.

Cucumber, Ginger and Mint Cooler
COMBINE simple syrup, cucumber and ginger in a glass filled with ice; add club soda or sparkling water.

SQUEEZE one lime wedge over the cooler and add garnish of another lime wedge and mint leaves.

Simple Syrup
COMBINE sugar and water in a medium saucepan.

STIR over medium heat until sugar dissolves.

ALLOW syrup to cool before using.

Chef’s Notes:
For added zing, consider substituting a flavored simple syrup for the Plain-Jane variety. Below are three easy recipes that incorporate fruit, herbs and honey. Use them for more intensely flavored mojitos, daiquiris and other summer drinks.

Orange Simple Syrup
Combine ¼ cup orange juice and the zest of one orange to water and sugar. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Allow to cool completely; then strain.
Mint Simple Syrup
Combine 1 cup fresh mint leaves and stems to water and sugar; stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Allow to cool completely; then strain.
Lavender-Honey Simple Syrup
Combine ½ cup honey, ½ cup sugar, 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon fresh lavender flowers in a medium saucepan; stir over medium heat until honey and sugar dissolve. Remove from heat and let cool completely; then strain.
Sydney Dye is a home gardener, chef and owner of First Fig Culinary Adventures in Scottsdale,
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