When the sun is high and the temperature rising, these are the perfect, refreshing, booze-free drinks to keep you the right side of cool.
Make this just before serving, because it should be fresher than Mae West after a couple of gins. While you can use bottled lime juice in other drinks, the oils from the fresh lime skins are crucial to mojitos of any kind.
Prep 5 min
Makes About 800ml
½ cucumber, peeled and diced
4 limes, halved and juiced, spent skins reserved
50g caster sugar
500ml coconut water
1 generous handful mint leaves
In a large jug, use a stick blender to reduce the cucumber, lime juice and sugar to juice, then stir in the coconut water. Divide the lime skins and mint between four glasses, then use a wooden spoon to muddle (ie, semi-enthusiastically encourage) the flavours and scent from both. Add a good handful of crushed ice to each glass, fill with the cucumber-coconut water and serve.
I know this sounds like a cheese-and-banana sandwich of a combination, but I promise the bitterness of the tonic makes everything sit up straight. These quantities make way too much spicy sugar, but you need a certain amount to make it grind well, it keeps for ever and it’s amazing on hot buttered toast.
Prep 10 min
Makes About 900ml, undiluted
8 cardamom pods, seeds only
1 generous blade mace
5 Sichuan peppercorns
8 tbsp white caster sugar
2 tbsp sea salt
½ watermelon, cold from the fridge
Juice of 1 red grapefruit
4 tbsp fresh lime juice (from about 2 limes – keep the skins)
Tonic water, to top
Put the spices and sugar in a spice or coffee grinder and reduce to a fairly fine dust. Combine with the salt and scatter a little on to a saucer.
Scoop the watermelon flesh into a blender and blitz smooth. Sieve into a jug, using a spoon to encourage the juice to run through, then stir in the grapefruit and lime juice.
Run a piece of lime around the rim of each glass, then dip the rim into the spicy sugar. Half-fill the glass with watermelon juice, then dilute with tonic water to taste.
Nectarine and Earl Grey iced tea
The sweetness of the fruit and gentle floral tea work beautifully together, but do also try this with a generous dash of lime juice, and/or ease it back with sparkling water. The syrup keeps for a week and the tea loses brightness after a couple of days, so keep them separate if you’re not using them all up immediately.
Prep 20 min
Chill 1 hr
Makes About 1.2 litres
3 Earl Grey teabags
4 ripe nectarines, halved, stoned and roughly chopped
230g granulated sugar
Sparkling water, to dilute (optional)
Put the teabags in a jug, pour over 800ml boiling water, leave to infuse for five minutes, then lift out and discard the teabags.
In a medium pan, bring the nectarines, sugar and 100ml water to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook for about 15 minutes, until soft, then blend (a stick blender is ideal) smooth. Stir the syrup into the tea jug, leave to cool, then refrigerate.
Serve in tall glasses with plenty of ice, diluted with sparkling water, if you prefer.
Kiwi and tarragon lemonade
Kiwi’s bright, bold sweet/sharpness pairs perfectly with tarragon’s gentle aniseed and lemon’s sourness. Lemon thyme instead of the tarragon is a great variation.
Prep 15 min
Makes About 1 litre when diluted
20g tarragon leaves
6 lemons, zest cut into strips, then juiced
6 ripe kiwifruit, peeled and finely chopped
Sparkling water, to dilute
Put the sugar in a medium bowl, add 250ml boiling water and stir until dissolved. Add the tarragon and lemon zest, leave to infuse for 10 minutes, or for longer if you prefer a stronger taste, then remove and discard the tarragon and zest.
Use a stick blender to blitz the kiwi and lemon juice smooth, then stir in the tarragon syrup. Dilute to taste with three or four parts sparkling water.
Raspberry and lemon thyme switchel
The classic switchel of honey, lemon and ginger in vinegar became a popular workplace refresher in 1800s America, when it was also known as Haymaker’s Punch, but you don’t have to work up a sweat to enjoy this. Use it as blueprint for your own variations.
Prep 10 min
Makes 1 litre
20g fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 tbsp honey
2 tsp lemon juice
70ml cider vinegar
1 big handful raspberries
10cm sprig lemon thyme
Put the ginger, honey, lemon and vinegar in a clean one-litre jar and stir to dissolve the honey. Add the raspberries, squeezing them slightly, then fill 3cm from the top with water. Seal, then leave to infuse overnight.
Next day, add the sprig of lemon thyme to the jar, seal again, leave to infuse for four or so hours, then refrigerate. Pour through a sieve when you want to drink it. This switchel is wonderful as it is, on the rocks, or with gin.
Strawberry, elderflower and passionfruit smash
Whatever time of year you make this, it tastes of early summer. As with all these cocktails, adjust to suit whatever fruit you have to hand: blueberries, raspberries or pineapple work equally well, here. And try a bashed lemongrass stalk instead of the rosemary.
Prep 5 min
4 large strawberries, hulled and chopped
½ lemon, zest cut off in strips, then juiced
Juice and seeds of ½ passion fruit
20ml elderflower cordial
90ml ginger beer
90ml sparkling water
12cm sprig rosemary
Using a wooden spoon, gently squish the strawberries and lemon zest in the bottom of a tall glass. Add the passion fruit juice and seeds, elderflower cordial and lemon juice. Add a few ice cubes, then pour in the ginger beer and sparkling water. Clap the rosemary between your hands to encourage the flavour and scent to release, then use it to stir the contents of the glass, drop it in and serve.
Mark Diacono’s latest book, Ferment: Slow Down, Make Food to Last, is published by Quadrille at £12.99. To order a copy for £11.30, go to guardianbookshop.com