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Cool Drinks for Hot Days

by John Raven, Ph.B.

Along about this time every year, the Texas weather starts getting hot. June is the tune-up month for July and August when Mama Nature really sees if anyone is serious about living in Texas. The temperature can climb to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and repeat the show every day for a month or more. It usually doesn't rain during these hot spells. "Hot and dry" is the most used weather forecast in Texas.

Fortunately, there is relief from the heat. For the outside of the body there is the old swimming hole. Be it a plastic pool in the back yard or majestic Barton Springs in Austin, cool water works wonders on the warm body.

The body can also be cooled from the inside, and that's the route we are going to investigate here. The first thing many Texans think of when it comes time to cool the body is cold beer. Cold beer sure tastes good and it feels good going down, but the alcohol tends to dehydrate the body and make things worse. Of course, just plain old water is the best thing for the body. Cool water is better than warm water, and cold water is better than cool water. But when the water is so cold it gives you an "ice cream headache", it's too cold. The old wives warned against drinking cold water when you were real hot and thirsty. I think they thought the rapid change in temperature would crack something in your innards. Nah.

Ice Tea
If you haven't been engaged in a lot of heavy, manual labor and just want something cooling you have several choices. Texans live by ice tea. That's not iced tea - it's ice tea. There's a good lesson on the proper making of ice tea over in the Beverage and Bar section.

Next on the list is Co-cola. Any soda pop is Co-cola no matter what the brand. Now days it comes in a plastic bottle that can be as big as a gallon, and you unscrew the cap. When I was growing up, the big three -- Dr Pepper, Coke Cola and Seven-Up -- came in six-ounce glass bottles with a crown cap. I liked the Dr Pepper. Most folks opted for the Coke Cola. My Daddy was the only one I knew who liked Seven-Up. All the drinks were a lot stouter then. The Seven-Up was a little tough for a wee tad.

Sometime shortly after World War II wound down, Royal Crown Cola started showing up in the coolers in twelve-ounce bottles. Wow! That was nearly more than a person could drink at one sitting. Right on the heels of the introduction of the big RC Cola came the twelve-ounce Pepsi Cola. Pepsi had a gimmick; you could get six bottles and an aluminum carrier to carry them in for a quarter. Of course you had to pay the two cents per bottle deposit, bringing the total purchase price up to thirty-seven cents. Only bankers and lawyers could afford six at one time.

The Floats
About the best thing you could do with Co-Cola was to make a float. That is a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream floating in your favorite flavor of Co-Cola. Every drug store had a soda fountain where floats were manufactured. This meant the Co-Cola came from the fountain. A measured quantity of flavored syrup was mixed with carbonated water to make the fountain Co-Cola. Then the ice cream was added.

It didn't take John Q. Public long to figure how to make his very own floats at home. Ice cream didn't come in pints and quarts; it came in two- or three-gallon containers. If you wanted a pint or a quart, your ice cream dealer would scoop it out and put it in a container for you to take home.

By far the most popular float, and I think it remains the most popular today, was the root beer float. Vanilla ice cream and root beer were made for each other. A marriage made in Heaven. My personal favorite after root beer is orange. You can't use orange juice. It's gotta be a good quality orange Co-Cola. I've never found anyone who liked a Big Red float.

Ice coffee
Texans do not drink ice coffee.

Kool Aid
There should be a place in the big Texas museum devoted just to Kool Aid. Red (strawberry) Kool Aid was the center of many a kid's birthday party and was always available at any family function where more than two kids might be in attendance. As best I can remember, Kool Aid originally came in strawberry, orange, grape and lime. Strawberry was far and ahead the favorite. It was always mixed in a crock. The sweaty pitcher you see on TV with the smiley face is just a figment of someone's imagination.

Cool things that need chewing
Cool, fresh garden vegetables make wonderful summer meals when the weather is hot. Here's something we like a lot at my table.

Crunchy Summer Salad

  • 1 large onion, fine chop (about 1/4 inch dice; nothing larger than 3/8 inch)
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and fine chop
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 large bell pepper, fine chop
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 14- to 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • salt to taste
Mix all in a large bowl. Place in a suitable closed container and refrigerate overnight. Will keep several days in the icebox. You can adjust the ratio of sugar to vinegar to suit your taste. You can also add or delete any vegetables to suit your taste.

A lot of folk believe eating hot chile peppers will cool you off. I know that hot chile peppers will make you sweat. The sweat evaporates and makes you cooler. But dehydrated sweat is not all that charming. I think I'll stick with my ice tea and save the chile heater for the cool times.

More Cold Summer Drinks

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