Mark Diacono’s recipes for non-alcoholic summer drinks | Summer food and drink


When the sun is high and the temperature rises, these are the perfect refreshing, non-alcoholic beverages to keep you cool.

Cucumber Mojito

Prepare it just before serving, as it should be cooler than the Mae West after a few gins. Although you can use bottled lime juice in other drinks, the oils from the fresh lime peels are essential for mojitos of all kinds.

Preparation 5 minutes
Makes About 800ml

½ cucumberpeeled and diced
4 limeshalved and pressed, spent skins reserved
50g caster sugar
500ml coconut water
1 generous handful of mint leaves

In a large pitcher, use an immersion blender to juice the cucumber, lime juice, and sugar, then stir in the coconut water. Divide the lime peels and mint among four glasses, then use a wooden spoon to muddle (i.e., enthusiastically cheer) the flavors and scent of the two. Add a good handful of crushed ice to each glass, fill with cucumber-coconut water and serve.

watermelon fizz

I know it sounds like a cheese and banana sandwich combination, but I promise you the bitterness of the tonic just makes it all perk up. These amounts are way too much spiced sugar, but it takes a certain amount to get it ground nicely, it keeps indefinitely, and it’s amazing on hot buttered toast.

Preparation 10 minutes
Makes Approximately 900 ml, undiluted

8 cardamom podsseeds only
1 mace with generous blade
5 Sichuan peppercorns
8 tablespoons white caster sugar
2 tablespoons of sea salt
½ watermelon
cold from the fridge
Juice of 1 red grapefruit
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
(from about 2 limes – keep the skins)
tonic waterat the top

Put the spices and sugar in a spice or coffee grinder and reduce to a fairly fine powder. Mix with the salt and sprinkle some in a saucer.

Pour the flesh of the watermelon into a blender and blend it. Pass through a sieve, using a spoon to help the juice pass, then stir in the grapefruit and lime juice.

Run a wedge of lime around the rim of each glass, then dip the rim in the spiced sugar. Half fill the glass with watermelon juice, then dilute with tonic water to taste.

Nectarine and Earl Gray Iced Tea

The sweetness of fruit and the sweetness of floral tea go together beautifully, but also try it with a generous dash of lime juice and/or sweeten it up with sparkling water. The syrup will keep for a week and the tea will lose its shine after a few days, so keep them separate if you’re not using them all right away.

Preparation 20 mins
Coldness 1 hour
Makes About 1.2 liters

3 Earl Gray tea bags
4 ripe nectarines
halved, pitted and coarsely chopped
230g caster sugar

Sparkling waterto dilute (optional)

Put the tea bags in a carafe, pour 800 ml of boiling water, let steep for five minutes, then remove and discard the tea bags.

In a medium saucepan, bring the nectarines, sugar and 100ml water to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook for about 15 minutes, until tender, then blend (an immersion blender is ideal) gently. Stir the syrup into the tea jug, allow to cool, then refrigerate.

Serve in tall glasses with plenty of ice, diluted with sparkling water, if you prefer.

Kiwi and tarragon lemonade

The bright, bold sweetness and sharpness of kiwi blends perfectly with the sweet anise of tarragon and the acidity of lemon. Lemon thyme instead of tarragon is a great variation.

Preparation 15 minutes
Makes About 1 liter when diluted

250g of sugar
20g tarragon leaves
6 lemons
zest cut into strips, then pressed
6 ripe kiwispeeled and finely chopped
Sparkling waterto dilute

Put the sugar in a medium bowl, add 250ml boiling water and stir until dissolved. Add the tarragon and lemon zest, steep for 10 minutes, or longer if you prefer a stronger taste, then remove and discard the tarragon and zest.

Use an immersion blender to blend the kiwi and lemon juice, then stir in the tarragon syrup. Dilute to taste with three or four parts sparkling water.

Raspberry and lemon thyme switchel

The classic honey, lemon and ginger switchel in vinegar became a popular workplace refreshment in 1800s America, when it was also known as Haymaker’s Punch, but you don’t have to. no need to sweat to enjoy it. Use it as a template for your own variations.

Preparation 10 minutes
Infuse Overnight
Makes 1 litre

20 g fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 tablespoons of honey
2 teaspoons lemon juice
70ml cider vinegar
1 large handful of raspberries
10 cm sprig of lemon thyme

Put the ginger, honey, lemon and vinegar in a clean one quart jar and stir to dissolve the honey. Add the raspberries, pressing them lightly, then fill with water to 3 cm from the top. Close and leave to infuse overnight.

The next day, add the sprig of lemon thyme to the jar, close, leave to infuse for about four hours, then refrigerate. Pour through the sieve when you want to drink it. This switchel is wonderful on its own, over ice or with gin.

Strawberry, elderflower and passion fruit

No matter what time of year you make it, it tastes like the start of summer. As with all these cocktails, adjust according to the fruit you have on hand: blueberries, raspberries or pineapple work just as well here. And try a stalk of crushed lemongrass instead of rosemary.

Preparation 5 minutes
Serves 1

4 large strawberriespeeled and chopped
½ lemonzest cut into strips, then squeezed
Juice and seeds of ½ passion fruit
20 ml elderflower syrup
90ml ginger beer

90ml sparkling water
12 cm sprig of rosemary

Using a wooden spoon, gently mash the strawberries and lemon zest in the bottom of a tall glass. Add 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 promote the release of flavor and odor, then use it to stir the contents of the glass, set it down 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


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