The dreamy and verdant possibilities of early summer have already melted into the haze and sluggishness of late June. Instead of charting out a novel, or planning a stargazing trip, my mental energy is focused on simply avoiding a sunburned noggin and counting the days until my neighborhood grocery store reopens. I’m already at the point where I’ll settle for a few cookouts and a bit of mild, age-appropriate mischief. At least I already know the most important thing: what I’m going to be drinking.
I can’t overemphasize this last point. As many of you know, I struggle with a powerful sugar addiction, and over the last three years I’ve come to recognize that this shackle around my neck forms the primary impediment to a “normal” life. I don’t say this to sound hopeless, I mean quite the opposite: when I hold myself accountable and am disciplined about my sugar intake, everything else seems to fall into place. I sleep more soundly, have more confidence (which is it’s own engine), don’t spend money needlessly due to energy lows or pointless triggers, healthy food even starts to taste better. All because of the sugar, and more specifically, the source of most of that sugar – the obscene amounts of pop I used to swill and am now fighting like hell to permanently give up on.
Now, my typical response has been sweetened ice tea, the sugar content of which I can slowly wean down. (Sidenote: I remember my grandmother teaching me how to make sweet tea one afternoon in her little Kitchen in Birmingham. It was one of the happiest memories of my adolescence and I still do it the same way almost 30 years later.) But I’m at the point where I need some variety. The caffeine from tea keeps me up at night, and now that I’ve been trying to ride my exercise bike in the morning, I need to make sure I get to bed on time. Plus, I’m at the point where I’ve decreased the sugar so dramatically, the tea simply doesn’t preserve at well, so taking it to work is often a gamble.
But I think I found something. Absurdly easy to make, inexpensive, infinitely adaptable, uniquely satisfying, and doesn’t require a metric ton of sugar to taste good.
I alluded to something I drank in Chicago last month, specifically, the perfect Limonada I was served at Xoco. It was a liquid power-chord, with its citrus brightness perfectly balanced against a pronounced yet restrained, sweet undertone. It was neither syrupy or diluted – just a refreshing glass of something I knew I had to continue drinking.
I have to confess to a certain arrogant naivete to what I do in the kitchen. I like to assume that if it was served to me somewhere, a reasonable facsimile can be recreated in my messy little apartment kitchen. . No matter how carefully the ingredients were sourced and and how painstakingly the execution or how many versions were tested professionally, I can snap a finger and have the same thing. Simply because I’m hungry a lot and have a food blog.
Suffice it to say that I have not recreated what I drank at the restaurant. Limonada can be made with either lemon or lime, but the original drink seemed to contain both, and after several iterations I have not been able to replicate the flavor. I did, however, stumble upon a trick, mentioned in several posts about Mexican lemonade, a trick that sounds ridiculous at first, but once I was past the initial surprise, the idea just makes sense.
The logic to this recipe is obvious. By including the skin of the lemon in the final drink, we taste an entirely different, yet complimentary set of flavors within the final drink. There is a subtle, luscious quality which pairs well with the sting of the juice itself. The added bonus is that it doesn’t take TOO much sugar to balance out the tartness, but this, again, is a matter of taste.
One absurdly fresh lemon, quartered, seeds removed
one quart of water, divided in two
1/4 – 1/2 cup (or more) granulated sugar
Place the quartered lemon into the blender, along with the sugar and roughly half the water. Pulverize.
Add the remaining water. Strain. Strain again Taste. Add remaining sugar or water if desired.
Refrigerate for an hour or so before drinking. Ponder the addition of mint, a dash of lime juice, iced tea, or products of the agave family.
Enjoy the summer, my friends.