Summer is the perfect time for making icy concoctions with seasonal fruit, juices, teas and herbs, but it's important to use fresh ingredients so you're not drinking ten times your weight in calories from artificial or over-processed sweeteners.
My Favorite All Natural Mixers For Drinks
I've all but given up soda pop, which is one of the most popular mixers for alcoholic beverages. It's too sweet for my taste and unless you're buying your own organic or all-natural soda sweetened with real sugar, any pop you consume at a restaurant or bar will be full of high fructose corn syrup. The same goes with most tonic waters.
Because of this, my three favorite mixers for warm weather cocktails are homemade lemonade, limeade or tea. You can sweeten it to taste with whatever you prefer. I like to use local, raw honey or organic, raw cane sugar.
Why Raw Honey Versus "Regular" Honey?
Well, regular honey is filtered and heated to such a high temperature that it kills off all the natural goodness the bees leave in it. Things like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that are only found in raw honey. When you heat it above a low temperature the honey becomes no better than corn syrup.
Speaking of corn syrup, did you know that 75% of honey bought at supermarkets isn't real?
According to tests performed by Food Safety News, the majority of "honey" has been ultra-filtered, which "is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down" with artificial sweeteners or corn syrup "and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey – some containing illegal antibiotics – on the U.S. market for years."
Read the full article here.
Seek Out Local Honey
The only way to guarantee you are getting the best honey possible is to buy it from a local beekeeper. Seek out a local farmer's market, co-op or health food stores for reputable honey sources.
So, if you make your warm weather beverages with genuine, raw honey that hasn't been heated, they'll retain all the health benefits I listed above, only take a few minutes to prepare and taste AMAZING! Plus, you'll know exactly what's in your drink.
Caffeine-Free Teas: A Refreshing Option for Warm Weather Cocktails
Let's move on to the tea component of this beverage. There are a bazillion teas out there, but many are naturally caffeinated, which isn't desirable if you're enjoying an evening drink or night cap. Maybe if you're planning on gallivanting around town until 4 a.m., but that's a different story.
Peppermint or spearmint tea seems like an obvious non-caffeinated choice, but not everyone likes mint.
For palates that prefer tart or citrus flavors, organic hibiscus teas are perfect. Not only is hibiscus refreshing, but several studies indicate that it has the capacity to lower blood pressure (source). It's also a great option for those with diabetes as it has lots of flavor and can easily be consumed plain, i.e. with no sugar.
Use 100% Hibiscus or Tea Blends
Can't find 100% hibiscus tea in a store near you and don't want to order it online? Look for non-caffeinated tea blends that contain hibiscus leaves instead. In fact, if you've ever ordered an iced passion fruit lemonade from Starbucks, then you've already had a tea with hibiscus.
The coffee company uses this tea for their popular passionfruit lemonade, but that drink is way overpriced when you buy it at their store! I'd recommend making it at home. It'll probably cost no more than 50 cents for the tea bag, sugar and lemon (versus the $4 you pay at Starbucks) and you can control the sugar level.
I should also note that the color of your tea may vary depending on the brand you choose. Some will yield a bright pink or red drink because of dried herbs or fruit added to the tea blends. Of course, if you add frozen blueberries like I did, then the berries will dye your liquid pink!
And if you happen to find a brand with artificial dyes or funky ingredients, steer clear!
Always read the ingredients label!
If you find anything that's unrecognizable, drop that box like a hot tater.
Honey Sweetened Hibiscus Tea with Orange, Blueberry & Brandy
A light and refreshing cocktail made with hibiscus tea sweetened with raw, local honey, fruit and brandy.
| Original Recipe & Photograph by The Rising Spoon | © Elaina Newton 2013
3 + 1/4 cups of purified water (I recommend reverse osmosis)
3 bags (or loose leaf portions) of organic hibiscus tea (get it here)
Raw, local honey (unheated), to taste
1/8 cup of organic frozen blueberries
2-3 ounces of brandy
Orange slices, for garnish
Note: You do NOT have to add alcohol. This drink is fabulous as a "mocktail" or afternoon refresher.
Recommended Tools (optional)
Stainless Steel Cocktail shaker
Or if you're really cool, a Mason Jar Shaker
Want more real food & gadget recommendations? Check out my shop page.
Heat three cups of purified water in a saucepan. Pour the other 1/4 cup of water in a mug and set aside. Bring the water to a light boil and remove from heat. Add in the tea bags or loose leaf tea and follow the package's recommended time for steeping. It's usually 3-5 minutes and sometimes 5-10 minutes.
While the tea is seeping, measure your honey into the unheated water in the mug. I recommend starting with 2-3 teaspoons and add more if you like it sweeter. I used a tablespoon in mine. Stir the honey for 30 seconds to a minute until it dissolves in the water. Remove the tea bags (strain out the tea if using loose leaf) and add the honey water. At this point you can either chill the tea for a few hours, use a cocktail shaker to quickly chill it or pour it over a lot of ice.
When ready to serve, portion the honey sweetened tea into two glasses filled halfway with ice and add in half the frozen blueberries and a shot (1 oz) of brandy to each glass. Stir and garnish with an orange slice.
Notes & Tips
I made this the first two times without alcohol, so if you'd like a refreshing non-caffeinated drink for the day or nighttime, try it that way!
If you don't have any brandy on hand (I happened to have a bottle in my freezer for red wine sangria), then substitute your favorite hard liquor.
Feel free to substitute another fruit if you dislike blueberries. Sliced organic strawberries, raspberries or peaches would be perfect.
Make sure to stick the orange slice into the tea before drinking. It looks pretty as a garnish, but orange pairs well with hibiscus.
Real Food Resources
"This e-book is perfect for busy folks who need help maximizing their time in the kitchen so they can fix nutritious, real food snacks and meals to eat at home and on the go. In addition to realistic advice, this book provides recipes for real food staples you can make in bulk ahead of time, which ensures you always have nutrient dense foods at hand. And it’s especially helpful if you’re interested in implementing homemade fermented foods into your diet."
From Scratch: Easy Recipes for Traditionally Prepared Whole-Food Dishes
"If you're looking for a cookbook that is as entertaining as it is delicious, then look no further. From Scratch is a breath of fresh air when it comes to learning how to traditionally prepare and cook nutritious food. Shaye does not disappoint in her recipes and this cookbook reads like a letter from a close friend. These meals are easily prepared and yes, easily devoured."
I'd like to hear from YOU! What's your favorite tea to drink in the summer months?
Answer in the comments section below or join the discussion on The Rising Spoon Facebook Page. Prefer Twitter? And feel free to circle me on Google Plus and follow me on Pinterest.
Want to see my favorite real food products & gadgets? Check out my shop page.
PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. However, I ONLY recommend helpful products that I myself would use. And I'm really picky about what I share with you guys. Because I myself am super choosy about what I buy and consume. Recommending products that I love or want to own helps me cover the costs of running this blog and keep providing you with free, helpful information. And it costs nothing extra for you. Thanks!