Sparkling Herbal Coolers

sparkling lemongrass lime mint coolerI had my first Sparkling Lemongrass Lime Mint Cooler at a wonderful Asian fusion restaurant in downtown Santa Cruz, California called the Asian Rose Cafe. I was so intrigued by sparkling herbal coolers that I began collecting recipes and making them at home. Here are some of my favorites for you to try. They’re unexpectedly sophisticated, flavorful and great for hot summer days and warm summer nights.

Sparkling Lemongrass Lime Mint Cooler
This recipe is lightly sweetened. The original from Asian Rose Cafe was savory (unsweetened). Both are delicious. Try sweet and savory and see which is your favorite. Serves 4 people.

Ingredients:
3 stalks fresh, juicy lemongrass
8 teaspoons honey (optional)
1 cup water
32 oz (or 1 liter) bottle of sparkling water, chilled
2 juicy limes, squeezed
2 limes, thinly sliced
1 bunch mint leaves, washed and picked off the stems
Ice cubes, placed in a plastic bag and broken with a hammer

Preparation:
Trim off the dried root end of the lemongrass stalks.
Cut the bottom 4 inches of the stalks.
Place them in a plastic bag.
Smash and bruise them with a hammer or mallet.
Finely chop them.
Put the chopped lemongrass, water (and honey if you like) into a saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.
Remove from the heat and let cool completely (1 – 2 hours).
The lemongrass will steep, creating an infusion.
When cool, strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve or cheesecloth into a glass bowl or measuring cup (for liquids).
Pour equal amounts of the lemongrass infusion and fresh lime juice into each of 4 tall glasses and stir to blend.
Put several fresh mint leaves into each of the 4 glasses and muddle them with the wrong end of a wooden spoon.
Add several lime slices and ice.
Fill to the top with sparkling water and gently stir.
Garnish with lime slices and fresh mint leaves.

lemon basil coolerSparkling Lemon Basil Cooler
A hint of basil gives this honeyed lemon cooler a deep herbal note. It’s zesty, delicious and refreshing. Serves 4 people.

Ingredients:
4 juicy lemons, washed and juiced
1 lemon, washed and thinly sliced
8 teaspoons honey
8 fresh good sized basil leaves, washed
32 oz (or 1 liter) bottle of sparkling water, chilled

Preparation:
Mix the lemon juice and honey in a small glass bowl.
Divide equally into 4 tall glasses.
Place 2 basil leaves in the bottom of each glass.
Muddle the basil, lemon juice and honey well with the wrong end of a wooden spoon.
Fill the glasses with sparkling water and ice.

Iced chai teaIced Chai Tea Cooler
The Iced Chai Tea Cooler is spicy, refreshing and satisfying. It fills your house with the smell of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and other wonderful spices. It is best served with milk or nondairy creamer and some sweetener. Serves 4 people.

Ingredients:
6 cups water, divided
5 Chai tea bags (black tea, not green tea)
1/4 cup honey, raw sugar or palm sugar
Ice cubes
Milk or nondairy creamer

Preparation:
Place the chai tea bags and 3 cups of water in a saucepan.
Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
This will make double-strength chai tea.
Let the tea cool and remove the tea bags.
Stir in the sweetener and milk or creamer to taste.
Divide the tea into 4 tall glasses.
Add more water and ice to fill.

Maple Cream Sparkling SodaMaple Cream Sparkling Soda
You guessed it. This isn’t a sparkling botanical cooler. I thought I’d add this because it’s just so yummy and easy to make. It has far less sugar than store-bought cream soda. Maple and vanilla are a great combination. You and your grandkids will love it! Serves 4 people.

Ingredients:
8 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure real vanilla extract (get the good stuff)
32 oz (or 1 liter) bottle of sparkling water, chilled
Half and half or cream (optional)

Preparation:
Place 2 teaspoons of maple syrup and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract in the bottom of each tall glass.
Fill with sparkling water and gently stir.
Add ice, and enjoy the creamy goodness.
I won’t tell if you add a dollop of half and half or cream.

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