On a steamy summer afternoon, why settle for the familiar? Exotic flavors, unlikely combinations, and a splash of ingenuity all reinvigorate the season's classic coolers.
Turn Coolers into Cocktails
Fruity drinks made with pure ingredients don't need tiny umbrellas or other tiki bar touches. The sweetened fresh citrus juice that is used in limeade is a natural mixer. Just stir in cachaca, the sugarcane-based brandy that goes into a caipirinha, Brazil's answer to the margarita. For a deep-blush citrus cooler with a bubbly finish and a nice adult taste, add honey to red grapefruit juice and top off the mixture with a generous splash of chilled sparkling rose.
Refresh Them with Herbs
When herbs start to spread across gardens like wildfire, make the most of them. Steep the leaves in simple syrup, and use them to experiment with flavored lemonades. Lemon verbena, which has lemon's clean taste but not its tartness, balances the acidity of fresh lemonade. When the willowy leaves are frozen in ice, the cubes sustain the drink's flavor instead of watering it down.
Give Them Some Spice
Flavors usually reserved for cooking or baking can give depth and warmth to bright coolers. Saffron lends its dazzling color and heady essence to fresh orangeade. Vanilla seeds roasted in a skillet with lemon halves and sugar offer a surprising flavor in a sparkling lemonade made with both club soda and still water.
Infuse Them with Tea
The clink-clink of ice in an Arnold Palmer -- the drink that joins our two national summertime refreshments, lemonade and iced tea -- can be heard anywhere from backyard barbecues to beach picnics. In two not-so-standard renditions, jasmine-tea pearls bestow floral notes on tangerine juice, and hibiscus tea brings out the full flavor and color of strawberry lemonade.