How to Keep Cool Now That Fall Isn’t Here: Cucumber, Mint & Elderflower


Four fabulous coolers to help you beat September’s stifling heat: Hibiscus Black Iced Tea, Jungle Juice, Homemade Strawberry-Rose & Cilantro-Lime Sodas.


September, what’s with you?

Labor Day has come and gone. The geese are flying south. And according to The New York Times, we’re all supposed to get ready for “The Crazy Quilt of Fall.”  That means fuzzy geometric sweaters, skintight leather pants, and, wait for it, white patent go-go boots.

But you, September, are you helping us out? No!

You’re just steaming along, giving us one 90 degree day after another.  The outside air is so stifling, so hot and humid that it’s hard to breathe.  Don’t even mention the clouds of mosquitoes feasting on any bit of exposed flesh.

There’s a word for this: miasma.  Look it up, September.  It’s all about you.

But you know what?  I’ve got the antidote. Four fabulous icy drinks that will keep us cool during your relentless heat wave. And no, they are not alcoholic.  Really, what do you want?  For me to pass out face down in the tall grass, sun beating on my head?  I have enough trouble navigating as it is.

The good thing: These delicious chillers take just minutes to make. They’re based on cooling fruit like cucumbers, strawberries and citrus, and herbs from what’s left of the summer garden: mint, basil and cilantro. Plus a few oddball ingredients just to make your taste buds dance: rose water, elderflower cordial, and dried hibiscus petals. Froth in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice (or whirr them in a blender) and strain into a tall glass with even more ice.

An even better thing: Each chiller is a quick trip in a glass, conjuring up a magical place at a moment in time. Places with breezes and palm trees, or snow-covered mountains, or a shady city sidewalk just around the corner from the grooviest Japanese store ever.

And if you decide to sneak in a jigger of vodka or rum, who’s to know?


Agua de Selva, or Jungle Juice

(adapted from Dorado Beach Ritz-Carlton, Puerto Rico)

Ingredients for 1 drink:

4 ounces elderflower cordial

7 thin slices small, unpeeled cucumber, preferably organic

10 leaves fresh mint

Sparkling water, to taste

Sprig of fresh mint for garnish



In a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint leaves. Add 3 slices of the cucumber and muddle a little more.  Pour in the elderflower cordial, fill with ice cubes and shake vigorously for 1 minute.

Strain into a tall glass over more ice and add sparkling water to taste.  Stir well to combine. Using a chopstick, push 3 more slices of cucumber down the sides of the glass. Garnish with the last cucumber slice and a sprig of mint.   Drink up!


Homemade Cilantro-Lime Soda

(adapted from Amangani, Jackson Hole, Wyoming)


Ingredients for 1 drink:

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves, stems discarded

½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

1-1/2 ounces simple syrup, or to taste

Sparkling water to taste

Sprig of fresh mint for garnish



In a cocktail shaker, muddle the cilantro leaves.  Add the lime juice and simple syrup and muddle a little more.   Fill with ice cubes and shake vigorously for 1 minute.

Strain into a tall glass over more ice, add sparkling water to taste, and garnish with mint.  Sip through a straw and enjoy!


Homemade Strawberry-Rose Soda

This is a riff on the Amangani’s homemade “sodas” which are served at the infinity pool overlooking the Tetons.  What a view!


Ingredients for 1 drink:

4 to 5 large strawberries, stems removed and coarsely chopped

1-1/2 ounces simple syrup, or to taste

¼ teaspoon rosewater

Few drops lemon juice

Sparkling water, to taste

1 sprig purple basil for garnish



Whirr the strawberries in a blender until liquefied. Add the simple syrup, rosewater and lemon juice and whirr again.

Pour into a glass, fill with ice cubes and add sparkling water to taste.  Stir vigorously.  Garnish with basil and drink up!


Hibiscus Black Iced Tea

(adapted from Flour Bakery, Boston)

I loved this tea at Flour’s cafe on Washington Street in the South End. Old Japan, right around the corner, carries antique indigo textiles and the Japanese fishing globes seen in the photo at the beginning of this post.

Ingredients for 2 or possibly 3 drinks:

2 tablespoons dried hibiscus flowers

1-1/2 tablespoons black tea, such as Ceylon

3 or more ounces simple syrup, to taste

4 to 6 thin slices orange, preferably organic

2 to 3 sprigs fresh basil for garnish



Bring 3 cups of water to boil.  Place dried hibiscus flowers and black tea in a small pot, pour in the boiling water, cover, and let steep for 5 minutes.  Strain into a pitcher and let cool to room temperature.

To make 1 glass of ice tea, muddle 1 slice of orange in a cocktail shaker. Add 6 to 8 ounces of the brewed tea, plus simple syrup to taste.  Fill with ice cubes, and shake vigorously for 1 minute.

Strain into a tall glass over more ice.  Add a sprig of fresh basil and another orange slice for garnish.

Repeat steps 2 and 3 to make a second glass of iced tea.  There may be enough brewed tea to make a third glass as well.







One Response to “How to Keep Cool Now That Fall Isn’t Here: Cucumber, Mint & Elderflower”

  1. Nancy says:

    I always look forward to fall arriving; only a couple more weeks to go! These interesting refreshers will keep things cool until then. I have a few June strawberries tucked away in the freezer that will be perfect mixed up with some rosewater. That sounds yummy. Thanks for the new recipes to try!

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