Friday, May 9, 2008

Bottoms Up

I spent a few delicious minutes outside earlier this afternoon under a palm tree. It was overcast and breezy, the heat of the week breaking a bit in time for the weekend.

It's May in Fort Lauderdale.

People love Florida--South Florida in particular--because it is virtually seasonless. The winter is warm and the summer is sauna-hot. Autumn, described by Hemingway during his years in Key West as "only a more dangerous summer," varies from hot and sunny to hot and stormy.

Having lived in Fort Lauderdale for four years (to the day, almost!) I appreciate some nuances of Florida summers. The snowbirds have gone home, so traffic is lighter. From my downtown office, I can see thunderheads swelling out west over the Everglades during the afternoon. Our pool is swim-able (lounge-able, really).

Which means that it's time to make lemonade.

This recipe has been adapted from one created by my mother's friend Kathy. A transplant from Rhode Island to Dallas, Kathy battled Texas heat with this gorgeous beverage. She would mix huge batches in a heavy glass container, the slices of lemon and orange jewel-like in the sun against the dewy surface of the glass.

Kathy's Minted Lemonade

For the lemonade
8 cups of chilled water, plus one extra cup
2 Meyer lemons (if you don't have access to Meyer lemons, regular lemons are perfectly fine)
8-10 regular lemons, enough to render 3/4 cup of fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 oranges, enough to render 1 cup of fresh-squeezed orange juice, plus one extra orange
A few extra sprigs of mint (3-4)

For the simple syrup
1/2 cup of fresh mint
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water

Make a simple syrup, using this recipe from an August 1998 issue of Gourmet: Chop the mint. Bring the sugar, 1 cup of water, and the mint to a boil in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Simmer the syrup, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine sieve, pressing the solids, and cool.

Cut the Meyer lemons and 1 orange into 1/4-inch slices and add them to the 8 cups of chilled water.

Juice the regular lemons, then the 2 remaining oranges. Combine the juices, then strain them through a fine sieve, pressing the solids to get all of the juice. Add the strained juice to the chilled water and stir.

Add 1 cup of the simple syrup and the extra sprigs of mint, give it all a stir, and serve over ice.

Servings: 6-8 highballs on the patio

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