Certain scents and flavors are unmistakable and just seem to invoke a particular season. Few things say “summer” to me as much as lime and mint. I love to have a bowl of limes (and lemons) in my kitchen at all times. I use the zest and the juice in many dishes and beverages. There’s something about fresh citrus that really brings flavors to life.
A little over five years ago, I planted a large pot of mint on my patio. As herbs go, it is easy to grow and very hardy in the Pacific Northwest. In late fall, I completely cut the mint down to a few inches above the soil. Each spring and summer for the past five years, I have been rewarded with a lush pot of mint. This year the stems were well over 18 inches tall! I use fresh mint in salads, cocktails, water, and tea. As a garnish, fresh mint adds just the right amount of flourish to a variety of desserts like key lime pie and strawberry shortcake. A sprig of mint and a fresh raspberry resting atop a frosted cupcake are simply a match made in heaven.
One of my favorite, go-to recipes for summer combines lime and mint. It is a mojito-style drink that is delicious with our without spirits. (As a hostess, I think it is really nice to be able to offer a “special” drink to those that don’t wish to consume alcohol.) I blend up several batches of the mint-lemonade and then mix the drinks to order, as guests arrive. Here’s the recipe:
1 12-oz. can of lemonade concentrate, frozen
1 large bunch (12-15 stems) of mint, tops cut off and reserved for garnishing
Lemon-lime sparkling water, such as Talking Rain
Sliced strawberries for garnish
Rum, tequila or vodka (optional)
1. Wash mint in a bowl of warm, salted water. Rinse several times in cold water.
2. Pinch off the top leaves of each mint stem, and reserve for garnish
3. In a blender, combine the frozen lemonade concentrate, washed mint (stems and leaves) and 12 oz. of cold water.
4. Blend on high for 2-3 minutes.
5. When the mixture is well blended, turn the blender off and let the mixture sit for approximately 5 minutes.
6. Spoon off and discard the excess mint, which will rise to the top of the blended mixture.
7. Pour the remaining mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove any large pieces of mint.
8. To assemble the drink: Add ice to your drinker or wine glass. Squeeze a lime wedge over the ice and add the wedge to the glass. If using alcohol, add 1.5 ounces of white rum, tequila or vodka. Add 2 ounces of mint-lemonade mix. Add 1-2 ounces of sparkling water. Stir to combine. (If you omit the alcohol, mix 2/3 mint-lemonade mix with 1/3 sparkling water.)
9. Garnish with a mint sprig and a sliced strawberry.
10. Store any left over mint-lemonade in a glass container in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to 5 days. Shake well before using.
I hope you enjoy this mojito-style treat. With our without alcohol, it is refreshing on a balmy summer night. This beverage is a triple threat: it smells good, looks amazing and will delight your palate. Cheers to the unmistakable tastes of summer!