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Keep your cool

These drinks are perfect to take the edge off a hot summer day
/ Source: msnbc.com

Maybe you're a beverage snob.

Maybe you only drink soda made in Italy. Maybe you turn your nose up at a margarita unless it's made with Patrón and the juice of limes from organic groves — straight up, no salt. Maybe you want all your frou-frou Napa chardonnays served at precisely 50 degrees.

Come summer, talk to the hand.

Doesn't matter whether it's a lazy Sunday afternoon or a bask in the sun after work: Now's the time for ice cubes and chilled mugs, for lingering a moment too long in front of the freezer door.  Now's the time to drink whatever tastes good and keeps you cool. Now's the time for plastic cups and beer cozies. Here are some of our favorite suggestions for drinks to temper the heat.

Mint julep
Being a good Southerner, I like my dark liquor, and there is no better way to enjoy a couple of shots of bourbon than in a mint julep.

I had my first julep on the first Saturday in May 1995 at Churchill Downs with a group of girlfriends who had roadtripped all night from Chapel Hill, N.C., to arrive just before post time for the Kentucky Derby.

I can’t say that I would recommend juleps when they are made in mass quantities, but a family friend who hails from Kentucky gave me her recipe a few years ago when I threw my own Derby party. It made all the difference.

Prepare at least a day in advance.

2 cups sugarFirst, make a simple syrup: Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan, and boil for a few minutes to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat. Bruise the mint leaves, add to syrup and place in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 24 hours. After it has chilled, run syrup through a sieve to remove the leaves. Chill glasses in the freezer for a few hours. Remove and fill with ice (it’s vital that the ice is crushed or shaved). Sprinkle a pinch or two of powdered sugar over the ice and then pour about two tablespoons (depending on how sweet you like your drink) of syrup over the ice. Follow that with 2 oz. of bourbon. Stir, garnish with a sprig of mint and enjoy!

-Katie Cannon

African Amber beer
The best time for me to have that cold summer drink is after a game of hoops with the fellas, when I'm just craving a cold one.

The choice for me is African Amber, an amber/red ale beer brewed by Mac and Jack's Brewery in Redmond, Wash. This is the best beer I've ever had on tap.

African Amber has a distinctive taste compared to other amber beers on the market. The flavor is majestic, with hops and malt that make it perfectly balanced. The color is dark orangish-brown, but isn't heavy tasting. (Hey, I dislike dark beers.) Finally, there is even a hint of carbonation that makes this drink perfect.

This is a "must-taste" beer for anyone. Unfortunately, the state of Washington is the only place I've found it. When friends come to visit from other states, however, they immediately fall in love with this beer.

Others agree. Come to Washington and see for yourself.

-Danny DeFreitas

Sweet tea When I left my homeland in the South for a job in Chicago some years ago, I discovered a little-known fact about most Yankees — they have no grasp of basic chemistry. I don't want to wade into the culture wars here, but the fact is that our brethren north of the Mason-Dixon don't seem to understand that a solute (sugar) dissolves best in liquids (tea) at high temperatures.

How else do you explain that when you order ice tea in the South, your waitress asks "Sweet or unsweet, hon?" but up north, the waiter just smiles dumbly and points to the tray filled with chemical sugar substitutes? Don't they realize that the end result of Sweet'n Low plus already iced tea is a powdery mess in the bottom of your glass?

So that first sweltering summer in Chicago, I got the sweet-tea jones bad and spent a few days perfecting my own recipe.

Heat four cups water. Just as it approaches boiling, remove from heat, add your tea bags and cover. Steep for about 10 minutes, no more than 20. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Add the allspice and cinnamon sticks then let cool, uncovered, for another 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a one-gallon pitcher and add the rest of the water. Serve in a tall glass with lots of ice. If you're serving to a mixed (sweet/unsweet) crowd, you can make a simple syrup instead of adding the sugar directly to the tea. Follow the directions above, and just omit the sugar.

-Jim Ray

MojitoNothing says summertime refreshment quiet like a mojito, the Cuban rum concoction custom-made for warm weather.

Served in a tall glass, the ideal mojito should have plenty of muddled mint leaves, pieces of fresh lime and ice, ice, ice. It’s the perfect mix of sweet and tangy that tastes oh so good. But be careful. They go down a little too smooth and can leave you feeling muddled if you aren’t careful.

1.5 oz. white rumMuddle the mint leaves and lime in a highball glass. Add the sugar. Cover the mixture with ice. Add the rum and enough club soda to fill the glass. If you are feeling especially fancy you can garnish with a slice of lime and some mint leaves. (Recipe by Bacardi.)

-Denise Hazlick

Muscadet
Lots of wines call for serious thought to drink them. Muscadet isn't one, which makes it one of the greatest things you can uncork in months that don't contain an R.

Muscadet is made from melon wine grapes grown at the western edge of France's Loire valley, just inland from the Atlantic. To be fair, the melon variety (no relation to the fruit) has little real flavor itself, so the best Muscadet is made "sur lie," with the wine sitting on its lees — the remnants of the crushed grapes and yeast used to make it — which smooths the wine out and adds flavor. The best usually comes from areas allowed to mark "Sèvre et Maine" on the bottle.

Bonus: Even the best bottle shouldn't run you more than $10-12 at the store.

You'll find it fresh and light, with a bit of citrus and this beautiful limestone hint in the back. It's not a fruit bomb, you won't taste any oak here and at around 12 percent alcohol, it'll leave you standing for a second glass. And that mineral note? Makes for one of the world's best matches with raw shellfish.

Serve cold, in whatever glass you like.

-Jon Bonné

Grape Nehi
Until I moved to Seattle in 2001, the only Grape Nehi I’d ever heard of was Radar O’Reilly’s favorite bottled soft drink on “M*A*S*H.” In Minnesota, where I come from, if I’d tried to order one in a bar, I’d likely get only a confused stare.

But it turns out that the Grape Nehi is a name for a popular cocktail here in the Pacific Northwest. They’re refreshing and sweet, but pack a hidden punch: Drink more than two (one if you’re me) only if you’re not driving. Befitting Radar’s gentle nature, you wouldn’t call this a manly drink, but if you prefer your alcoholic concoction more sweet than spiked, you might just enjoy.

There appear to be as many recipes for the drink as there are garage bands in Seattle. Here’s one version. Hey, wait, are those choppers I hear?

2 oz. vodkaCrush ice with lemon (or orange) and alcohol. Strain into a cocktail glass.

-Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

Pimm’s No. 1 CupThe Brits have a good sense of history and tradition, and one cherished ritual of the usually too-short British summertime is a cool glass of Pimm’s — a dark, golden-brown liqueur made from dry gin, fruit juices and spices.

The Pimm's No. 1 Cup is a sangria-like cocktail that is deceptively potent and a British favorite that stirs up images of sunny afternoons at Wimbledon, or a leisurely game of cricket on an English village green. Cheers!

Pimm'sFill a tall pitcher about 1/5 to 1/4 full with Pimm's, and top up with the 7-Up or lemonade.Add the mint, citrus, cucumber, ice cubes and a handful of  a branch of fresh mint, a few slices of lemon and orange, a wedge or two of cucumber, ice cubes and a handful of strawberries. Mix and serve. Add a slug of dry gin or splash of brandy for an extra kick.-Roland Jones

Champagne Sparkler
My wife and I both enjoy Champagne and look for every possible opportunity to serve it. It is a great way to have everybody on board with a wee bubbly at the start of a summer dinner party.

Even those who are generally leery of Champagne are attracted to the golden iridescence and festive accent of orange twist that comes with this refreshing cocktail.

Fill a Champagne flute about 2/3 of the way with the bubbly. Top it off with the pear cider. Add a couple drops of bitters. Stir, add orange zest and enjoy.

-Fred Birchman

Trader Vic’s Kamaiina I was born too late to get in on the first wave of the tiki craze, but it's always fascinated me.

When I married a Los Angeleno, I told him that on one of our trips to visit his family, we would have to make a pilgrimage to the Beverly Hills Trader Vic’s, the tiki chain to end all tiki chains.

Raised on the cliques and snobbery of “90210,” I feared that we non-hipsters wouldn’t fit in. But everybody fits in at Trader Vic’s. Vic’s invented the mai tai, so I felt I had to try one, but it wasn’t my favorite. That honor went to the Kamaiina, which supposedly means “old-timer” in Hawaiian.

Despite the easy-to-forget name, the Kamaiina ruled the room.

Not only because it's served in one of those goofy ceramic coconuts, but because it goes down smooth as glass and reminds me of breezy nights under the tropical moon. Trader Vic’s menu is vague about ingredients, but Web bulletin board tikiroom.com . You’ll have to provide your own ceramic coconut.

2 oz. 7-UpShake well with ice cubes, or mix in commercial mixer. Pour into ceramic coconut. Garnish with fresh mint and fruit stick.

-G.F.C.

Gimlet
Mystery shrouds the precise origins of this drink, but all roads seem to lead back to the British Royal Navy. No surprise, seeing as how Brits love gin and how scurvy-wary seamen were big on limes.

A proper gimlet — which is to say, with gin — is the perfect summer solution when it's too hot for a martini and you're bored with gin and tonics. It's a bit sweet, a bit sour and necessarily served ice-cold.

Just as with martinis, vodka seems to have had its insidious way with the gimlet. But juniper and the other botanicals in gin are what truly make this drink. So if a bartender happens to serve you one with vodka, keep your cool. Then demand gin.

Best ratio is probably 2 oz. gin to 1/2 oz. lime juice.  Pour into ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake well, strain into a martini glass and serve.

-J.B.