Summer Barbecues and Cocktails

By Tara Brooke | Tara's Kitchen

May 03

Summer always seems to put everybody in a festive mood. With the days getting longer, warmer and brighter, there’s no denying that summer is the perfect time for spending time with family and friends outdoors. As e verybody tucks away their heavy boots and coats for next year and brings out sun dresses, shorts, tank tops and light tee shirts, it’s that time of the year again when entertaining means taking out the grill and serving icy cold drinks that’ll beat the heat on those balmy nights perfect for staying up late and staring at the stars.

Throwing the perfect summer barbecue allows you to be extra creative with how you will entertain your guests. Make the drinks you’re going to serve the star of your bash by serving delicious cocktails that would keep your guests coming back for more. Think juicy summer fruits that would amp your cocktails not only in taste but also in color, special iced teas, and don’t forget the classic daiquiris, margaritas, and punches.

But just because you’re going to serve extra tasty beverages doesn’t mean they have to have the extra calories as well. You can keep your drinks at the low end of the calorie scale too without it being bland as plain ice cold water.

Plus, you can make your drinks even better by making them look special. After all, we eat, and in this case, drink with our eyes first. You can prettify your drinks to make them look even more appetizing for your guests. Play up bright and happy summer colors and incorporate them in your drinks. Shades of red in your drink will make them stand out—think cosmopolitans, sangria punches, and champagne cocktails infused with red fruits. Yellows and blues in your drinks will also add that extra touch of fun. Blueberry cocktails and special mint infused lemonades would be very refreshing on a warm evening get together.

Forget red solo cups. While it might be tempting to get a stack of these cups for your summer barbecue, they’re a bit on the boring side and they’re not special enough for your pumped up summer barbecue. Serve your drinks on special cocktail glasses, flutes, and other pretty cups that will show off just how tempting your cocktails are. You can use clear glasses or even frosted glass cups. If you prefer to make your drinks in big batches, bring out pretty glass pitchers.

No cocktail drink is complete without garnishes. Making your drinks look pretty relies on how you present them and garnishes serve this purpose. Rim your cocktail glasses with sugar by dipping the lip in some lemon or lime juice and then dipping it in some granulated sugar. You can also do this with salt if your drinks are tequila based.

You can also use citrus slices. Cut up an orange, a lemon, or a lime and let a slice hang by the lip of your cocktail glass. You can also put citrus slices and even wedges in pitchers of your drinks. This will also work with other fruits especially if your cocktails are fruit juice-based. Put in chunks or slices of the fruit you used for contrast in texture. Plus that burst of fruity goodness adds to the flavor of your drinks.

Herbs like mint can add more oomph to your cocktail drinks. Don’t just settle for infusing your drinks with these. Put in a few leaves in your pitchers and cups for that extra dose of minty freshness.

Ice is a staple for summer barbecues because let’s face it, the days and even the nights during this season can get a tad too warm. Ice will keep your drinks cool and refreshing. But don’t just stick to plain and boring ice cubes. Infuse your ice with mint and other herbs as well as with fruits. You can also add a few chunks of fruit in your ice before freezing it to make it prettier. You can also freeze fruit juices and even your cocktails so that your drinks will not taste watered-down when the ice melts.

Olives in cocktail sticks are a classic garnish for cocktails but you can also use sticks of hard fruit and even vegetables if your drinks are vegetable juice-based. Don’t forget those cute umbrellas too!

The ultimate test for cocktail drinks, however, is its taste. You can make your drinks look pretty but if they don’t taste good, it absolutely defeats its purpose. Since refreshments are the star of summer barbecues, making your drinks taste delicious is a must.

Cocktail lovers would argue that drinks are not complete without alcohol. The buzz from having a cocktail send tingles down anybody’s spine and makes a barbecue bash a lot more fun. But alcoholic cocktails sometimes have tons of calories because of all the sugar in it that make the drinker guilty for drinking them.

However, there are cocktails that are low on calories that’ll reduce that guilt. Here are some recipes for low calorie alcohol-based drinks that will get your guests hooked:

Sangria Sparkler

This Spanish drink is best served with friends. The blood oranges make it more vibrant and delicious tasting as well.

750-milliliter bottle dry red wine 1 cup light orange juice 1/4 cup brandy or cognac 1/4 cup orange liqueur 2 tablespoons sugar 2 medium oranges, sliced 2 cups club soda, chilled Crushed ice and/or orange peel curls (optional)

In a large pitcher, combine wine, orange juice, brandy, orange liqueur, sugar, and orange slices. Chill at least 2 hours. Add club soda before serving. Serve over crushed ice and/or with orange peel curls if desired.

Calories: 100

Sugar Free Margarita

This is another one of those sugar laden drinks that spell trouble. There are 16 grams of sugar in an average margarita but this sugar-free version is different:

1 jigger (1.5 oz) tequila 2 Tablespoons (1 oz) lime juice – bottled more convenient, fresh tastes a lot better 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) water 1/4 teaspoon orange extract 1 Tablespoon’s worth artificial sweetener (I like to use liquid, carb-free types) Ice – small handful Margarita salt or kosher salt Wet the rim of the glass and dip into a small plate of salt.

Combine all ingredients. You can either serve it over ice (in Mexico I’ve usually been served it this way, but I can’t say I’ve had extensive experience), or strained into the glass, or blended in a blender.

Calories: 128

Bloody Mary Cocktail

Bloody Maries are perfect low calorie cocktails because its carbohydrate content is reduced:

1 jigger (1.5 oz or 3 tablespoons) vodka (nutritional analysis uses 80 proof) 6 oz tomato juice (or see note) 1 teaspoon lemon juice (fresh preferred) 1/8 teaspoon celery salt 2 to 3 drops hot sauce such as Tabasco 2 to 3 drops Worcestershire sauce Dash pepper (fresh ground preferred) Dash horseradish (optional) Possible garnishes: lemon wedge, celery stalk

In a tallish glass, mix vodka, tomato juice, and lemon juice. Mix in the flavorings, adjusting to taste. Add ice cubes, and garnish with a celery stalk and/or lemon wedge (additional half a gram of carb each).

Calories: 129

But in any party, there are those who don’t drink alcoholic beverages. After all, there might be kids present and you don’t want them running around with a buzz, do you? Here are some non-alcoholic cocktail recipes that are also low in calories:

Berry Lemonade

Add a sweet twist to the classic lemonade with berries to make it more colorful and refreshing:

8 cups cold water 2 cups sugar 3 cup fresh lemon juice 3 strip lemon peel 1 cupraspberries 1 cup blackberries Ice cubes Seltzer or club soda

Prepare sugar syrup: In 4-quart saucepan, heat 4 cups water with sugar and lemon peel to boiling over high heat, stirring occasionally. Cover saucepan and boil 3 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat.

Meanwhile, in food processor, pulse berries until pureed. Pour into medium-mesh sieve set over large bowl and press berry mixture with back of spoon to remove seeds; discard seeds.

Remove peel from syrup; stir syrup into berry puree with lemon juice and remaining 4 cups water. Pour into large pitcher with tight-fitting lid. Cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days. Serve over ice. Add seltzer to taste; garnish with berries and lemon slices.

Calories: 150

Lemon-Orange Fiz

This pretty and very refreshing drink will surprise you with the number of calories it has:

2 cup(s) orange seltzer 2 tablespoon(s) frozen lemonade 1 tablespoon(s) lemon juice Lemon wedge, for garnish Ice cubes

Combine seltzer, lemonade, lemon juice and vodka, if using. Rub rim of 2 glasses with lemon wedge and dip in sugar. Fill glasses with ice and top with the seltzer mixture.

Calories: 2

Sparkling Cran Razzy

This is another pretty drink that packs flavor but not calories. Freeze whole raspberries and cranberries for added flavor and texture:

1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries for garnish 2 cups cranberry-raspberry juice 2 cup seltzer 2 tablespoons lime juice, plus 4 wedges for garnish

If using fresh raspberries, freeze them in a single layer for about 1 hour (or overnight) before proceeding with Step 2.

Combine cranberry-raspberry juice, seltzer, and lime juice in a pitcher. Divide among 4 ice-filled glasses. Garnish with frozen raspberries and lime wedges.

Calories: 65

With the health craze going on, you might want to serve healthy and delicious drinks instead. Perhaps the healthiest of all drinks is tea but you don’t have to settle for ordinary iced teas. You can also serve healthy fruit smoothies. These drinks are definitely low in calories and are just as refreshing as regular cocktails. Here are some recipes:

Honey Lemon Tea

This Chinese recipe will not only refresh your guests but will also keep them healthy:

1/4 cup dried chrysanthemums 3 lemon slices 4 cups boiling water Honey to taste

Place chrysanthemums and lemon in a glass or ceramic pot. Add boiling water. Cover with a lid and let steep for 5 minutes. Stir in honey. Refrigerate until cold, about 3 1/2 hours. (It’s not necessary to strain the tea.)

Calories: 21

Mint Tisane

Nothing beats mint for its refreshing qualities. Enjoy mint tea with this recipe:

1 bunch fresh mint 1 bunch fresh lemon verbena (optional) 3 cups (up to 6 cups) boiling water Sugar (optional), to taste

Place 1 bunch mint and 1 bunch lemon verbena (including stems) in teapot. Pour in boiling water and allow to steep for about 5 minutes. Add sugar, if desired. Serve in small Moroccan or other clear tea glasses.

Calories: 5.7

Hawaiian Smoothie

This fruit smoothie has all the fiber you need to get you going. Plus it’s refreshing and is low on calories as well:

1 cup chopped fresh pineapple 1/2 cup chopped peeled papaya 1/4 cup guava nectar 1 tablespoon lime juice 1 teaspoon grenadine 1/2 cup(s) ice

Place ingredients in the order listed in a blender. Pulse three times to chop the fruit, and then blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Calories: 81

Summer barbecues are a great way to celebrate occasions or to just spend time with your family and friends. Have fun entertaining your guests, be creative with your food and decorations and serve the best summer cocktails that not only look but also taste amazing without worrying about calories. Happy summer!

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