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Fruity drinks offer plenty of pleasure



Published: Wed, August 17, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Let your imagination run a little wild to create some flavorful, fun concoctions.

FOOD NETWORK KITCHENS

In the dog days of summer, a refreshing drink can help lift your wilted spirits. Use summer's lush fruits to create delicious cocktails that you and your guests will appreciate on a lazy afternoon or on a cool late-summer night. All the recipes are from the Food Network Kitchens.

CHERRY LIME RICKEY

Skip the basic gin-and-tonic and take advantage of summer's bounty with ripe cherries. Muddling the fruit with the sugar brings out the strongest fruit flavors by releasing essential oils from their skins. Be sure to serve with plenty of crushed ice for a cold, crisp sip.

6 fresh cherries, pitted

1/2 lime, cut into 3 wedges

2 teaspoons sugar

3 ounces gin

1 cup crushed ice

Put the cherries, lime and sugar into a large glass. Muddle the fruit and sugar by pressing them with a pestle or a wooden spoon until juicy and fragrant. Add the gin and crushed ice. Cover with a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously, or stir, until combined and chilled, about 30 seconds. (In general, by the time the shaker mists up the drink is ready.) Serve.

THAI COCO COCKTAIL

Take a trip to the exotic East with this clear blend of Thai flavors. The tantalizing mixture of coconut rum, lemongrass and lime will transport you from your back yard to the beaches of Koh Samui, and you won't even need a passport. Give it an equally exotic look by garnishing with lemongrass stalks.

Ice

3 ounces vodka, any flavor

1/2 to 1 ounce ginger syrup (recipe follows)

1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Twist of lemon or lime

Fill a cocktail shaker or small pitcher with ice. Add the vodka, ginger syrup and lime juice. Cover and shake vigorously, or stir, until combined and chilled, about 30 seconds. (In general, by the time the shaker mists up the drink is ready.) Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add twist and serve.

GINGER SYRUP

1 lemon

2 cups coarsely chopped fresh ginger with lemon peel, about 8 ounces

1 cup sugar

2 cups water

Remove the outer peel of the lemon with a vegetable peeler, taking care not to include too much of the bitter white pith. Finely chop the lemon peel and ginger in a food processor.

Transfer the lemon-ginger mixture to a medium saucepan, add the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Strain the mixture and cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Yield: 2 cups

PASSIONATE COSMOS

This is not your mama's cosmo. Sweet yet tart passion-fruit juice accented with lime is sure to make a big splash at sophisticated parties. For an elegant and festive presentation, serve these in chilled martini glasses and garnish with passion-fruit seeds.

Ice

3 ounces vodka

1 ounce passion-fruit juice

1 ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water heated until the sugar dissolves, then chilled)

1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Passion-fruit seeds (optional, for garnish)

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour the vodka, passion-fruit juice, syrup and lime juice into the shaker. Cover and shake vigorously, until combined and chilled, about 30 seconds. (In general, by the time the shaker mists up the drink is ready.)

Strain cosmo into a chilled cocktail glass. Sprinkle with passion-fruit seeds, if desired.

PEACH BELLINI

The famous Harry's Bar of Venice, Italy, began serving this drink in 1934, when it was named after the Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini. Freshly grated peaches are mixed with sugar and then topped off with sparkling Prosecco for a truly decadent drink.

6 peaches, halved and pitted

1/4 cup superfine sugar, plus more for garnish

1/4 cup water

1 bottle Prosecco (750 ml or 31/3 cups), chilled

With a box grater, grate peaches into a pitcher. Add the sugar and water to the peaches and place pitcher in refrigerator until chilled and sugar has dissolved, or until needed. When ready to serve, pour the superfine sugar on a plate and invert a chilled champagne glass in the sugar to coat rim. Pour about 1/8th of the peach mixture into the prepared glass and top off with Prosecco. Stir gently and serve.

PEACH SANGRIA

With peaches at their prime from May through October, summer is the perfect time to try them in all variations. This light sangria is flavored with fresh peaches and lemon verbena, and brought together with crisply sweet German Riesling. This is the thing to serve when white wine just won't cut it.

3 ripe peaches, halved and pitted

1 bottle young Riesling (750ml or 31/3 cups)

10 leaves lemon verbena, lemon balm, or mint, loosely torn

With a box grater, grate two of the peach halves into a pitcher, discarding the skins. Finely dice the remaining peaches, adding to the pitcher along with the wine and herbs. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours. Serve.

DIRTY BANANA

Celebrate the flavors of the tropics with a cool Caribbean cocktail. Blend together a frozen banana, half-and-half and coffee liqueur to create this creamy concoction that's perfect for a sweet indulgence.

1 medium banana, frozen

2 fluid ounces dark rum

1/2 fluid ounce Tia Maria

2 fluid ounces half-and-half

Ground allspice for garnish

Put the peeled, frozen banana in a blender along with the rum and Tia Maria. Add the half-and-half and blend until smooth. Pour into a chilled wine glass, and garnish with a dusting of allspice. Serve.




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