Pantry Basics: 5 Essential Ingredients for Cold Drinks

Sorry to sound like one-note wonders here, but we're not as interested in eating this week as we are in drinking. At any given moment this week you could have found us sipping very, very, very cold and fizzy drinks. Here are five essential ingredients we keep around at all times for emergency cold drinks and heat wave relief.
  1. Carbonated Water - I really couldn't get through the summer without fizzy water! I love the bubbles and the fizziness. They add pep to juice, and lightness to cocktails. If you drink a lot of soda water, you might want to consider one of these methods or gadgets for making it at home.
  2. Ice - Ice almost goes without saying, but I actually don't keep it around most of the time. I don't add ice to my tap water, and I refrigerate my carbonated water. So when the temperature zoom up, I make a special note of filling a few ice cube trays with water and making ice for frozen slushies, gin and tonics, and extra-cold mojitos.
  3. Simple Syrup - Simple syrup is good for sweetening drinks; it will mix straight into cold drinks where plain sugar won't dissolve. You can buy it, but it's just as easy to make it yourself.
  4. Limes and Lemons - Come on, where would a cold drink be without a squeeze of lime or a spritz of lemon? I squeeze fresh lemons and limes for citrus drinks, or for a splash of acidity in iced tea. I adore fair-style lemon shake-ups, too.
  5. Fresh Mint - Fresh mint is a must for summer drinks. I love it blended straight into aguas frescas, or just perched on the lip of my glass. It's essential for drinks such as mint juleps and mojitos, too.

Those are my essentials, my basics. They live in the fridge or freezer all summer long (except for the mint, which lives in a pot on the back porch!). I supplement these basics with other herbs like basil and lemon verbena, and with fresh fruit (like watermelon, for aguas frescas) and some other syrups, like elderberry flower syrup or Rose's Lime. Sometimes I brew iced tea or buy some juice and fizz it up with soda water. I also love straight soda water with just a splash of bitters and a wedge of lemon.

What are your cold drink basics? Other than alcohol, what do you keep around for impromptu sipping?

And if you're wanting a little booze for your cold drink, don't forget about Nora's roundup of the best bargain booze.

Related: Iced Tea, Lemonade, & Milkshakes: 15 Icy Cold Drinks

(Images: Nora Maynard; Faith Durand)

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