Easter is almost here and if you are hosting a party, I’m sure you have your dishes already set. But what about drinks? Perhaps you got your cocktails planned out, your mimosas and white wine. And for the kiddos and those who don’t drink alcohol? In case you need more ideas for non-alcoholic drinks, I hope this post will help you. Here are two simple recipes using two of my favorite citrus: lemon and calamansi.
Lemons are sprouting in the Bay Area like crazy! I don’t even need to buy them at the store. I just get them from my backyard, or gifts from my family, friends, and their co-workers. A sprinkle of lemon in a cup of hot water in the morning could be so good and cleansing for the body. You could also make granitas, lemon sorbet, lemon pie, and many more. There are so many ways you could use lemons so I hope you don’t neglect and let them rot on your kitchen counter. Another way you could use lemons is to make lemonade. To add a twist to the usual recipe, I suggest adding jasmine green tea, ginger, and a bit of mint as garnish.
I used to work at a tea place called Samovar and one of my main tasks was to make jasmine tea lemonade. The combination of jasmine tea and lemonade was a big hit among our customers. Every once in a while, I would experiment and add ginger in it too. Lo and behold, the jasmine tea tasted even more amazing.
JASMINE GINGER LEMONADE
- 2 teaspoons loose leaf jasmine green tea
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 big chunks of ginger, peeled
- 1 cup evaporated cane sugar
- 3 1/2 quarts of cold water
- 4 ounces lemon juice
- mint leaves (for garnish)
- lemon slices (for garnish)
- Beware of cheap jasmine teas from tea bags that have a strong jasmine scent. Most likely, they were sprayed by fake jasmine scent. I rather use loose leaf teas from a trusted brand and a small tea strainer for steeping.
- I suggest to steep the tea first, then prepare the lemons while you’re waiting for the tea.
- White sugar is not vegan so feel free to use your favorite vegan sweetener. I like to use evaporated cane sugar or agave for this recipe.
- Using a big mug, add hot water, ginger, and sugar. You may gradually add the sugar so the hot water won’t pour over. If it does, carefully pour half of the water to another mug. Mix everything with a spoon.
- Steep the jasmine tea for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the lemons. Slice them in half and squeeze out the juice until you have about 4 ounces.
- After 15 minutes of steeping, remove the tea leaves and pour the liquid with ginger to the pitcher of cold water. Add the lemon juice and mix thoroughly using a ladle or spatula. Taste and adjust to your liking,
- Refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with mint and lemon slices.
If you’re outside of the Bay Area (or California for that matter), and lemons are out of reach, you may use whatever citrus you have available at the moment. In the Philippines, I used to know only one main citrus to use for juices, sauces, and marinades. Calamansi or in English, Calamondin, looks like a cumquat but tastes like a cross between orangs and lemon. It’s sweeter than lemon but tangier than orange.
Filipinos would usually sprinkle calamansi juice on top of pancit noodles, lugaw porridge, and other savory dishes. We also love to make calamansi juice. Lucky me, my sister has a calamansi tree so I simply go there and harvest ripe calamansi. Yes, calamansi trees also grow in the Bay Area! As for the calamansi juice, I’ve done a simple twist by adding Italian basil leaves. The result gave a much more complex and full-bodied calamansi juice. Feel free to give it a shot!
CALAMANSI JUICE WITH BASIL
- 2 1/4 quarts of water
- 2 ounces calamansi juice
- 5 tablespoons agave syrup
- 6-8 basil leaves (Italian)
- Some Filipino grocery stores may carry calamansi. Feel free to check with a staff member.
- For a low glycemic option, use stevia or coco palm sugar.
- Mix everything using a long ladle or spatula. Taste and adjust to your liking.
- Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
- Garnish with sliced calamansi and basil leaves.
You may also add vodka to the drinks to create cocktails, or add club soda for some fizz. These drinks are easy to make and fun to serve to family and friends, or to yourself. Keep a whole pitcher in the fridge and you’ll have a fun drink every time you need it.
If you still have tons of lemons or calamansi left, extract its juice and put it in the freezer. The strength and flavor of the citrus concentrate will deteriorate almost instantly if you keep it at room temperature or in the fridge. It’s best to preserve the juice in the freezer for later use.
Another quick way to make an interesting drink with almost no effort is to freeze some herbs in your ice cubes. Here, I’ve put mint leaves in an ice-cube tray, filled the cubes with water, and froze them for at least an hour. It’s a major upgrade to a plain glass of water!
These are just some of the simple ways you could create fun drinks for Easter or for any springtime occasion. I hope you give them a try and let me know what you think. Cheers!