Quench my (very specific) thirst?
June 27, 2017 6:58 PM   Subscribe

Seeking your recommendations for tasty, reasonably healthy, nonalcoholic, ideally-not-too-caffeinated cold beverages. Would welcome specific brand suggestions, general categories of beverage, and/or recipes (syrups? infusions? kombuchas?) to make at home. Some preferences below:

Like: iced black coffee, green tea, shrubs, kombucha, tonic, hipster cocktails with housemade syrups and such

Dislike/want to avoid: too much caffeine, lots of artificial flavors and/or calories (definitely under 100 calories for an 8-ounce serving, ideally less than 50), ginger beer unless it's not too spicy, probably dairy

(PS: I saw these previous questions but wonder if anything new is on the market and/or has become more widely available in the intervening years.)

(PPS: I am located in NYC. Even you think your favorite beverage is not, please share it! I appreciate any and all inspiration.)
posted by ferret branca to Food & Drink (46 answers total) 70 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a big fan of bitter lemon. Fever Tree is available at specialty grocers.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 7:08 PM on June 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Try iced roasted barley tea. No caffeine, lots of malty flavor, mixes well with just a little sweetness or many other herbal teas and fruits, add coconut milk for non-dairy creaminess. You can pick up a whole bunch of bags at any asian supermarket. I have a big pitcher in my fridge right now.

Guava nectar is delicious and remains delicious even when thinned out to like 50/50 with water (try some sparkling if you're that kind of person) and mixes very harmoniously with savory flavors. It's my favorite juice. Also makes a kickass marinade.
posted by Mizu at 7:08 PM on June 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

Switchel! You can make your own and it's super refreshing (and healthy). I use this recipe. It has ginger but you can adjust to your liking.

The answers to this question have some good ideas too.
posted by leeloo minai at 7:09 PM on June 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

If you like shrubs, have you tried switchel? It's super easy to make at home:

Slice up a piece of ginger about the size of your thumb. (This gives a little kick but not too much heat, in my experience.) Put this in a bottle with 4 tsp apple cider vinegar, 4 tbsp honey or maple syrup, and 4 cups of water. Shake it up and let it chill for 12 hours or so, then strain the ginger out and enjoy.
posted by darchildre at 7:10 PM on June 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

Tepache! Mexican fermented pineapple drink.

I can explain how to do it here, or you can just watch this entertaining and informative video here. Forego the habanero and use less ginger if you want it less spicy, and go easier on the sugar for less resultant calories. It will turn out technically boozy, but only in the region of, like, 0.5%. Delish!
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:14 PM on June 27, 2017

Or just homemade berry sodas. Literally: take some nice organic berries, put them in a jar (e.g. large mason jar) with some nice filtered water, toss in a tiny bit of sugar or honey, stir (or shake) thoroughly, seal, and wait. It will ferment and create natural carbonation, and is also very delicious. I have done it with blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, and they all came out great.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:16 PM on June 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Water kefir made from lemon ginger juice is the best thing on a summer day. I use a specific brand of juice from my local market to make it, but I'll have to get back to you on the name.
posted by Ruki at 7:21 PM on June 27, 2017

Try making iced tea with flavored teas. Tazo has some nice passion and orange teas that you can steep cold. Super yummy!
posted by starlybri at 7:25 PM on June 27, 2017

posted by dilaudid at 7:32 PM on June 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Shrubs are amazing and extremely refreshing.

I'm also very partial to 식혜 (sikhye) on a hot day, although it is pretty sweet.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:37 PM on June 27, 2017

Is decaf cold brew coffee not an option? I make mine at home, super concentrated so it's nice and strong in flavor (but still very low caffeine). I add just a quarter cup of whole milk, so it's just under 50 calories. I like to make it ahead of time and place it in the freezer for 30 min so it gets nice and cold and a bit slushie.
posted by too bad you're not me at 7:51 PM on June 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've been drinking flavored stevia in water with lots of crushed ice this summer. My favorite right now is cinnamon.
posted by BoscosMom at 7:51 PM on June 27, 2017

I drink ridiculous amounts of Hint Water. No caffeine, no calories, just delicious non-artificial fruit flavor. (I'm particularly fond of the pomegranate and blackberry flavors.)
posted by asterix at 7:53 PM on June 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Was also going to say horchata.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 7:55 PM on June 27, 2017

Seconding Hint. Also Dry Soda. The calories vary, but are generally under 100.

I also used to do infused water. Just dump a bunch of chopped up cucumbers or berries in a pitcher of water, chill in the fridge. Strawberries were my favorite until I realized my allergy wasn't as mild as I thought.

Soda water and a dash of bitters is my husband's favorite.
posted by ghost phoneme at 7:59 PM on June 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yay, thanks, everyone, this is great! Can't wait to make my own berry soda with the daunting amount of fruit I seem to be getting from my farm share. turbid dahlia, if you're still reading, what amount of berries do you recommend, approximately?

Extra-special thanks to leeloo minai for the previous question; not sure how I missed it!
posted by ferret branca at 8:25 PM on June 27, 2017

Elderberry syrup, tonic water or club soda, and lots of lime over ice.

Chilled Raspberry Zinger tea with a dash of cinnamon.

They make bitters in lots and lots of flavors now, maybe buy a handful and see what you like. I like cardamom bitters in almond milk.
posted by ananci at 8:25 PM on June 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Monin concentrated flavors with club soda (or analogous). Sugar free, no sweeteners, a variety of flavors.

The zero calorie natural flavors might also work, but they have (non-sugar) sweeteners.
posted by chemicalsyntheticist at 8:26 PM on June 27, 2017

Perhaps try roasted buckwheat tea—also known as soba tea. It's great cold and has a very rich, toasty flavour that's quite unlike a lot of the usual fruity/citrus chilled teas.
posted by stellarc at 8:35 PM on June 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Everyone I know seems to have suddenly started drinking La Croix sparkling water, which I think fits all your requirements.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:42 PM on June 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm obsessed with grapefruit soda - the one I've been getting is literally just soda water with a little grapefruit juice (real!) in it. You can make this at home too. Perfect for hot weather. Add lots of ice.
posted by Toddles at 8:47 PM on June 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Beet kvass is great if you'd like to try a savory drink.
posted by moons in june at 9:14 PM on June 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

what amount of berries do you recommend, approximately?

Any amount, really. I have 2 litre mason jars that I use for all my ferments, which I reckon is half a gallon, to which I add a punnet of whatever berry I am fermenting. Strawberries I lop the top off and slice in half if they are particularly large, but the bluebs and raspbs I leave alone. So let's say a cup of fruit and a tablespoon of honey/sugar per litre of water? Then leave it for about five days, burping the jar daily. Strain off the fruit and rebottle the liquid and stick it the fridge and you're laughing.

Honestly, as long as you have the three key ingredients (fruit, sugar, water) the actual measurements are up to you. I call the sodas I make "memories of berries". Sandor Katz has a much more elegant explanation than I ever will here.

Please note that due to the carbonation you'll be encouraging, there IS potential for explosion, depending on your fermenting and bottling vessels. That's a bit much to get into here but there's plenty of stuff online. Also be careful when you open the finished product as you may end up with a fountain of foam that nicely redistributes 99% of the bottle's contents throughout your kitchen (a mistake I made ONCE)!
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:23 PM on June 27, 2017 [9 favorites]

Oh and you can do other stuff like add whey to help the ferment along, which I have done with success, but it isn't necessary. If you've got good, organic produce it will have more than enough life on its skin to wild ferment.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:25 PM on June 27, 2017

Beet kvass is great if you'd like to try a savory drink.

Oh shit seconded
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:55 PM on June 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I make a very simple, impatient person's berry soda - a spoonful of your favorite berry preserves in a glass of tonic water. Like a shrub but without the acidity.

Variations on lemonade is another option for somewhat healthy cold beverages, as long as you don't add too much sugar. My favorite is strawberry lemonade: macerated strawberries, lemon juice, water. Other berries are also great additions to lemonade. Ginger lemonade is surprisingly good. I don't think it's available outside of Canada, but President's Choice makes a lovely pink ginger sparkling lemonade. Mint lemonade is very refreshing. Here is a recipe for mint ginger lemonade.
posted by photoelectric at 10:11 PM on June 27, 2017

I thought this whole thread would literally be LaCroix so thank you everyone for a thread I'll be favoriting and revisiting many times.
posted by greermahoney at 11:36 PM on June 27, 2017

Starvation Alley, makes an outstanding unsweetened cranberry juice. I cut it with water and sweeten it with maple syrup.

Nothing wrong with homemade lemonade or limeade, either.
posted by dancing_angel at 12:05 AM on June 28, 2017

I live in steamy Hong Kong and all I drink in the summer is cucumber and mint water, which is:

- half a cucumber, sliced
- 1 litre water
- mint to taste

Leave in a pitcher in the fridge to chill. SO GOOD. Do change the produce often though!
posted by mdonley at 12:08 AM on June 28, 2017

Elderflower syrup (homemade if you have British or German friends who can show you the ropes?) in soda water is summer perfection.

But also, yeah, once you start making kombucha you drink a lot of kombucha.
posted by athirstforsalt at 1:03 AM on June 28, 2017

I made it through Texas summers on Goya canned coconut water. There's now a bunch of fancy kinds that cost a ton of money but the plain stuff is still good, and it's delicious and hydrating as fuck.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:57 AM on June 28, 2017

Hey, jamaica/hibiscus tea is really refreshing and you can have it anywhere between unsweetened and as sweet as you like it (I find a very small amount of sugar cuts the tartness and makes it more delicious, maybe 1/4 cup in a pitcher). Just brew and chill! It looks classy in the glass and it's cheap, I get mine in the mexican food section of any grocery store, looks like this.
posted by ftm at 5:28 AM on June 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I like rooibos. No calories and no caffeine; it almost feels like cheating. I drink it hot and unsweetened, but by all means experiment.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:27 AM on June 28, 2017

I'm on a lo carb diet so I restrict my sugar which can make drinks a bit difficult. My fav. drink at the moment is sparkling water with a slug of lemon juice, few drops of artificial sugar (I know, it's not great) and 4 or 5 frozen berries. It's best when the berries have had a few hours to distill in the water but I drink it fresh as well.

When it is margarita time: blenderize: shot of tequila, 2 C of Ice, several slugs of lemon, lime, artificial sugar to taste, and salt. This is also really good with fresh fruit like watermelon, peaches, or strawberries if you don't mind the fruit sugar. It's good as a virgin drink too.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:48 AM on June 28, 2017

One that hasn't been mentioned yet:
Tonic syrup (to taste) in sparkling water
(my current favorite brand isJack Rudy Small Batch Tonic)
posted by dancing leaves at 7:00 AM on June 28, 2017

Seconding La Croix, and I'll add Spindrift. I also sometimes just squeeze half a lemon or lime into unflavored sparkling water like Perrier.
posted by capricorn at 7:24 AM on June 28, 2017

I love GT's Gingerade Kombucha. Really hits the spot for me.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:36 AM on June 28, 2017

Oh, and I just remembered one summer where I lived on little else than lemonade with basil-infused simple syrup. Basil is a relative of mint, and makes a much more subtle and interesting flavor combination with lemon.
posted by dancing leaves at 7:37 AM on June 28, 2017

My wife likes Hint water, too. I usually drink plain club soda but for flavored, fizzy water w a few dashes of bitters in it. Lots of flavors to choose from out there.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:30 AM on June 28, 2017

Thanks so much for the continued great responses! Like greermahoney I am glad the thread is not only La Croix--I like it okay but neglected to specify that I strongly prefer something with a few calories to flavored sparkling water.

dancing leaves, I really recently finished a bottle of Jack Rudy syrup. Perhaps i should order more!
posted by ferret branca at 8:47 AM on June 28, 2017

I love "summer punch," which I make with peach cider, muddled blackberries, fizzy water, and mint. And lots of ice.
posted by zoetrope at 9:08 AM on June 28, 2017

Iced rooibos chai.
posted by Cygnet at 10:58 AM on June 28, 2017

My usual go tos are:
- Still water with ice with a bit of lime or lemon juice (I prefer lime)

- Ditto with a little bit of fruit vinegar (similar effect to shrubs, but less work: there was a great blueberry lavender vinegar I used to get, and it's pretty easy to infuse vinegars on your own.)

- cold-brew herbal (berry-based) tea either straight or half and half with seltzer water. Alternately, fruit-flavored green teas, ditto.

If you want a little more in the way of calories, a little fruit juice or syrup that matches the tea works really well, or for some blends you could do a little cream. I generally don't use sweetener, but that's also an option.

On my list to try out this summer are herb syrups (besides the basil and mint mentioned, lavender syrup with lemon or thyme syrup have both been tasty when I've had them and a little goes a long way)
posted by modernhypatia at 10:59 AM on June 28, 2017

Lime Rickey
posted by freem at 8:28 AM on June 29, 2017

In addition to beet kvas, there's also bread kvas. Technically there is a little alcohol, but typically no more than 1%.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:00 AM on June 30, 2017

You're all the best answer! Thank you all so much.
posted by ferret branca at 4:08 PM on July 29, 2017

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