Water water everywhere but way too boring to drink (all the time)
April 2, 2008 12:48 AM   Subscribe

As summer approaches, how about some nice suggestions for alternatives for cola/sodas? I want to save money, bottles, and empty calories.

Here are the rules:
  • Caffeine free
  • Lower in Calories than sodas
  • Something relatively easy/fast to make or procure
Healthy, natural, and cheap is best but for excellent flavor I'm willing to be a bit more flexible. But no matter what, it has to be refreshing. Also, I'm mostly looking for recipes but if there's something inexpensive that I can purchase that stands on its own that works too.

I realize that "Ice tea" is going to be a popular answer and of course I will be making some of that. But details would be great. For example, is it possible to recreate a cola-ish flavor by mixing different herbal teas together?
posted by Deathalicious to Food & Drink (40 answers total) 113 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Yes, indeed it is. Most cola flavour is provided by artificial cinammon and vanilla flavours, with notes of citrus. Mix three or four parts cinnamon tea to one part vanilla tea, and add a couple of orange peels, minus the pith (and a lemon peel if you like). If you have some essential oils, so much the better: orange oil, lemon oil and neroli oil are all good.

Won't taste like commercial cola, but it provides a kind of cola flavour.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 12:54 AM on April 2, 2008 [7 favorites]

Make frappuccinos, or similar. Blender + ice + drink. Milk + Milo or Quik works well. Cordial and water works. Tang or Gatorade powder or similar stuff works too.

(This also works great with coffee and sugar instead of Milo, but you did say not caffeinated.)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:55 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The fastest and best lemonade you can make (my wife's family does this all the time).

1. Fill blender with water.
2. Add one or two limes, whole.
3. Add some sugar.
4. Blend.

Serve over ice. I like to top it with a little bit of bubbly mineral water.
posted by Dr. Curare at 1:11 AM on April 2, 2008 [11 favorites]

1 part fruit nectar + 1 part sparkling water. Mango, peach, and guava are especially good.
posted by arianell at 1:13 AM on April 2, 2008

Have you tried elderflower cordial? You can probably get it in your friendly local British ethnic food shop or website. It's fruity and refreshing.
posted by randomination at 2:06 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: in college i saw a friend add a cucumber slice to her ice water. we laughed at her. she made us try it. it was very, very refreshing. sort of like sipping a salad, but in a good way. i imagine the same can be achieved with adding slices of watermelon, strawberries, peaches, oranges, etc.

alternatively, the answer will require a magic bullet which will become your best friend. i adore mine.
posted by prophetsearcher at 3:08 AM on April 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

Fruit juice + carbonated water = delicious & healthy. Works with still water, as well, if you don't have to have the carbonation.
posted by syzygy at 4:28 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: How about: Water. From the tap. It totally achieves everything you desire. With a little imagination, of course.
posted by strawberryviagra at 4:56 AM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: it has to be refreshing

Have you had pineapple juice with mint yet? This is a Brazilian summer staple.
posted by whatzit at 6:01 AM on April 2, 2008 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Do PA-ers know of southern sweet tea? Make it decaffeinated and use some sucralose and it's almost good as the original. I'll show you the basics and then tell you my specific choices.

- Bring to boil a pitcher's-worth of water in a bowl or kettle.
- Add sweetener and stir.
- Add* black+pekoe tea mixture.
- Remove from heat and let cool for 30 or 45* minutes.
- Remove tea.
- Refrigerate or pour over ice.
- Quaff like mad.

* Amount of tea and time of steeping vary the strength of the tea. The first thing you taste should be the coolness of water, and the bitterness and sweetness should balance perfectly and neither be strong or weak.

For me here in Orlando, Florida, that's
- 1.5 quarts tap water
- Luzianne tea, 1 family size bag.
- Spenda sugar/sucralose blend, 1/6 cup.
- 30 minutes.
posted by cmiller at 6:11 AM on April 2, 2008

I like putting a squirt of lime or lemon juice in my water. It's fast, easy and makes water less boring.
posted by KathyK at 6:12 AM on April 2, 2008

You mentioned tea but what about sun tea? Buy a clear jug, throw the bags in, put the jug outside where the sun will hit it, and let the sun do the work for you. It really does taste better than brewed tea. (if your adding sweeteners do not add until you are done sun brewing - the ants will come).
posted by doorsfan at 6:14 AM on April 2, 2008

Crystal Light, or the off brand version works just as well for roughly half the price. You can get the tubs or whatever the little containers are called, and make a pitcher, or you could get the little packets that you add to a .5 liter bottle of water for some sweet on the go action. Pretty delicious, and I think it's like 5 calories/serving. Many fruity delicious flavors.
posted by whiskey point at 6:22 AM on April 2, 2008

The fastest and best lemonade you can make (my wife's family does this all the time).

1. Fill blender with water.
2. Add one or two limes, whole.
3. Add some sugar.
4. Blend.

Serve over ice. I like to top it with a little bit of bubbly mineral water.

posted by Dr. Curare

Wouldn't that be lime-ade? Or did you mean lemons?
posted by Grither at 6:37 AM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: I like brewing a huge pot of jasmine tea, only using apple juice instead of water. Chill in the fridge, garnish with fresh mint. Compulsively drinkable.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 6:45 AM on April 2, 2008 [8 favorites]

Try some Genmaicha, green tea with roasted brown rice. Lower in Caffeine, "A very common beverage in Japan, manufactured by most tea producing regions. Genmaicha can be drunk late into the evening without disturbing sleep." and good hot or cold. I think it's tasty without any sweetener at all. I find YamaMotoYama brand tea bags in the Asian isle at the grocery store, and better loose leaf at tea shops.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:13 AM on April 2, 2008

Similar previous question.
posted by bricoleur at 7:28 AM on April 2, 2008

If you're still stuck on the bottle, there are a number of "grown up" soda-esque beverages making headway into the market. Izze, Gus, Steaz, Fizzy Lizzy all come to mind. They tend to be carbonated fruit juice, not nearly as sweet. You might enjoy them.
posted by GilloD at 7:41 AM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: Club soda (or sparkling water) + a splash of unsweetened cranberry juice (check the ingredients to confirm) + a dash of bitters. Over ice or not. I think this is delicious. And unsweetened juice is pricey but if you are only using a splash of it each time, it is quite cost effective.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 7:46 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Clothilde at Chocolate & Zucchini has a recipe for mint lemonade that sounds incredibly refreshing.

I love the Barefoot Contessa Herbal Iced Tea:
- 4 Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger tea bags
- 4 Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger tea bags
- 4 cups pure apple juice

Steep the 8 tea bags in 4 cups of boiling water for about 10 minutes. Discard the tea bags. Combine the tea with the apple juice and refrigerate until cold. Serve over ice.
posted by kitkatcathy at 8:09 AM on April 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

A friend of mine has one of these and loves it. Just for the seltzer, they don't use the gross flavors.

To the "duh, tap water" snobs- my tap water tastes foul and makes me poop unpleasantly. I don't know what causes it, but I don't like drinking chlorine and/or cloramine regardless- if I can't put it in my fish tank, I'm not putting it in me.

I have a Brita pitcher for the fridge and a built in reverse osmosis filter for cooking and coffee. Nothing more refreshing than cool, clean water.
posted by gjc at 8:19 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Barley water. Popular at Wimbledon.
posted by A Long and Troublesome Lameness at 8:19 AM on April 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Delicious Italian sodas, made with club soda and syrups like Torani - they have lots of different regular and sugar-free flavours. You can usually buy bottles of the syrups in coffee shops.
posted by pised at 8:37 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

My fave is a splash of grapefruit juice, a splash of cranberry juice cocktail, and then fill the glass with sparkling water or club soda. I also drink a ton of iced coffee in the summer. I just make a big pot of coffee in the morning, turn it off after I drink my first cup, and then once it's cold I pour it over ice and add milk.
posted by craichead at 8:49 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seltzer (i.e., carbonated water). I switched to it a couple of years ago. No sugar, no artificial sweeteners, no aftertaste, no caffeine, but plenty of fizzy goodness. I buy it in two liter bottles for about a dollar.
posted by neuron at 9:33 AM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: If you can find them, there's very little more refreshing than a slice of a seville orange in a glass of ice water. If you let it sit for a bit, it gets a little thick from the pectin (seville oranges are commonly used to make marmalade).
posted by Caviar at 9:45 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Make extremely strong teas (I like mint, chamomile and "I Love Lemon") and put it in separate little squeezebottles which you leave in your fridge. Also make simple syrup and put it in a squeezebottle. Make drinks to your taste using combinations of the teas, the simple syrup, ice and seltzer from your new soda siphon.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:50 AM on April 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Club soda lemon flavor!
posted by chickaboo at 12:46 PM on April 2, 2008

Just plain club soda. I've come to really enjoy it.

One thing I like about pop (soda) in the summer is the carbonation. I drink a lot of different types iced tea and fresh juices and iced smoothies, but sometimes I just want the bubbly stuff. Club Soda is perfect, all on its own.
posted by sandraregina at 12:59 PM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: Mugicha! Mugicha is a Japanese barley tea served iced in the summer. You can find big tea bags suitable for slow brewing one pitcher at a time.

Weirdly, Amazon seems to have it but you can probably find it at a local Asian supermarket.
posted by chairface at 1:46 PM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: Island Rose teas makes a variety that's designed to taste like cola, and does the job quite well. Additionally, their lemon tea is the best I've ever tasted. Either would make excellent iced tea.

Actually, all of their tea is pretty rad. The rum vanilla is almost alarmingly rum-like.
posted by dizziest at 1:56 PM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

la croix ftw
posted by ncc1701d at 2:18 PM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: Have you ever tried mauby? It's kinda like root beer, but with its own special bitterness. You may not care for it at first -- it's a flavor-profile that's uncommon in the states -- but it'll grow on you. You can find concentrate, or just the soldierwood bark itself, at your local Caribbean grocery. I'd recommend making from scratch rather than concentrate, not only to give you more control over how much sugar goes into it, but because it's so much better that way. Bonus: studies suggest it can lower your blood pressure [pdf].
posted by mumkin at 2:22 PM on April 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

My emergency mixes for this summer were cranberry juice or guava juice mixed 50/50 with a cheap sparkling mineral water and plenty ofice. Choose a mineral water with low salt/sodium content. I find cranberry to be tart and refreshing and it's very good for you.
posted by ninazer0 at 3:48 PM on April 2, 2008

the single most refreshing drink I've ever had is sugarcane juice with some lime in it. Oh my god, absolutely to die for, especially on a hot summer afternoon.

However, I dont think anyone has bottled it (its widely available via street vendors in almost any asian country, and I believe in south america too), plus because of the shockingly high sugar content, prolly should not be an everyday drink.

As a cola substitute at home, iced green tea works very well in the summer. Just add a tiny bit of sugar. Kind of like a snapple but you can control the sugar intake.
posted by jak68 at 8:53 PM on April 2, 2008

(tho truth be told i'm drinking plain filtered water more and more these days, I kind of 'rediscovered' it). Its quite tasty actually; just put it thru a brita.

Maybe the way to psychologically get ourselves to just drink water is to print up some 'branding' stickers for your drinking glasses ("Joe's WATER! Now with Zero Calories! --Same great taste!), and put 90 cents in a jar every time you draw a glass.

That way at the end of the month you'd also have a ton of change you can deposit at your bank, or splurge on a treat at amazon each month. You should have about 60 bucks each month to do that with ;) Buy whatever you want, no rules.
posted by jak68 at 9:00 PM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: Any mint teas are always good and refreshing, and peppermint is a good place to start. The cheapest stuff never seems to taste right to me, but the middle priced ones that don't have other additives are yummy. I find they don't need sweetening, especially when cold. I make a large pot, let it steep, let it cool, and then pour it into bottles and toss them in the freezer. The effort ahead of time definitely makes things quick and easy later on.

I like the same thing with certain flavours from the "London Fruit & Herb Teas" line of bagged teas. Also reasonably quick and convenient.

Many fruits go really well in water. You may find that you want to boil the water before-hand, like you would with tea, especially depending on the taste of water in your area. Today I put a strawberry and some lime in my water; always yummy. I find this trick also works for mushy berries and other "fruit salad quality" fruit, the kind that you don't need to throw away but want to disguise in some way.

(If you mean caffeine free as in very low caffeine as opposed to exactly zero caffeine:) I like Genmaicha as well, and it is good both hot and cold. The toasted rice gives it a lovely nutty flavour. I buy it in loose leaf form, which in this case I find very much worth the slight inconvenience. I've very recently started to toast more rice on my own, and then mix that in, and I think that when I run out I'll just buy some green tea (matcha) instead and mix it with toasted rice at home. It's also easier to buy decaffeinated green tea on its own; with genmaicha I'm forced to do the "steep for a minute, discard water, steep again" trick of removing a significant portion of the caffeine (on the other hand, then I get no decaffeinating chemicals). It won't ever be zero caffeine though, unless you go for just the rice (which is surprisingly good, but not a first choice.)
posted by sourlime at 9:13 PM on April 2, 2008

Response by poster: Great suggestions everyone!

Dr. Curare: that sounds a lot like "Lemon Juice" as served in Egypt.

doorsfan: I've heard that there are some health concerns regarding sun tea. It's very important for the jug to be very clean, or else there is apparently a risk of bacterial infection.

These all sound fantastic! I myself can have caffeine; my girlfriend cannot, so I might try some of the lower caffeine options.

I have had sugarcane juice and it is delicious, but there's no question in my mind that it's waay too much sugar for this purpose. The goal is to have something refreshing and tasty with as few calories as possible.

Thanks again guys!
posted by Deathalicious at 9:49 PM on April 2, 2008

1-2 oz. pomegranate juice + 1 can seltzer. enjoy.
posted by soy_renfield at 10:53 PM on April 2, 2008

I feel your pain. Water can be a little dull, and if you don't like it you probably won't drink as much as you should. I normally think green tea tastes like boiled socks, but iced green tea with a little honey and lemon is a great, light water alternative. I make jugs of it all summer just using cheap, bagged tea (Lipton or the ilk), and it can be made as sun tea too.

Plus, antioxidants are good for you, local honey fights allergies & boosts your immune system, and you'll get some new age yuppie street cred.

Most green teas do have a very small amount of caffeine, though.

Alternately, adding a little honey and lemon to plain water is pretty tasty, and a good way to replenish a few electrolytes after a workout (or an afternoon of drinking beer in the sun).
posted by Prevailing Southwest at 10:27 AM on April 3, 2008

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