My list of memorable drinks runs from coffee in a Bedouin tent to pineapple crush under Polynesian palms. While most were genuine thirst quenchers, others were significant for the occasion. Or the surroundings.
I recall a tangy limoonada (fresh lime-juice and 7 Up) in Persepolis after following my guide – an energetic man named Mr. V. Piroozi – up stairways lined with Achaemenian bas-reliefs, under soaring arches into vast audience rooms and along columned halls. Finally I had leant against a huge winged bull – one of the guardians of Persepolis – and declared I was parched.
Loosening his tie, Mr. V. Piroozi agreed it was time for a drink and muttering that it was fortunate it wasn’t Ramazan, he drove at speed to my hotel where I slumped in a chair and listened to ice tinkling in the glass. As the outside temperature passed 45c, Mr. V. Piroozi and I ordered a second, then a third limoonada. Until the hotel finally ran out of limes.
On another warm, if emotional occasion, I discovered horchata while waiting for a train in Spain. A refreshing drink based on almonds, it raised my spirits after my idol - a matador of some repute- announced plans to marry his childhood sweetheart. Devastated, I headed for the station, and to this day I still associate horchata with memories of the bullfight and the hiss of steam, as slowly, interminably or so it seemed at the time, we pulled out of Valencia.
A third memorable drink was on the lush Pacific island of Moorea. I was cycling around the island when my companion – a young Tahitian – had pulled off the road and shinned up a palm. Knocking off a coconut, he slid down again and chopped off the top with his machete and cupping in my hands, I let the sweet fluid flow over my face and into my mouth before diving into the blue lagoon to wash it off.
The interesting aspect about all these drinks is that none of them contained alcohol and leafing through my notes, I see that others are also alcohol-free.
Today even supermarkets stock tropical fruits so why not try mixing your own? All you need is a juice extractor or a blender, and with a little experimentation you can create wonderful beverages for warm summer days. Here is a starter to your own inventions:
1/2 kilo (1 pound) almonds
500grm (½ pound) sugar (or cup of cane syrup)
1 ½ litres water (warm)
Dash almond essence
Slice almonds and crush in a coffee grinder. Add to a food processor with other ingredients and work until smooth. Strain through a muslin cloth. Chill well and serve in glasses garnished with a cinnamon stick and a rose petal.