THIRST COMES with Summer." wrote Horace. In an attempt to conquer the debilitating Italian heat and humidity, he offered his friend Virgil a "choice wine of Cales...that nectar rare which brightens hope and drowns dull care."
It sounds like the perfect balm for our sultry Washington summers. Unfortunately, whatever the Roman bard was pouring, history failed to take note. We must search elsewhere for summer relief.
A galaxy of choices exists, with wine-based coolers always among the favorites.
Two of the most popular are foreign imports: kir, or vin blanc cassis, the French concoction, and from Spain, sangria.
Long popular in Iberia, sangria recipes are limited only by the imagination, as long as all of them share the basic combination of red wine and fruit. Experimentation, mixing to taste, is your best guide.
Kir owes its popular name to the late Canon Felix Kir, once mayor of Dijon and a hero in the Resistance. A great believer in life's good things, he particularly enjoyed vin blanc cassis, that cheery combination of creme de cassis and dry white aligote wine. It became popular in the cafes of Dijon in the mid-1940s as the Burgundians tried to use up rapidly aging white wines that had not been shipped during the war years. For a time, they gave kir as a complementary aperitif. They no longer do so.
Many black currant-flavored creme de cassis are produced, including several from around Dijon (two I've liked are L'Heritier-Guyot and Leejay-Lagoute).
None of these is cheap ( $8 to $10 a bottle) but since you'll only be adding a tablespoonful, possibly less, a bottle will last for around 45 to 50 helpings.
Any dry white wine can be used but a simple aligote or macon blanc, possibly a lesser California chardonnay, works exceptionally well. The idea is to avoid a wine that is too delicate and get one with a touch of toughness to it.
The mixing is simple: Pour the wine over ice cubes in an 8- or 10-ounced wine glass, add the cassis and stir.
The same kir formula can be applied using a base of champagne. Portuguese, vinho verde or dry vermouth and club soda. (Cassis also works wonders when spooned over vanilla ice cream.)
Lighter meals, garden-fresh tastes and out-of-doors entertaining seem to cry out for fruit-based aperitifs or wine coolers, so it's not surprising that recipes for them abound.
I've included two that we've used at our house, plus a sangria mix and a tasty summer dessert combination of fruit and port.
(40 to 45 large servings)
1 quart freshly brewed tea
1 can (6-ounces) frozen orange juice
2 1/2 bottles inexpensive Mosel wine
1 can (6 ounces) frozen lemonade
1 jar (16 ounces) cranapple juice
Brew the tea and let it cool to room temperature. Separately, prepare the lemonade and orange juice according to label instructions. When the tea has cooled, combine all the ingredients in one container.
We serve the cooler over ice cubes in 10-ounce wine glasses; it could be placed in a punch bowl over a block of ice and served in punch cups.
(About 20 servings)
3 cups orange juice
1/4 to 1/2 cup simple syrup
1 bottle (12 ounces) ginger ale
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 bottles inexpensive red Bordeaux or California cabernet sauvignon
In a large bowl combine all the ingredients, adding the simple syrup to taste. (What we call simple syrup, sugar syrup really, we make by combining 2 cups of water with 1 cup sugar, bringing the mixture to a boil while stirring and brushing the sugar crystals off the side of the pan with a brush dipped in cold water. When all the sugar is dissolved, stop stirring and cook the mixture for about 15 minutes. Let it cool. Makes about 2 1/2 cups which will easily keep in a sealed jar.)
Add a block of ice to the bowl and pour in a 12-ounce bottle of ginger ale.
(20 to 25 servings)
4 bottles red wine (an inexpensive Portuguese Daos)
About 1 cup confectioners' sugar
Cut the lemon and oranges into thin slices after washing them thoroughly. Put them into a large glass pitcher or bowl, add the cloves and sugar and then the wine. Place in a cool spot (not the refrigerator) for 12 to 14 hours. Stir an hour or two before serving, then again just before pouring. Serve with ice cubes.
FRUIT IN PORT DESSERT
2 pounds slightly under-ripe peaches or nectarines
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup ruby port (an inexpensive Portuguese ruby or American port)
1 large cantaloupe
1 cup blueberries
Remove skins from peaches or nectarines - this may require dipping them briefly in boiling water to loosen the skins. Slice and place them in a saucepan, add the sugar and wine, cover the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the fruit becomes tender. Get as many scoops as possible from the cantaloupe and add to the hot mixture. Gently stir in the blueberries, cool, then chill. Top with a tablespoon or so of sour cream before serving. CAPTION: Illustration, no caption, Copyright (c) 1979, Good Housekeeping