One of my favorite hot weather rituals is to whiz up an intense, fruity drink in the blender -- virtually capturing the flavor of the season in a tall, icy glass.

Seasoned with generous sprigs of fresh mint (peppermint, spearmint, apple mint and pineapple mint among them), these fruit coolers recharge the body and regenerate the spirit with their fragrance and taste.

In my kitchen, a cooler -- also known to others as a frappe' or froth -- is the generic term for a drink that is made of fruit (finely pure'ed in a blender), liquid (in the form of fruit juice or nectar), sweetener (such as honey or superfine sugar or fruit syrup) and ice cubes.

A slug of rum or fruit brandy, although not essential, turns an otherwise genteel beverage into a delicious tropical-tasting drink, welcome on many occasions. But the alcohol is always added in amounts that would not upstage the clean and vibrant taste of the fruit.

These fruit drinks obtain their light and frothy textures from the high-speed action of a blender, which should be sturdy and capacious; the Waring Commercial Bar Blendor has proved the most efficient of all such machines I have used. With one switch ("off" and "on"), it operates on high speed, and will serve all purposes from mixing, to blending, to liquefying, depending on how long you run the motor.

One Bar Blendor model has a plastic container with a handle; the other model comes with a ribbed glass container and glass handle (locally, Williams-Sonoma carries both blenders). Of the two, the glass is preferable, since it can not absorb or transfer various food smells from one blender job to the next. In a glass container, for example, you could make up a batch of cold, garlicky tomato soup, rinse and dry the container, and then blend a pineapple-coconut frappe' without the fear that the flavors would exchange.

The method for spinning fruit, juice and flavorings is basically effortless and involves two quick steps.

1) Into the container of your blender go cut-up ripe fruit, some sort of liquid or juice, a sweetener and any spices that may be called for in a particular recipe. The container is covered and the contents are quickly pure'ed on high speed. (If your blender has more than one speed, just use the highest speed possible; low or medium speed seems to spoil the texture of the drink and changes the composition of the fruit.)

2) A quantity of ice cubes is added to the fruit, the container is covered again, and the cubes are blended into the fruit mixture to break down the ice into liquid froth. Once all of the ingredients are assembled, the drinks may be made in under five minutes.

Once whizzed up, fruit drinks should be poured into tall ice-filled glasses or balloon-shaped goblets and consumed straight away. Coolers may be enhanced by floating fresh mint leaves on top of the drinks or by tucking several thin branches to one side of the glass.

You may also combine flavoring such as mint or little pieces of fruit in pre-frozen ice cubes. To make up a batch of flavored ice cubes, you'll need ice cube trays that house small individual balls, stars or disks that allow the frozen cube to pop in one piece. These are available in thick rubber or plastic in most hardware stores.

To spruce up ice cubes with mint, finely chop a large bunch of mint leaves in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel knife and mix with a few tablespoons of cold water. With a teaspoon, fill the individual cavities of the ice cube trays one-third full of the mint mixture. Carefully fill up the rest of all the spaces with water. Freeze until solid, then keep the cubes in a plastic bag; mint flavored ice may be made up to three days in advance. (If you're not using a food processor, just chop up the mint by hand, transfer to a bowl, and stir in several tablespoons of water.)

To decorate cubes with fruit, choose small, whole berries and spread them out on a sheet of paper toweling. Fill up the cavities of the ice cube trays halfway with water. Place the trays in the freezer for 10 minutes, then drop a berry in each cube space. Fill with cold water to the top, then freeze the cubes until hard. Remove the frozen cubes to a plastic bag, tie, and store in the freezer for up to 2 days. Raspberries, black raspberries, and blueberries are particularly successful when frozen into small cubes.

When serving fruit drinks with minted or berried cubes, make up several batches of plain ice cubes in the same trays as you made the other cubes. When adding ice cubes to glasses, add several flavored cubes and fill up the space with the unadorned cubes.

Following are the recipes that turn an array of fruit into tempting drinks:

CANTALOUPE-LEMON COOLER (Makes 4 drinks)

The blender transforms cantaloupe, superfine sugar and orange juice into a rich and mellow drink, one that tastes just as good sipped slowly on the back porch as it does downed after any kind of exercise or workout.

1 cup very ripe cantaloupe balls, well chilled

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 tablespoons superfine sugar, preferably Lemon-scented Superfine Sugar (recipe follows)

1 cup orange juice

1 cup ice cubes

15 fresh mint leaves plus extra mint leaves for garnishing the drinks (optional)

Place the cantaloupe balls, lemon juice, sugar and orange juice in the container of a blender. Cover and spin at high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the cantaloupe is pure'ed.

Add the ice cubes and mint; blend on high speed for 1 minute or longer until the ice is suspended in the liquid and the mixture is very frothy.

Pour the cooler into tall glasses filled with ice cubes and serve at once, garnished with sprigs of fresh mint, if you like.

LEMON-SCENTED SUPERFINE SUGAR (Makes 2 cups)

Superfine sugar absorbs flavorings quite well, especially when they are in the form of fruit peel; orange, lime or tangerine peel may replace the lemon peel, depending on the intended use of the sugar. Flavored sugars are welcome in summer fruit drinks as they lend a special vibrancy.

2 cups superfine sugar

6 3-inch lengths lemon peel

Pour the sugar into a container, preferably a glass jar. Bury the peel in the jar, cover and let the sugar stand at cool room temperature for at least 1 day before using. After 3 or 4 days, remove the peel and discard. The sugar stores indefinitely.

APRICOT-LIME COOLER (Makes 4 drinks)

This cooler is not so much a thrist-quencher as it is a drink that one can linger over and savor, perhaps with an accompanying plate of thin butter cookies. For an alcoholic version of this refresher, use 2/3 cup orange juice and replace the remaining 1/3 cup of juice with apricot brandy.

6 small fresh apricots, peeled, pitted and cut into rough cubes

3 tablespoons superfine sugar

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

3 tablespoons bottled apricot syrup

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 cup ice cubes

Fresh mint sprigs for garnishing the drinks (optional)

Place the apricot cubes, sugar, lime juice, apricot syrup and orange juice in the container of a blender. Cover and spin on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes or until the apricot flesh is broken down completely.

Add the ice cubes and continue blending on high speed for about 1 minute longer or until the ice is broken down into slush.

Pour the cooler into glasses filled with ice and serve at once, garnished with the mint sprigs, if you like.

SPICED NECTARINE COOLER (Makes 4 drinks)

For this drink, choose sweet-smelling nectarines; the flesh should be bursting with juice for the full flavor to come forth. The enriching cream of coconut balances out the fruity tang of the nectarines.

4 small, ripe nectarines, peeled, pitted, cut into small chunks and tossed in 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons superfine sugar, preferably Lemon-Scented Superfine Sugar (recipe above) , blended with 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 cup tinned cream of coconut

1 cup unsweetened white grape juice

1 cup ice cubes

Place the nectarines, sugar-spice blend, cream of coconut and grape juice in the container of a blender. Cover and spin the mixture on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the fruit is completely pure'ed.

Add the ice cubes to the fruit mixtures, cover the container and blend again on high speed for 1 minute or until the ice is blended in thoroughly.

Pour the cooler into ice-filled glasses and serve at once.

STRAWBERRY-ORANGE FROTH (Makes 4 drinks)

This fruit drink is a glorious orange-red color and it looks beautiful when served in stemmed goblets topped off by a whole strawberry. The addition of orange-flavored liqueur uplifts and intensifies the taste of the froth. Without the liqueur, this is a good mid- or late-afternoon drink, accompanied by thin slices of pound cake.

1 cup whole ripe strawberries, hulled and quartered

1 3/4 cups freshly squeezed orange juice

1 cup ice cubes

1/3 cup (or more to taste) orange-flavored liqueur, such as triple sec, cointreau or grand marnier, well chilled (optional)

Whole strawberries for garnishing the drinks (optional)

Place the strawberries and orange juice in the container of a blender. Cover and spin on high speed until the berries are finely pure'ed, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the ice cubes, cover and blend on high speed until the entire mixture is frothy, about 1 minute longer. Add the liqueur, if you are using it, cover the container and blend for 15 seconds longer.

Pour the froth into ice-filled glasses, garnish each with a whole strawberry if you like and serve at once. PAPAYA-APRICOT FRAPPE (Makes 4 drinks)

In this drink, juicy chunks of papaya are blended with apricot juice to create a restorative beverage. Tuck a healthy sprig of mint on one side of each frappe', or plunge the mint sprig down into the frappe'.

1 small ripe papaya, peeled, halved, seeded and cut into small chunks

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/2 cup pure unsweetened apricot juice

3 tablespoons honey

1/3 cup fresh mint leaves plus extra for garnishing

1 cup ice cubes

Place the papaya pieces, orange juice, apricot juice and honey in the container of a blender. Cover and process at high speed until the papaya is finely pure'ed. Add the mint leaves and ice cubes, cover the container and continue to blend on high speed until the ice is completely broken down into a light froth, about 1 minute.

Pour the frappe' in ice-filled glasses and serve at once, garnished with mint sprigs if you like. PEACH FRAPPE (Makes 4 drinks)

The intense and concentrated flavor of peach nectar in combination with fresh peaches makes this a delicious beverage. The club soda (as well as the ice cubes) lightens the frappe' considerably.

3 large ripe peaches, peeled, halved, pitted, sliced and tossed in 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup peach nectar

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

3 tablespoons honey

3/4 cup ice cubes

1/3 cup club soda

1/3 cup (or more to taste) peach brandy, well chilled (optional)

Mint sprigs for garnishing the drinks (optional)

Place the peaches, peach nectar, orange juice and honey in the container of a blender. Cover and blend on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the peaches are finely pure'ed.

Add the ice cubes and club soda to the peach mixture, cover the container and blend on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until this is completely broken down. Add the brandy, if you are using it, cover the container and blend on high speed for 15 seconds longer.

Pour the frappe' into ice-filled glasses and serve at once, garnishing the drinks with fresh mint sprigs, if you like. PINEAPPLE-COCONUT COOLER (Makes 4 drinks)

This cooler has fine flecks of pineapple suspended in a light and creamy drink -- lovely with or without the rum. Toasted coconut shreds may cap off each tall drink.

1 cup cubed fresh ripe pineapple

1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice

1/2 cup tinned sweetened cream of coconut or bottled coconut syrup

1/3 cup light rum or more to taste (optional), well chilled

1 cup ice cubes

Toasted sweetened, shredded coconut for garnishing each drink (optional)

Place the pineapple cubes, pineapple juice, cream of coconut and rum (if you are using it) in the container of a blender. Cover and blend on high speed for 1 minute, or until the pineapple is broken down into a light pure'e. Add the ice, cover and blend for 1 minute longer, or until the mixture is light and frothy, and the ice has been crushed completely.

Pour the cooler into ice-filled glasses, sprinkle the tops with the toasted coconut if you like and serve at once.