When I need a little mid afternoon refresher on a hot summer day, I turn to these Strawberry Coolers, flavored with a hint of lemon and vanilla.
Here in Ohio we had a beautiful, albeit scorchingly hot, weekend. I’m not used to temperatures hitting the mid-90s before July, and even in my breezy skirt and tank top, I was sweating enough to make me wonder why no one has invented full body deodorant yet. On stifling hot days, my appetite tends to dwindle. I still remember attending the Jazz and Ribs Fest here in Columbus several years ago. It was unbearably hot–the kind of wind-still, 80% humidity, 90 degree day which makes standing feel like an impossible amount of physical exertion. We had gone to the fest to stuff our faces with ribs (obviously), but the thought of tearing into some saucy meat in that weather sounded truly horrendous. I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit we got the ribs, headed straight to our car, then ate them at home in the comfort of our air conditioning. Best decision ever.
On days like that, I turn to refreshing beverages to quench my thirst and cool me down. This Strawberry Vanilla Cooler hits that sweet spot between smoothie and fruit infused water. It’s not as thick as a smoothie, which makes it perfect for sipping (or gulping) on a hot summer day, but it has a little more substance and flavor than an agua fresca or fruit water.
I like to keep my drinks simple, with nothing more than fresh, in season fruit and a few flavor enhancers. For this version, I macerated some strawberries with a little sugar, water, lemon juice, and vanilla. Nielsen Massey’s Vanilla Bean Paste is my secret weapon for quickly adding flavor and complexity to a recipe. It has all the rich flavor of vanilla beans, without the hassle of scraping out a pod. The lemon juice and vanilla brighten up the strawberries without overwhelming their delicate flavor. It adds just enough nuance to make people wonder what your secret is.
After the strawberries are macerated, I blend everything together and add a little bit of coconut milk for creaminess. You can always add more if you want something a little thicker, or omit it all together to keep things ultra light and refreshing. I serve this drink over ice, with a pretty straw for sipping. Drinking this on a patio with your feet propped up is totally optional, but encouraged.
- 1 quart strawberries, hulled and halved
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Juice of 1/2 a small lemon (or about 1 teaspoon juice)
- 1 teaspoon Nielsen Massey Pure Vanilla Bean Paste
- 1 cup water
- 1/2-1 cup coconut milk (from a can)
- Mint, for garnish
In a medium bowl, combine the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla bean paste. Use a pastry blender or potato masher to mash the strawberries up a bit with the other ingredients. Stir in the water. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 15 minutes or up to an hour.
Pour the strawberry mixture into a blender and blend on high until completely liquid. Add the coconut milk and blend again--you can add more if you'd like it creamier.
Serve the drink over ice with sprigs of fresh mint for garnish. If you'd like to make this ahead of time, store in the fridge and blend well before serving.