Something cold . . . really cold . . . to drink remains a prime prerequisite for beating the hot weather blahs on a typical summer day. No matter that experts say you're probably better off to drink unchilled or even hot beverages if you're trying to cool off. And no matter that opening and closing the refrigerator door a thousand and one times a day keeps it operating at a maximum (and more expensive) high. If you're hot and thirsty, nothing refreshes you mentally and emotionally as a cold, cold, cold drink.
During the many years I lived in Hawaii, a day at the beach meant beating a sandy track back and forth to the nearest "shave ice" cart. (No, that's not a typographical error. Although this ubiquitous chiller is indeed made from shaved ice, it is known universally throughout the Islands without the "d.")
Shave ice is probably the simplest of all slush-type spoonable drinks. It is nothing more than finely shaved ice heaped in a paper cup with a fruit syrup poured over it for flavor. In Hawaii, the syrups tend to be almost sticky-sweet tropical flavors that, as the ice melts down (which it does very quickly), are diluted into a refreshing, thirst-quenching drink.
Occasionally, one finds shave ice carts here during the summer, but they certainly are not as prevalent as in Hawaii. Here slushes seem to be among the favorite icy refreshers to lift one's spirits on a hot day. And no one can deny that a slush won't be welcomed at home around the pool, at the beach or wherever one is trying to lower one's internal temperature.
Some slushes, which are made with finely crushed ice in place of the shaved variety found in shave ices, are actually quite sophisticated in their composition. According to The Times' Test Kitchen director, Minnie Bernardino, who was born and reared in the Philippines, one type of slush that is popular there combines sweetened, cooked fresh fruits and/or beans such as the Oriental red azuki beans, crushed ice and ice cream. The fruit is placed in the bottom of the glass and then is topped with the crushed ice, which, in turn, is topped with a sizable scoop of ice cream. Served with a spoon, it is drunk and eaten as one does a good old-fashioned American ice cream soda. The fruits used and the ice cream chosen are a matter of taste. We tried it with tropical mangoes and chose coconut and mango ice cream to complement them. The combination was an instant hit with taste-testers.
Other staff contributions to our collection of slushes came from food writer Dan Puzo, who admits that his decidedly adult version of a slush came about when he ran out of the proper ingredients for a traditional Margarita when he had guests one time. His blueberry slush was decreed a winner by our tasters, who liked both the deep purple color and the compatible flavors of the fresh blueberries and the raspberry ice he used. Another slush he created combined fresh olallieberries with raspberry ice and replaced the vodka called for in the blueberry slush with tequila.
Slushes really are best when they reflect their name. One should be able to stir them together, forming an amalgamation of ingredients and flavors. Both spoons and straws should be offered with them, as well as plenty of napkins, and you had better be ready to serve them quickly once they are properly assembled--particularly on a steamy day.
Just to show how versatile these summer chillers can be, we've collected a varied group of recipes that fall into the slush category of warm weather drinks. Some contain alcohol, others don't. And in most cases the alcohol can either be eliminated completely or replaced with a compatible fruit juice.
MR. P'S OLALLIEBERRY-RASPBERRY SLUSH
1/4 cup tequila
2 tablespoons triple sec
1/4 cup Margarita mix
2 cups olallieberries or blackberries
1 1/2 cups crushed ice
1 cup raspberry sorbet or ice
Combine tequila, triple sec, margarita mix and berries in blender container. Process until smooth. Add crushed ice and blend. Add raspberry sorbet and blend until slushy. Turn into chilled glasses. Makes about 4 servings. BLUEBERRY MARGARITA SLUSH
1/3 cup vodka
2 tablespoons triple sec
2/3 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon lime juice
12 ice cubes
2/3 cup raspberry sorbet or ice
Combine vodka, triple sec, blueberries and lime juice in blender container. Process until blueberries are pureed. Add ice cubes and process until crushed. (Or use 1 cup crushed ice.)
Blend in raspberry sorbet just until slushy. Turn into chilled glasses. Makes 4 to 6 servings. ORANGE-STRAWBERRY YOGURT CHILLER
2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 1/2 cups crushed ice
4 to 6 strawberries, sliced
Orange slices and mint sprigs