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A Little Fizz for Your Fourth

Some rowdy drink ideas for the backyard party


Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, and when it comes to drinks no one's looking for sophistication. What you want is a cocktail that's almost rowdy, a drink that's in the spirit of the day.

It has to be ice-cold, of course, and highly flavored so it's not upstaged by the season's spicy grilled food. It should look good in a frosty glass, and not be so loaded with alcohol that you can't take more than a sip or two. A little fizz doesn't hurt either. Remember, it's summer, and you're going to be thirsty.

Exactly what drink fills the bill is personal, subject to the influences of climate and culture, as much as taste. We asked a number of California cooks to name their favorite--some are native to the state, others are transplants from other warm regions of the world such as Mexico, Indian and steamy New Orleans. In fact, we got a list of drinks so varied, they were almost as individual as a signature.

Legend has it that one is even named for a beach--Daiquiri Beach in Cuba. Like the margarita, the daiquiri has undergone so many variations that the original version--Bacardi rum, sugar and fresh lime juice shaken with cracked ice--is almost forgotten. Peach, strawberry and mango daiquiris are common, but you'll have to go to Xiomara restaurant in Pasadena to get a mint-tinged guanabana daiquiri.

Fresh spearmint, which is more intense than other mints, accents the rich flavor of guanabana, a large, white-fleshed fruit that tastes somewhat like a cross between apples and pears. Restaurant owner Xiomara Ardolina, who was born in Cuba, compares the drink to the coco loco.

"It looks creamy, but it is actually fruit, no milk or cream," she says. "I served it at a party not long ago, and people were crazy about it."

Ardolina blends light rum with ice, lime juice, triple sec, a spearmint leaf and frozen guanabana pulp. (Also known as soursop, guanabana is available in the freezer section of most Latino and some Asian markets.) She serves her daiquiri in an 8-ounce martini glass decorated with fresh spearmint and a lime slice.

"A margarita glass will be just as pretty," she says.

Imagine a garden party, with women in flowered dresses--frocks would be a better word--and lacy picture hats, escorted by dapper men in white suits, and you have the ideal setting for Rideau's Southern Breeze.

"I would definitely serve it outdoors, in the garden, under big oak trees dripping with moss," says the drink's creator, Iris Rideau, thinking of her New Orleans origins.

Owner of Rideau Vineyard in Solvang, Rideau will serve the drink at a barbecue there Saturday, probably from a punch bowl, decorated with peach slices and mint sprigs. The base is Rideau 2001 Riesling, which is fermented until it is almost dry. Rideau combines the wine with club soda, triple sec, grenadine and a touch of peach brandy.

"It's really refreshing," she says. "It has a little red tone to it because of the grenadine."

Father's Office in Santa Monica serves baby back ribs cooked with Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout just one day a year, and Thursday's the day. The companion drink will be Lethal Espresso, made with the same stout. Old Rasputin tastes of "chocolate and coffee. It's a pretty intense beer," says Sang Yoon, the chef and owner, who combines it with harissa, honey, garlic and seasonings to make a barbecue sauce for the ribs.

Lethal Espresso is chilled stout combined with a jigger of tawny port and served in a wine glass. "It tastes like a good, cold espresso," Yoon says. "It goes well with barbecue because of the bitterness from the hops."

Anyone who has spent time in India has probably tried fresh lime soda. It's one of India's nicest drinks, and a lifesaver when the heat becomes unbearable. Restaurants usually serve a tall tumbler containing a little fresh-squeezed lime juice, accompanied by a pitcher of syrup and a chilled bottle of sparkling water. You then mix the drink to taste.

An unusual variation from a bartender in the town of Puri on the east coast adds a pinch of India's black salt. This has to be done carefully, because black salt (which is gray, not black) is powerfully sulfurous. Odd as it may sound, a hint of this strong substance makes the drink even more alluring. Try it if you dare. If you don't, serve plain lime sodas.

Mexico's jamaica is a beautiful jewel-red drink, named for dried jamaica flowers that provide the color (although it's the husks covering the flowers that are used). Jamaica is a member of the hibiscus family, also known as Roselle or sorrel. The flowers shed their brilliant hue when soaked in hot water--the more flowers, the deeper the shade.

Naturally acidic, and reminiscent of cranberry juice, jamaica is pretty and refreshing. That's why you'll find it in most Mexican restaurants. We've intensified the flavor by adding lime juice. Stir in some sugar and show off the color by serving the drink over ice in a clear glass pitcher.

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