Often not credited with being showstoppers, drinks really enhance our overall dining experience — adding sparkle, providing balance, and allowing flavors to shine. Perhaps we should think of them as the sleeper hit of the meal. Kitchensurfing Chef Tehra Thorp’s specialty drinks, which feature fresh seasonal produce, might just steal the spotlight at your next backyard dinner or summer soiree. As the final post in our Savoring Summer Series, she shares her recipes for crafting perfect mealtime pairings….

Cool Summer Drinks - Savoring Summer with Kitchensurfing

How do you pair drinks with meals?

I like to drink water at meals, and I’m not afraid to make it a little fancy (herbs, bubbles, fruit, citrus, bitters, etc.). But in the event that someone wants a real drink, I like it to be a palate cleanser. A shrub or an agua fresca is great for this sort of thing. And the smoothie I’ve recommended is not entirely different from a sorbet which, of course, is an old-fashioned palate cleanser at a fancy meal.   

A palate cleanser at one meal, though, can ruin another. I’m a chef, so I understand a lot about flavor and I still struggle with this concept. So, I take a pragmatic approach. Stick to the basics and, when at a loss, think about the region where the food originates and what they generally serve. What flavors is the region famous for? Thai: Basil, chilies, and galangal. BBQ: Stone fruit, honey, and smoke. Italy: Wine, wine, and more wine!

What a great tip for developing a drink’s complementary flavor! When creating unusual pairings like fruits and vegetables in a drink, is there a rule of thumb to follow?

I’m not sure fruits and vegetables being paired together in a drink are common enough that there is a rule. But what I will say is that when I drink something (other than water) at a meal, I always like it to be slightly sweet.  So, with that in mind, I would consider the vegetable the “main” flavor and the fruit the “sweetener”— unless it’s the acid and then something has to sweeten the drink…maybe a carrot will do! 

Strawberry Shrub - Savoring Summer with Kitchensurfing

Drinking something with “vinegar” in the name seems a little strange — tell us where a shrub or drinking vinegar originates.

It may seem strange at first glance, but we health-conscious people have been drinking something like it for several years now—Kombucha! Shrubs were the very first “soft drinks” or sodas, and are not entirely different tasting than Kombucha. They were popular in colonial America (though they seemed to originate in Europe, of course). They are generally used in alcoholic beverages, but are very good as a non-alcoholic soda. This particular shrub would be delicious with Indian or Tunisian food (two of my favorite cuisines to cook!). The acid offsetting the richness and the strawberry-rose cooling the spice.

Strawberry Rose Shrub (also referred to as “drinking vinegar)

Makes 1-1.5 quarts of juice

Ingredients (Use Organic When Possible)

  • 1 large container of hulled strawberries
  • 1/4 C apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 C simple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of rosewater

Directions

Puree strawberries and run through a fine mesh sieve. Pour the rest of the ingredients together into a container to store and serve with sparkling water (or gin).

Watermelon and Tomato Agua Fresca

Watermelon & Tomato Agua Fresca with Mint

Makes 1 quart of juice

Ingredients (Use Organic When Possible)

  • 1/2 small watermelon, cleaned and cut into small pieces
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs of mint
  • 1/4 C of simple syrup

Directions

Blend watermelon, tomatoes, and mint together and push through a fine mesh sieve. Pour the simple syrup into mixture and store or serve over ice.

Passionfruit, Coconut Milk, Ginger & Orange Smoothie 

Makes about 2 servings

Ingredients (Use Organic When Possible)

  • 1/2 C passionfruit juice (Whole Foods carries a brand called Ceres in the juice aisle)
  • 1/2 C light coconut milk, organic
  • 1/4 C freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1” of fresh ginger, peeled
  • Ice

Directions

Blend passionfruit juice, coconut milk, orange juice, and ginger with ice in blender. Serve immediately.

Images 1 + 2 by Sarah St. Clair Renard. Image 3 by Jessie Webster.

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Our friends at Kitchensurfing make summer entertaining easy. Their private chef offerings are a surprisingly affordable and fun way to host a party of any size at your home — all which can be customized according to dietary needs, theme, and occasion. Kitchensurfing is thrilled to offer 10% off by using the code kshonest for you first booking, available in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Berlin, the Hamptons, and Chicago.

For more great summer entertaining ideas and recipes, go here. And share your favorite drink ingredients and recipes below. Cheers!