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Sippers to make summer what it's supposed to be

Picnicking on the tasting room deck at Harris Bridge Vineyard a few weeks ago, with golden shafts of light filtering through the oaks, and a refreshing Timber Royale tantalizing my palate, the world seemed about as right as it could get. My winter-dulled psyche had leaped over spring and launched full-force into summer.

Which is exactly what a summer sipper is supposed to do. Land your work-a-day soul smack-dab in the middle of a sunnier, less-complicated world. Take that Timber Royale; the winery’s twist on a Kir Royale. Instead of Creme de Cassis, it comes with a splash of a Harris Bridge sweet vermouth in a slender flute filled to the brim with sparkling wine. On its own, Timber, their pinot noir-based vermouth, is a complex layering of rich oak aroma and luscious cherry and fennel flavors. But as owners/winemakers Amanda Sever and Nathan Warren so wisely know, this time of year, folks dropping by their tasting room just might want to start things off with a refreshing whistle-wetter.

That’s the premise behind even the most basic of wine coolers. As simple as glugging a bit of sparkling water and semi-sweet wine over a glass of ice. Add some local berries for flavor and drama.

Then there’s my house sangria. My aunt Nida’s Sangria, actually. It’s the wonderful wine cooler she used to serve at their summer house in the Sonoma Valley on balmy summer evenings, based on local wines with the addition of citrus, orange liqueur and a bit more. One sip these days transports me to those proverbial good ol’ days. I make it in relatively large quantities through the summer months and store it in the fridge for last-minute drop-ins.

When a little extra effort can be considered, you might opt for a more exotic approach. One of my favorites is the Caipirinha. Its smooth flavor belies its potency, for this seductive sipper is made with Cachaca, Brazil’s sugarcane firewater. But like so many summer sippers, such a fiery base, when united with freshly-squeezed limes, superfine sugar and lots of ice, it’s transformed into the most amazing refresher. The drink of goddesses on Brazilian beaches.

So before the season gets away from us, I decided to arm you with some of my favorite fruity concoctions that hit the spot in summer’s sultry weather. And don’t miss out on the last recipe, which isn’t even alcoholic. It’s the popular lavender lemonade from Janet and Rolfe Hagen’s wonderful little corner of the world, Thyme Garden, near the sleepy little town of Alsea, Oregon.

Of course, as if on cue, a friend posted her own concoction on Facebook recently, and she gave me permission to share. So without further ado, here’s Trish Weber’s newly minted summer sipper:

“Take 3 parts vanilla rooibos sun tea, 1 part kahlua, a dash of cream, ice, and blend. Top the glass with a bit of fizzy water. I call it a Lite Russian. YOU CAN TRUST ME ON THIS.”

And I do, indeed. Thanks Trish.

Harris Bridge Timber Royale

Serves 1

1 ounce sweet vermouth (preferably Harris Bridge Timber)

Sparkling wine (preferably a brut or dry style)

Pour the vermouth into a Champagne flute. Fill with the sparkling wine and serve.

Nida’s Simple Sangria

Yields 3-3/4 quarts of sangria

1 12-ounce can frozen pink lemonade concentrate

6 cups dry red wine (such as zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon or syrah)

1-1/2 cups good quality orange-flavored liqueur

Juice of 1 lime

Fresh slices of lemons and limes for garnish

6 cups club soda

Ice cubes

Combine the lemonade concentrate, red wine, orange-flavored liqueur, lime juice and lemon and lime slices in a beautiful glass pitcher. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, pour in the club soda. Serve over ice.

Note: The recipe can be increased or decreased as desired by keeping the ingredients in correct proportion. Keeps for weeks in the refrigerator (without the club soda).

Sparkling Wine option: Substitute a dry (brut) sparkling wine for the red wine.

White Wine Sangria

Yields about 2 quarts

Feel free to fiddle with the ingredients, both in quantity and selection. Switch out the rum for tequila or vodka, for example. Use different juices or fruits. Make it your own!

1 (750 ml) bottle pinot gris (or other dry white wine)

1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pineapple chunks in juice

1 (6 ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate

1/2 cup light rum

1/2 cup orange-flavored liqueur (I use Harlequin)

1 orange, sliced

1 or 2 limes, sliced

1 lemon, sliced

2 cups well-chilled lime flavored sparkling water

1 cup seasonal berries

Ice cubes

Combine the pinot gris, pineapple chunks and juice, lemonade concentrate, rum and orange-flavored liqueur. Add orange slices, lime slices and lemon slices and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, add the lime-flavored sparkling water. Add a few of the berries and some ice to each glass before pouring in the sangria.

Caipirinha (kuy-per-reen-yuh)

Makes 10 4-ounce servings

On a sweltering day, the limey sweet-tart taste of Brazil’s national drink is downright addictive.

10 medium to large limes, washed and quartered

2-1/2 cups Cachaca (Brazilian rum)

1 cup pure cane syrup

1/3 cup water

Squeeze the juice from the lime quarters into a pitcher that holds at least 50 ounces; drop the squeezed fruit into the pitcher, as well. Don’t knock yourself out to extract all of the lime juice — a brief squeeze will do. Add cachaca, cane syrup, and water; stir briskly. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Fill 12-ounce double old-fashioned glasses almost full with crushed ice. Add 3 to 4 of the squeezed lime quarters to each glass; top with drink mixture. Serve with straws if desired.

— Recipe from “The Ultimate Guide To Pitcher Drinks,” by Sharon Tyler Herbst

Sparkling Sangria

Makes about 10 8-ounce servings

3/4 cup good quality orange-flavored liqueur

3/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 cup brandy

1/3 cup fresh lime juice

1/2 cup (approximately) superfine sugar

Two 750-ml bottles (50.8 ounces) sparkling wine or Champagne (brut or extra-dry), thoroughly chilled

2 cups orange-flavored sparkling water, thoroughly chilled

Garnishes: 1 orange, 1 lemon, 2 limes, sliced

In a pitcher that holds at least 96 ounces (12 cups) combine the orange-flavored liqueur with the orange juice, brandy, lime juice and superfine sugar, stirring to dissolve. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, slowly pour in the sparkling wine (or Champagne) and the sparkling water, tilting the pitcher and pouring onto the pitcher’s side to retain as much effervescence as possible. Stir gently to combine. Add fruit slices. Fill 12-ounce wine glasses two-thirds full with ice cubes; add Sangria and a slice or two of fruit.

— Recipe adapted from “Pitcher Drinks,” by Sharon Tyler Herbst

Thyme Garden’s Famous Lavender Lemonade

In Alsea, Thyme Garden owners, Janet and Rolfe Hagen serve this at every event. It’s refreshing and delicious.

2-1/2 cups water

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup fresh lavender blooms (or 1 heaping tablespoon of dried)

Homemade or canned lemonade

Prepare a lavender syrup by combining the water and sugar in a medium-size pot. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the lavender blooms and remove from heat; cover and let steep for at least 20 minutes. Strain the mixture.

To prepare the lemonade, add ice to a clear glass pitcher, then add lemonade, leaving at least 1 inch headspace. At the table, just before pouring the lemonade, add about 1-inch of the lavender syrup — the color will change before everyone’s eyes, so get ready for the compliments. Garnish individual glasses with a lavender stem.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist, and author of “Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit,” and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at janrd@proaxis.com, or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.