02 July 2013

An old English favorite for Independence Day

I am going to write something shocking to regular readers: I'm trying to cut down on my alcohol consumption.  It's not necessarily that I want to, but as I near my 39th (no really, it's not 39 + 2 or anything) birthday, I find that my body is just not flushing out the toxins at the same rate as it did in my 20s.  Or even last year.  So, I have been on the hunt to replace cocktails during cocktail hour, because I still think that breaking to enjoy the afternoon on the porch or patio should be considered a mandatory part of your daily schedule.  But feeling dehydrated and slightly dizzy all night is no fun. While those around me can still pound the vodka and gin, I'm trying to mix it up with some healthier alternatives.  Perhaps you are, too. Or perhaps you were never a borderline alcoholic and you're just looking to add to your smug, better-than-me collection of health tonics.  Whatever.

Barley water is an old-fashioned English drink for summertime, and it is surprisingly refreshing.  It will keep for a week in the refrigerator once it's cooled, and you can always throw in a splash of your favorite clear liquor if you just can't stand to go boozeless.  Whip up a batch or two for your July 4th picnic and enjoy the irony.

Basic Barley Water

Makes about 1.5 quarts

1 cup pearled barley, rinsed and sorted
2 quarts water
3 tablespoons lemon juice
scant 1/4 cup honey

Combine the barley and water in a medium sauce pan, cover, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook until barley is tender, about 20 minutes.  Strain out the barley (keep it, for goodness' sake--I have a salad recipe coming for that on Friday) and whisk the honey and lemon juice into the cooking liquid.  Allow to cool completely in the refrigerator before drinking.


All of these additions can just be added to the final product while it's still hot...

  • 2 sprigs of fresh mint + a few fresh lavender flowers
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon rose water + 4 cardamom pods
  • 6 thin slices of cucumber and 1 thick lemon slice