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Cynthia Stone: Deck drinks

Caramel Iced Coffee: an expensive treat when you're out and about, but it's easy and much less expensive at home.
Caramel Iced Coffee: an expensive treat when you're out and about, but it's easy and much less expensive at home.

My back gallery was in sorry shape this year. I’m getting it fixed up and it’s still in slings, but I’m planning the deck warming already.

I’ll stick to a simple menu but I’m thinking hard about the drinks. I figure if I offer fancy enough beverages hot dogs will be fine. It’s all about finding the right drink for everyone.

Today’s recipes are two-for-ones—each with an alcoholic and non-alcoholic version.

Caramel Iced Coffee
This stuff costs a fortune when the local barista makes it for you, but the syrup is easy and so good you won’t even be tempted to drive through.

The trick is planning ahead so you have the coffee made the night before. You want it good and cold for the best result.

Adding the syrup is as personal as how you drink hot coffee, so I prefer to add it to each glass rather than to the jug. A spoonful satisfies me but most want two or three times that to make it sweet enough. Likewise, I often skip the milk but add it—or cream—just as you normally would.
My coffee maker says 10 cups are in the pot but it’s really only six big mugs—judge yourself accordingly. Serve this in tall glasses with lots of ice.

Caramel Syrup:
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
2 tsp. corn syrup
1 tsp. good vanilla

1 pot cold strong coffee, regular or decaf
icy cold milk or cream
lots of ice cubes

Combine sugar, water and corn syrup in a small heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to the boiling point over medium-low heat. Reduce heat to low and let it bubble until it is golden, stirring often. Immediately take it off the heat and let it cool—I dip it in a sinkful of cold water to make sure it doesn’t scorch at the tail end. Stir in vanilla. Pour into a small glass container, cover tightly and refrigerate.
To make the coffee, pour cold coffee into a glass leaving plenty of room for ice. Stir in caramel syrup and milk or cream to taste. Fill with ice.
For the hard version, make the coffee a little stronger and add 1 oz. of cognac, brandy or vodka per serving. Mix as you would for the non-alcoholic version and serve.

Watermelon Strawberry Slushies
Here’s a refresher everyone will go for. It’s lightly sweet, with no added sugar, and intensely flavourful.
A powerful blender is necessary for ice or frozen fruit but if you don’t have one use fresh fruit and pop the jug in the freezer for half an hour.
This makes six drinks but naturally you can make the servings any size you like.

6 cups cubed seedless watermelon, frozen
2 cups frozen strawberries
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
ice cubes for serving

Blend watermelon, strawberries and lime juice until slushy and drinkable consistency. Serve in tall glasses with ice.
For the hard version—and this is fantastic, by the way—add 1 cup of gin to the blender. You might consider a spoonful of super-fine sugar, as well, but taste it first.

Family-Friendly Piña Coladas
This drink is a party in a glass, no doubt about it, but leaving out the alcohol means everyone can enjoy it, and they will.
The original recipe calls for coconut cream, an intensely sweet canned mixture that I find too cloying for the non-alcoholic version. Substitute coconut milk, even the low-fat version, for a better result.
You don’t have to freeze the pineapple in advance but I do enjoy the thicker consistency and icy cold freshness.
This makes six big drinks but add more juice to top up many glasses.

4 cups coarsely chopped pineapple, frozen
1 cup cold coconut milk
1 cup cold pineapple juice
ice cubes for serving

Blend pineapple, coconut milk and pineapple juice until smooth. Pour over ice cubes to serve. Garnish with more pineapple.

For the more traditional piña colada—and more adult version—add 1 cup of white rum to the blender. Taste it and add a little sugar if needed.

Cynthia Stone is an information manager and writer in St. John’s. E-mail questions to her at

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