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Healthy and Unhealthy Summer Drinks

Which alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks are the healthiest for summertime drinking? Experts give their advice.

Think Before Ordering continued...

Cross uses diet tonic and a whole lime for plenty of vitamin C. "On the second one," she whispers, "I leave out the gin. You can't taste the difference."

Cross also professes a fondness for mint juleps. Use only fresh mint, she says, and don't crush it into the sugar in the glass; use a mortar and pestle. "You can get the mint oils out with less sugar that way," she says, crediting her mother for this advice.

Blue also says a Tom Collins (lemon juice, gin, sugar, club soda, and a cherry), is a fine summer drink.

Spritzers are also fairly healthful. You cut the wine with club soda. "You can use white Zinfandel, white wine, red wine -- anything you have," Blue says. To make it sangria, dump in cut fruit.

Commercial wine coolers, though, tend to contain a lot of calories and chemicals.

What about the summer favorite -- beer? Beer contains a number of nutrients, Cross acknowledges, and has been consumed for millennia. "Like any liquid calories, it goes down so easily," she sighs. Remember, a beer contains a shot of ethanol, just like a glass of wine or a gin and tonic.

Nonalcoholic Drinks

The No. 1 summer drink? Water! It can be bottled, filtered, or the water cooler variety. "If you get sick of it," Cross says, "try icing a pitcher of it with cut lemons and limes packed in it. Freeze fruit in cubes and use those."

Iced tea comes in second. Cross recommends making a sugar syrup that's half sugar and half water -- boiled until it's clear -- and then let it cool. "Use this in it instead of that granulated sugar that falls to the bottom," she says. "You will use less sugar." Green tea is also a refreshing iced variety, although recent studies put in doubt its purported powers as an antioxidant. You can also make iced tea with garden herbs, such as rosemary or lemon verbena.

If you don't want to heat up the house, make sun tea. Put a clean glass jug full of water and tea bags in the sun for half a day. Be sure everything is clean, because this never gets hot enough to kill organisms. But it also is never so hot it melts the ice.

Pomegranate juice is loaded with antioxidants. It goes well with fruit, club soda, and if you must, any clear alcohol.

Any full-sugar soda is a poor summer choice, Cross says. A soft drink can contain 16 teaspoons of sugar -- and that sneaky corn sugar, at that. Sugar makes you thirstier. All sodas, even diet, she says, contain a lot of chemicals that do nothing for you. "I do like soda for cleaning stuck-on pots," she says. "Just soak overnight!"

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