Quick And Cold: Iced Coffee

This morning, on this hot summer day, I needed an ice cold pick-me-up. So I Googled iced coffee recipes and was surprised to see all the trouble people go through just for a glass of the caffeinated treat. People crush their own whole beans, strain them through a warm brew, and let the mixture sit overnight. No thanks -- when I want a cup of coffee, I want it immediately. I did a few more searches for an easy iced coffee, and I was more than pleased at the resulting drink I had ready in less than five minutes.

Serves: 1 glass Prep time: 5 minutes

Ingredients: 2 teaspoons instant coffee 1 teaspoon sugar 2 tablespoons warm water 8 ounces cold milk Sprinkle of cinnamon (optional) Whipped cream (optional)

1. Add all ingredients -- except for the cinnamon -- in a cocktail shaker and shake well for several seconds, or until the mixture is well-combined and frothy. Pour over ice. If desired, add whipped cream and/or a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.

My Notes: Why would I even have instant coffee? If you're a coffee snob, chances are you don't have a jar of the instant stuff tucked away into your cupboard. Ordinarily, I wouldn't drink it -- I just keep it stashed in my kitchen, reserved mainly for cooking and baking recipes. But because iced coffee is made primarily with cold milk instead of hot water, the strong, even bitter flavor of regularly brewed coffee isn't necessary. In fact, that bite probably isn't a taste you even want. Plus, chains like Starbucks use the instant stuff anyway -- so why bother paying those extra dollars for drinks you can easily make at home?

What about different flavors? If you want sweeter coffee, add a dash extra sugar. If you want a thicker, milkier taste, try using 7 ounces cold milk and 1 ounce half-and-half. And of course, you can always nix the sugar entirely.

Beer for the Bold: Lobotomy Bock and Blueberries

I'll say it first: It's weird. Truly. Beer with lemonade is unusual enough, but mixing it with blueberries? I stumbled upon this little drink/snack mix the other day. I had some friends and family over to watch the Lakers-Celtics game, and seeing as how it was Game 7, I knew I had to have a decent array of goodies. I bought beer, ordered hot wings and put out a bowl of fruit for some cool refreshments.  As we closed in on the second half of the game, I popped open a cold bottle of Lobotomy Bock and anxiously noshed on food within arm's reach -- the bowl of blueberries. I was instantly blown away by deep flavors, the contrasting tones. Somehow, this combination makes the booze 'n berries taste earthy and vibrant, with a new layer of richness. The blueberries become sweeter and the beer tastes more comforting, almost like chocolate-flavored coffee. This is definitely a must-try -- snack on the berries while sipping on beer, or mix the two for a thick, robust drink.

Ingredients (for a mixed drink) 1 bottle of Lobotomy Bock 1/4 to 1/3 cup of blueberries

1. Add blueberries to an empty pilsner and pour beer over it. Muddle the berries by smashing lightly with a spoon or whisk, then stir gently.

Where do I get Lobotomy Bock? So far, it seems this dark Californian beer is available only at Whole Foods.

A Refreshing Summer Drink: Lemonade and... Beer

Picture this: It's a blistering hot day. The sun is beating down directly on you to the point where your scalp is itchy. What drink are you craving? As much as you love a cold brewski, you're probably thinking of a tall glass of lemonade, or even a bottle of ice water. I love a good beer: blonde Hefeweizen, maple-colored Jeremiah Red, easy and cheap Bud Light -- as long as it's not Newcastle, I'm happy. But in the sweltering heat? No thanks! This fun and refreshing drink, however, changes that attitude completely.

I first tried this concoction in Germany and Austria, where they called it a "Radler" or a "Russian." It's so simple I couldn't believe I hadn't come across it sooner. All it is is beer and lemonade. That's right, just two ingredients. But it's amazing how the two complement each other. The drink retains the fizziness and "hoppiness" of the beer, but laced with notes of sweet and sour from the lemonade. Use as much beer or as much lemonade as you'd like. Cheers!

Ingredients 3/4 to 1 bottle of Miller Genuine Draft (or a medium-bodied beer) 1/4 cup Newman's Own lemonade

1. Pour beer into a pilsner. Fill with lemonade. You can use more or less lemonade, depending on how you prefer the taste.

My Notes: Does it have to be Miller Genuine Draft? Not necessarily, but it's the one I most highly recommend. I just found MGD to taste similar to some of the German and Austrian beers I had during my trip. I've also had this drink made with Bud Light Lime; the result is an even lighter, almost floral flavor.

Does it have to be Newman's Own lemonade? If not Newman's Own, you should use a lemonade that's tends to be less sweet and more sour. The key is to utilize that oomph you get from a lemon. You can also use a carbonated lemon water if you want to infuse even more fizziness in the drink.

Editor's Note: In case you were wondering, yes, that is a small Yoshi toy in the picture.