By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

A bevy of beverages

There’s nothing quite as refreshing and delicious as fresh grapefruit juice with ginger, but its steep cost at a juice bar is not at all refreshing, except as a rare treat.

On the other hand, it’s ridiculously easy to make at home.

There are all kinds of delicious beverages that are easy and inexpensive to create, from simple lemon water to raspberry hot chocolate.

A food dehydrator can make the process easier, but juicers are optional.

I like citrus juice, but don’t drink juice of any kind often enough to own anything fancier than a couple of simple reamers.

Ginger juice is easy to make by repeatedly squeezing chunks of ginger in a garlic press, enough to squeeze out juice, but not to crush. Keep turning and repositioning the ginger, and squeezing it repeatedly, until it’s juiced out. A strainer is helpful, to keep little ginger bits out of the juice. A little goes a long way, unless you’re a major ginger fan.

With the dehydrator, you can dry herbs, fruits and berries to make all sorts of good things.

Dried raspberries are one of my favorite flavorings, steeped in hot water with herbs, for tea, or by themselves, for flavoring hot chocolate. Strain the berries first, smashing them well to extract as much flavor as possible. Use the resulting raspberry-flavored hot water to make hot chocolate or coffee.

You can do the same with strawberries, also delicious.

Dried rhubarb is another favorite; it adds a lovely, tart flavoring to water or tea, and will flavor cool water if left to steep for a few hours, for a refreshing, simple beverage.

Lemon or lime water is especially nice during the summer months, as well. If I’m feeling indulgent, a little bit of stevia sweetens it enough to be called lemonade or limeade.

Mint leaves make a cooling tea, or gently flavor cold water. You can also mix and match as you please; rhubarb lime water; lemon mint water, strawberry ginger tea, and so forth.

Dandelion root tea is a wonderful discovery, for anyone fond of the rich flavor and slight bitterness of coffee or chicory. I find it best mellowed with my own favorite milk substitute, homemade almond milk. Which, incidentally, is also delicious on its own, if you’re fond of the perfumed essence of almonds.

Spicy ginger almond milk tea is wonderful and warming on a brisk morning. Buy ginger tea bags, or just simmer dried or fresh ginger in water until it is strong enough for your liking.

Warm, spiced carob milk is another of my favorites, this one often for fall or winter evenings. Carob with a bit of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, or whatever your favorite spices are, simmered with hot water, with milk, or creamer, is a lovely, soothing drink.

Homemade chai is easy to make, and to customize to your own tastes; whether you want extra cardamom and vanilla, or think vanilla doesn’t belong in chai. Simmer your assembled spices in hot water for five or 10 minutes, and then remove from heat and add tea bags. Steep to your liking and then strain and add milk or creamer, and if you like, sweetener.

With a bit of imagination, you can easily produce delicious beverages to keep yourself, or family members, hydrated and happy year-round, varying the flavors with the seasons.

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