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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Beverages

PRODUCT: Watermelon “Keg” Tap With Watermelon Agua Fresca

A melon tap turns any large, seedless watermelon into an punch bowl, ideal for filling with watermelon-based beverages. Simply hollow out the melon, insert the tap and fill it with your beverage of choice. In addition to a refreshing drink, you give guests the fun of dispensing their drinks from a watermelon. (In the fall, you can do the same with a pumpkin.)

For starters, fill your watermelon “punch bowl” with watermelon agua fresca. It’s a memorable finale to the summer.

Agua fresca is Spanish for “fresh water.” In culinary terms, it refers to sweetened, fruit-flavored water. Like lemonade, it is noncarbonated and nonalcoholic.

But you can keep a bottle of spirits next to the melon dispenser for guests who’d like a shot or two. May we suggest watermelon vodka? You can find watermelon-flavored vodka from Smirnoff, Three Olives, Pinnacle (Cucumber Watermelon), UV (Salty Watermelon) and others.

The tap in the photo is the PROfreshionals Melon Tap, $9.99. It includes “feet” that insert into the bottom of the melon to keep it stable. Another variation, from Final Touch, is designed to look like a beer tap handle. It’s $19.99.


/home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/watermelon kegger goodcook bradshawintl 230

Turn a watermelon into a punch bowl. Photo of PROfessionals Melon Tap courtesy

This agua fresca recipe was created by Cheeky Kitchen for Good Cook. Of course, you can also serve the drink from a standard pitcher.


Ingredients For 8-12 Drinks

  • 6 pounds seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons agave or honey
  • Fresh mint for garnish
  • Optional: gin, tequila, vodka
  • Ice

    1. SLICE and discard a 2” piece from the top of a large, seedless watermelon. Carve out the red melon flesh from the inside of the watermelon and cut into large cubes (they can be as free-form as you like, as they’ll soon be puréed). Place in a large bowl and set aside.

    2. PREPARE the melon for serving by ensuring it can stand upright. Slice a small portion from the bottom of the melon to make it more stable. Place the tap about 3 inches from the bottom of the melon and push it through the rind to the inside. Set aside.

    3. PURÉE the watermelon flesh and all other ingredients in a blender in small batches, as needed. Pour the beverage into the prepared watermelon. Press the melon tap to dispense the drink into large glasses filled with ice.

  • Agua Fresca recipes: horchata (creamy almond), lychee, mango and pineapple
  • Apple-Cucumber-Lime Agua Fresca Recipe


    RECIPE: Salted Watermelon Milkshake

    For National Watermelon Day, August 3rd, try a salted watermelon milkshake.

    Salt with watermelon? Actually, as a pinch of salt helps most foods, it’s an old trick to bring out more flavor (here, sweetness) in the watermelon.

    This recipe is courtesy of The Milk Shake Factory in Pittsburgh. It requires watermelon sorbet; but if you can’t find it or don’t want to make it (here’s a watermelon sherbet recipe), substitute strawberry or raspberry sorbet.

    Or, make an easy watermelon granita with this watermelon granita recipe, minus the basil. No ice cream maker is used; just watermelon, sugar, water, lemon juice and an ice cube tray.

    Prep time for the milkshake is 10 minutes.


    Ingredients For 1 Large Or 2 Small Servings

  • 8 ounces watermelon sherbet
  • 4 ounces whole milk
  • Two 2-inch cubes seedless watermelon, rind removed
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 4 ounces soda water
  • Optional garnish: mini chocolate chips
  • Optional garnish: watermelon wedge

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/salted watermelon shake themilkshakefactory 230

    Salted watermelon milkshake. Photo courtesy The Milk Shake Factory | Pittsburgh.


    1. COMBINE the watermelon sherbet, milk, watermelon slices and a pinch of sea salt in a blender. Blend until the sherbet and watermelon slices break down, approximately 45 seconds. Add the soda water and blend 10 seconds more.

    2. POUR the mixture into a 20-ounce drinking glass or two 10-ounce glasses. Garnish with mini chocolate chips and skewer the watermelon wedge, or notch it deeply and anchor it to the rim of the glass. Serve immediately.



    FOOD FUN: Soda, Sangria Style


    A “sangria soda” of Sprite and peaches. Photo courtesy


    We were inspired by this photo from fine produce purveyor Melissa’s to make “sangria soda.” Instead of being wine-based, toss the fruit (as many varieties as you like) into a soft drink.

    We made ours with Diet Sprite and juicy Georgia peaches. Adding fresh fruit works best with ginger ale, lemon-lime and regular or flavored club sodas, which have more delicate flavors than fruit-flavored sodas, cola and root beer. The idea is to let a bit of fruit flavor infuse into the drink, as well as to have some fresh fruit with your pop.


    English scientist Joseph Priestley discovered the process of infusing water with carbonation in 1767. He served it to his friends as a refreshing drink.

    In 1783 J. J. Schweppe of Geneva developed a process to manufacture carbonated mineral water, based on the Priestley’s process discovered by Priestley. He founded the Schweppes Company, and carbonated water became available commercially


    It was a short step to flavoring the carbonated water, a drink enjoyed just about everywhere in the world.

    Names for soft drinks in the United States vary regionally. “Soda” and “pop” are the most common terms, although others are used. According to Wikipedia, “coke,” a genericized name for Coca-Cola, is used in the South to refer to soft drinks in general. In New England, it’s “tonic.”

    The word “soda” derives from the word sodium, a common mineral in natural springs. It has long referred to a household chemical: sodium carbonate, washing soda or soda ash.

    According to writer Andrew Schloss, “soda” was first used to describe carbonation in 1802. Here are dates that Schloss gives for the debut of the different terms:
    Different Names For Soda
    1798 Soda water
    1809 Ginger pop
    1812 Pop
    1863 Soda pop
    1880 Soft drink
    1909 Coke
    1920 Cola
    1939 Bubble tonic
    1951 Fizz water, fizzy water or fizz-wa

    Here’s more about which parts of the U.S. use which terms for their soft drinks.



    RECIPE: Blueberry Mango Chile Smoothie

    July is National Blueberry Month and today is Smoothie Saturday. The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council recommends with this great-looking Blueberry Mango Chile Smoothie, a layered smoothie.


    Ingredients For 2 Smoothies

  • 2 cups blueberry compote (recipe below)
  • 12 ounces (1-1/2 cups) low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt, divided
  • 1 large mango, peeled, pitted, chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
    Ingredients For The Blueberry Compote

  • 16 ounces frozen (unthawed) blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

    1. MAKE the blueberry compote, cover and chill.



    Have you seen a more vivid smoothie? Photo courtesy



    Blueberry compote, made with frozen blueberries. Photo courtesy


    2. PLACE 6 ounces of the yogurt, the mango, chili powder and cayenne in a blender; blend until smooth. Divide the mango mixture between two 16-ounce cups; set aside.

    3. RINSE the blender and place the Blueberry Compote and remaining yogurt in the blender; blend until smooth. Check the consistency and dilute with water or milk if needed.

    4. SLOWLY POUR half of the blueberry mixture on top of each of the mango smoothies for a two-layer effect.
    Preparation: Blueberry Compote

    1. TOSS the blueberries with the sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring; reduce the heat to low and simmer until the blueberries are heated through and the sauce is slightly thickened.

    2. TASTE and add more sugar if needed. Allow to cool, cover and chill.




    JULY 4th: Patriotic Milkshake Recipe

    For a dessert or snack over July 4th weekend, serve these patriotic shakes. They were designed by QVC’s chef David Venable.


    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1/4 cup + 4 teaspoons strawberry syrup, divided (recipe below)
  • 3/4 cup fresh blueberries
  • 2-1/4 cups strawberries and cream ice cream
  • 1-1/4 cups quartered fresh strawberries
  • 1-1/3 cups whole milk
  • 4 ounces whipped cream (you can substitute frozen whipped topping)
    *You can use leftover strawberry syrup in club soda, cocktails, iced tea, lemonade, on angel food cake and pound cake, ice cream, pudding, sorbet etc.

    1. PLACE the blueberries and 1/4 cup of strawberry syrup into a medium-size bowl. Mix until the blueberries are fully coated. Refrigerate until needed.



    Drink the patriotic colors. Photo courtesy QVC.


    2. DRIZZLE 1 teaspoon of strawberry syrup in a spiral design on the inside of four tall glasses (we used a squeeze bottle). Freeze until needed.

    3. PLACE the ice cream, strawberries and milk in a blender with a large pitcher. Mix until smooth, 40–60 seconds. Pour into the prepared milk shake glasses.

    4. TOP each glass with 1 ounce whipped cream and the blueberry mixture, dividing evenly among the 4 glasses. Serve immediately.



    Buy strawberry syrup or make your own. Photo courtesy Tide and Thyme; here’s their recipe.



    Cook time is 25 minutes, total time is 40 minutes. The syrup should last, refrigerated, for 4-6 weeks. You can substitute any berries in this recipe,

    Ingredients For 3-1/2 Cups

  • 2 pounds strawberries
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar

    1. RINSE, hull and pat dry the strawberries. Cut into small pieces and place in a medium sauce pan. Cover with water and bring to a boil.

    2. REDUCE to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, skimming any foam. After 20 minutes, the strawberries should be pale and the liquid should be a deep pink color. Remove the pan from the heat.

    3. STRAIN the strawberry liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a clean pot. DO NOT press down on the berries to extract more juice; it will make the syrup cloudy. Discard the berries.


    4. ADD 2 cups of sugar to the liquid and bring to a boil, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes till the sugar is completely dissolved, skimming any foam.

    5. REMOVE from the heat and cool completely. Pour into a glass container, tightly cap and refrigerate.



    PRODUCT: Nestle Pure Life, Unsweetened Exotic Flavored Water


    Sparkling Tangerine and Orange Peach
    Pineapple. Photo courtesy Nestlé.


    On a beastly hot and humid day like today, our strategy is to keep inside in the A/C as much as possible, and never leave the A/C without a couple of bottles of ice-cold water. (TIP: Freeze one of the bottles of water. It will defrost in an hour or two and you’ll have an ice-cold refill instead of lukewarm water.)

    Because we receive frozen gel ice packs with much of the food that’s delivered to THE NIBBLE, we put ice packs in our backpack to provide a bit of cool-down against our back. And when we go into the hot New York City subway, we clutch an ice pack in our hands, dabbing it on our forehead and neck to help with cooling. Yes—we are not built for summer survival.

    Here’s something else that’s keeping us cool: Nestlé Pure Life Exotics Sparkling Water. It has zero calories, zero sweetener and zero added color. What it does deliver is bold, exotic, all-natural fruit flavor. It’s a staycation in a can.



    A new product last year, Exotics Sparkling Water increased national availability this year at retailers across the U.S. The flavors, certified kosher by OU, include:

  • Key Lime, tasting as if it has fresh lime zest
  • Mango Peach Pineapple, lusciously mango
  • Strawberry Dragonfruit, a delicious combination
  • Tangerine, fine but not as special as the others
    Each flavor variety has a suggested retail price of $2.99 per 8-pack of 12-ounce cans. A case of 24 cans is $11.99.

    Head to for a store locator and coupons. There are also links to order online at Office Depot and Office Max.



    Sparkling Key Lime and Strawberry Dragonfruit. Photo courtesy Nestlé.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Cucumber In Your Drinks

    Today is National Dry Martini Day (some say it’s World Martini Day—perhaps the international celebration).

    We’re having a very dry Martini—just a splash of vermouth—with Pinnacle’s cucumber vodka. If you like cucumber, this article explores other ways to enjoy it. But first:

  • A Cucumber Martini recipe (along with a Cucumber Mary
  • The history of the Martini and the original Martini recipe.
  • Pinnacle Vodka makes not only Cucumber Vodka* and Cucumber Watermelon Vodka, but 40+ other flavors from traditional (Berry, Cherry, Citrus, Mango, Pomegranate) to fanciful (Caramel Apple, Cinnabon, Rainbow Sherbet, Strawberry Shortcake, Whipped Cream). You can find all of the flavors at
    *Cucumber vodka is also made by Crop, Effen, Prairie, Rain, Square One and other brands.



    Vodka infused with fresh cucumber flavor. Photo courtesy Pinnacle.


    Cucumber & Cocktails

    Cucumber is mild enough to pair with both sweet and savory cocktails. If you traditionally use a lemon or lime wedge and people don’t squeeze the juice into their drinks (that’s the purpose of the wedge), try a a cucumber wheel on the rim. It provides a crunchy snack on the glass!

    Ideally, use a Kirby or other seedless cucumber.



    Cucumber drink garnish. If you have fresh herbs, add them as well.


    Cucumber, Soft Drinks & Juice

    A cucumber garnish also works well with club soda, lemon-lime sodas (Seven-Up, Sprite) and lemonade; not to mention vegetable juices and some fruit juices.

    By the same token, these beverages are good cocktail mixers with cucumber vodka.

    Cucumber & Water

    Hint sells an unsweetened cucumber water, but it’s easy to make your own.

    The addition of a slice of cucumber and an herb sprig turns a plain glass of water into a special drink. You can layer on flavors as you like: a slice of apple, lemon, lime, orange or a strawberry, for example.

    In fact, a great pitcher of water idea is to load up the pitcher with lots of berries; apple, citrus and cucumber slices—anything that suits your fancy: Kiwi? Mango? Melon? Peach? Pineapple? (NOTE: bananas didn’t work for us).

    Interspersed with ice cubes, the pieces of fruit turn the pitcher of water into a work of art.

    Here’s how to infuse water.

    Want some fizz? Look for Dry Sparkling’s Cucumber, a sophisticated, lightly sweetened carbonated drink.

    A Related Snack

    Cucumbers and watermelons are first cousins. Both are from the binomial order Cucurbitales and family Cucurbitaceae, differing only at the genus level: Cucumis for cucumber (the common cucumber genus/species is C. sativus) and Citrullus for watermelon (C. lanatus).

    That’s why you can eat the white portion of watermelon rind—it tastes just like cucumber—or turn it into pickled watermelon rind, a.k.a. watermelon pickles (here’s the recipe).

    And that’s why watermelon and cucumber skewers are a tasty snack with any cucumber-enhanced beverage.



    PRODUCT: Sanpellegrino Sparkling Fruit Drinks

    If you’d like a higher quality sparkling fruit drink, pick up some Sanpellegrino Sparkling Fruit Beverages. They’re made with real juice, as opposed to natural or artificial “flavors” (also called essences or extracts—see the note below). They can be a special treat for every day…or how about Father’s Day?

    All are refreshing soft drinks and cocktail mixers. The flavors are familiar yet sophisticated:

  • Aranciata, orange
  • Aranciata Rossa, blood orange
  • Limonata, lemon
  • Pompelmo, grapefruit
  • Clementina, clementine
  • Melograno e Arancia, pomegranate and orange
  • Limona e Menta, lemon and mint
  • Chinotto, myrtle orange, a small bitter orange with an
    extraordinary flavor profile
    And now, the new kid on the shelf:



    A sparkling delight: prickly pear and orange from Sanpellegrino.


  • Ficodindia e Arancia, prickly pear and orange
    Aromatic and soft pink in color, delivering bold sweet flavors balanced with a hint of tartness, it is a delight. We loved it!

    For now, the new flavor is an exclusive at Whole Foods Markets nationwide.
    Sanpellegrino soft drinks have been an Italian favorite, in 1932 when the iconic Aranciata was launched in Milan, Italy by Ezio Granelli. For more information visit


    Essences or “flavorings” are chemically-developed, artificial flavors. They are typically cheaper than extracts.

    Extracts are flavors that are extracted straight from the source. For example, real vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in a neutral alcohol. The flavor leaches into the liquid, the extract.

    Buy only real extracts, and don’t buy the less expensive brand. The bargain may be more diluted with a less concentrated flavor.



    FOOD FUN: Cherry Ice Cubes


    Cherry ice cubes. Photo courtesy HD Desktop Wallpapers.


    Take advantage of cherry season to make cherry ice cubes.

    Freeze cherries in the cube compartment (with the stems for more dazzle). Then, add them to cocktails, mocktails, soft drinks, juice, sparkling or still water.

    When the cubes melt, the cherries are the final treat.


  • Black Forest Cake with fresh cherries instead of maraschino (recipe)
  • Cherry gastrique sauce for fish or meat (recipe)
  • Cherry salsa for fish and chicken (recipe)
  • Fresh cherry ice cream (recipe) or sorbet (recipe)
  • Spiced cherries to top grilled fish, meat or poultry and desserts (recipe)
  • Add cherries to green salads and fruit salads

    Here’s more about cherries, including the different types of cherries.

    Get yourself a cherry pitter.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Simple Syrup


    This cocktail uses homemade lemon-vanilla
    simple syrup. Photo courtesy Nielsen-
    Massey. The recipe is below.


    Granulated sugar does not dissolve easily in cold beverages. That’s why simple syrup (also called bar syrup, sugar syrup or gomme, the French word for gum) is used to add sweetness to drinks such as cocktails, lemonade, iced tea and iced coffee.

    Over the last decade, flavored simple syrups have become popular with mixologists. In addition to sweetness, they’re also used to add an extra layer of flavor to drinks.

    There are lots of flavored simple syrups on the market. In addition to common flavors—blood orange, lavender, mint, pomegranate, raspberry—you can find cardamom, peach basil, pineapple jalapeno cilantro, saffron and tamarind.

    Most people buy a bottle of premade simple syrup (also available in sugar-free.) Others simply make their own—not only because it’s easy and so much less expensive, but because they can create special flavors—everything from ghost chile to strawberry rose.

    It couldn’t be easier: Just bring equal parts of water and sugar to a boil and simmer, then add any flavorings. You can even make agave or honey simple syrup by replacing the sugar.

    SUGAR TIP: Superfine sugar dissolves much more quickly than granulated table sugar. You can turn granulated sugar into superfine sugar by pulsing it in a food processor or spice mill.




  • 2 parts sugar
  • 1 part water
  • Optional flavor: 1-1/2 teaspoons extract (mint, vanilla, etc.)

    1. BRING the water to a boil. Dissolve the sugar into the boiling water, stirring constantly until dissolved completely. (Do not allow the syrup to boil for too long or it will be too thick.)

    2. ADD the optional flavor once the sugar is fully dissolved. To infuse fresh herbs (basil, mint, rosemary), simmer them in the hot water for 20 minutes and remove before adding the sugar.

    3. REMOVE the pan from the heat. Allow to cool completely and thicken.

    4. STORE in an airtight container in the fridge for up to six months.



    For spring, try this Lemon Lime raspberry Twist cocktail (photo above). The recipe from Nielsen-Massey, using their Pure Lemon and Tahitian Vanilla extracts.

    If you like heat, add some jalapejalapeñoo slices as garnish.

    Ingredients For ½ Cup Lemon-Vanilla Simple Syrup

  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
    Ingredients For 1 Cocktail

  • 6 fresh raspberries
  • ½ ounce fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce Lemon-Vanilla Simple Syrup
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 2 ounces lemon-flavored sparkling water
  • Lime twist
  • 2 frozen raspberries
  • Orange wedge
  • Optional garnish: sliced jalapeño (remove seeds and pith)


    Just mix equal parts of sugar and water, plus any flavorings. Photo courtesy Zulka.


    1. MAKE the syrup. Combine the water, sugar and lemon extract in a small saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the syrup reduces, about 10-15 minutes.

    2. REMOVE from the heat. After the syrup has cooled, add the vanilla extract and stir to combine. Refrigerate the syrup in an airtight container in the fridge.

    3. MUDDLE in a cocktail shaker the fresh raspberries, lime juice and simple syrup. Add vodka and sparkling water; shake and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Drop the lime twist and frozen raspberries into glass. Top with a freshly squeezed orange wedge.

  • Cocktails
  • Nonalcoholic drinks: agua fresca, iced coffee and tea, lemonade, mocktails, sparkling water (for homemade soda)

  • Candied peel (grapefruit, orange, etc.)
  • Glaze baked goods
  • Snow cones
  • Sorbet
    Bakers brush simple syrup on layer cakes to keep the crumb moist. If you use flavored simple syrup, it adds a nuance of flavor as well.



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