Take therefore about an ounce and a half of white sugar, and dissolve it by pouring a table-spoonful of hot water on it, and afterwards adding a little claret. I have always found this plan best, as otherwise the sugar is apt to settle at the bottom of the cup or jug, thereby often making the compound not quite sweet enough at starting, and a great deal too sweet at the finish.
We will suppose, therefore, that the sugar is completely dissolved, and added to a whole bottle of claret in the jug or cup selected for the purpose. Add two thin slices of lemon—cut across the lemon, care being taken to avoid any pips—and one thin slice of cucumber-peeling about as long and as broad as the first finger, and the thickness of the blade of a dinner-knife. Next add one sherry-glassful of sherry, one table-spoonful of good brandy—not some of that dreadful cheap brandy that smells like naphtha—and one table-spoonful of noyeau or maraschino. Rub a nutmeg about half a dozen times across the grater over the cup.
Let the cup stand for about a quarter of an hour, and then taste it. Should the flavour of the cucumber be very decided, take out the piece of cucumber; and the same as regards the lemon. Should the flavour of the peel of the lemon be "detected, take out the two slices of lemon, for lemons vary immensely in strength.
Now add a large lump of ice and a bottle of soda-water, taking care to pour the latter in carefully—i.e., to put the soda-water bottle almost into the cup. I have seen persons pour the soda water from a height, thereby losing half the carbonic-acid gas, which ought to go into the cup to freshen it up, so to speak.
All that the cup now requires is drinking. It is by no means a very cheap affair, as the sherry, brandy, and noyeau probably cost more than the claret.
A cheaper form of cup, and one more suitable for use, as we have said, after cricket or rowing, is a bottle of claret with the same quantity of lemon, cucumber-peel, and sugar, two or three drops of essence of almonds, a large lump of ice, and two bottles of soda-water.
One word, however, in reference to the lemon proper not only for claret-cup, but for any other kind of cup. The lemon must be fresh—i.e., when it is cut it must have a firm rim round it, yellow outside and white inside. An old lemon, that is soft and pulpy, with a hard, dry skin, and that smells sweet, is no good for claret-cup. In making champagne-cup it is still more important to have a good lemon.
The method of making champagne-cup that I think best is so simple that it barely deserves the name of a recipe. It is as follows :—A bottle of champagne, one or two thin slices of lemon, a large lump of ice, and a bottle of soda-water.
Francatelli is, however, so great an authority in cooking, and all his recipes, so far as cooking is concerned, so invariably correct, that I will give his recipe for making both champagne and claret-cup, merely remarking that I have not tried either. Francatelli recommends—" One bottle of champagne, one quart bottle of German seltzer-water, two oranges sliced, a bunch of balm, ditto of burrage, one ounce of bruised sugar-candy. Place the ingredients in a covered jug embedded in rough ice for an hour and a quarter previously to its being required for use, and then decanter it free from the herbs, etc." I should think the fault in this cup would be that it would taste too sweet.
For claret-cup Francatelli recommends — "One bottle of claret, one pint bottle of German seltzer water, a small bunch of balm and burrage, one orange cut in slices, half a cucumber sliced thick, a liqueur-glass of cognac, and one ounce of bruised sugar-candy. Place these ingredients in a covered jug well immersed in rough ice. Stir all together with a silver spoon, and when the cup has been iced for about an hour, strain or decanter it off free from the herbs, etc." In this recipe I should think there would be far too strong a flavour of cucumber.
One of the most refreshing drinks in very hot weather is lemonade; but how rare is it that we meet with lemonade that is really nice ! Of course tastes differ, but I cannot understand how some people can drink the ordinary bottled lemonade. It is, as a rule, so very sweet that it is absolutely sickly, and at the same time in such a state of effervescence that only peculiarly constituted throats can drink it at a draught. Plain home-made lemonade can be made very cheaply, when lemons are not too dear. The great secret is to use boiling water, and pour it on the pulp of, say, three lemons, with a small piece of peel, but not too much, as it will render the lemonade bitter. Add white sugar to taste ; of course, children like it sweeter than others. Let it get cold, and then strain it. Care should be taken that all the pips are removed from the pulp before the boiling water is added. A great improvement to this kind of lemonade is the addition of a little dilute sulphuric acid, about thirty drops to a quart. Thirty drops of dilute sulphuric acid, when freely diluted, can be taken at one dose without any fear, though of course such a dose must not be taken without a doctor's order; but the addition of it to a whole quart of lemonade has the effect of rendering it much more palatable ; and were a person to drink the whole quart, which is improbable, it would not do them the slightest possible harm. Dilute sulphuric acid is a simple but valuable medicine, particularly useful in summer.
Those who prefer sparkling lemonade had better try the following method, and then let them judge for themselves whether it is not infinitely superior to the ordinary bottled lemonade:—Squeeze a lemon through a little piece of muslin into a tumbler, and have the patience to wait while a couple of lumps of sugar dissolve in it. Then add some iced soda-water and stir it up, taking care it is not half lost by frothing over the tumbler.
Soda-water can be bought now very good at one shilling and ninepence a dozen. Mixed with a little fruit-essence or French syrup, or raspberry vinegar, it makes most delicious drinks, especially if iced. Let me, therefore, entreat ladies who, during this hot weather, when they feel at times exhausted, have been in the habit of taking either weak brandy-and-water or sherry-and-water, to try one of these kinds of syrup instead. The effect of a stimulant is but short, and too often is followed by a reaction far worse than the original feeling of lassitude.
There is one subject in connection with cooling drinks that I wish to mention, though a trifle out of place in an article that purports teaching cooking; yet its importance is so great that I trust I may be pardoned for introducing it. When you use water for drinking, or for mixing cooling drinks, take care that it is pure. No house ought to be without a filter. Were the custom of first boiling and then filtering water universal, tens of thousands of lives would be annually saved throughout the country. Children are peculiarly susceptible to the influence of impure water, and during hot weather especially drink a great deal. The cost of a filter is small, and the trouble of boiling the water also small.
Let me strongly advise mothers in small households, where no trustworthy housekeeper is kept, to superintend the management of the filter themselves. If my advice be the means of saving the life of even one little one, it will not have been given in vain. Should any one say or think that this is all rubbish, let that one ask any respectable medical man for his opinion, and then act on it.