Chow Town

Hot days, cool drinks for a Kansas City Labor Day Weekend

On a 100-degree day, what’s a Kansas City barbecuer to do?

That’s easy. Stay cool while you check the ribs, brisket, or pork butt.

The traditional drink of choice for charcoal watchers is cold beer, but on a really hot day, you could drink too much — not a good thing.

I was once competing in a barbecue contest when a team did that. They let their fire go out, their ribs weren’t done, and they lost. But they didn’t care!

I think it’s more fun and more family friendly to make an aromatic simple syrup that can go over kids’ snow cones, be stirred into a fresh lemonade, or mixed up for an adult garden gimlet with a little gin or vodka.

A bunch of herbs from your garden or the market, a little sugar, and some water are all it takes to make a really refreshing, you-know-exactly-what’s-in-it syrup.

Double, triple, or quadruple the recipe if you’re entertaining a crowd. The syrup will last for a week or so, covered in the refrigerator. Once you’re mastered the Fresh Herb Syrup, try it with fresh, organic peach leaves — about 16 — which produce a syrup with a mild almond flavor.

Have lots of crushed ice, on hand, and you can weather a hot Labor Day Weekend.

Fresh Herb Syrup

Use this fresh-tasting, pale green syrup to make a garden gimlet, fresh herb lemonade, or a snow cones, or drizzle it over fresh cantaloupe, berries, or peaches.

Adapted from a recipe in Heartland: The Cookbook by Judith Fertig, recently featured in Saveur Magazine.

Makes about 1 cup 1 cup sugar 3/4 cup water 1/2 cup fresh, aromatic herbs, such as basil, lemon balm, orange mint, or mint, chopped

In a large, microwave-safe glass measuring cup, combine the sugar, water, and herbs. Microwave on high power until the sugar dissolves, 3 to 4 minutes. Let the mixture steep for 20 to 30 minutes.

Strain the mixture into a bowl and let cool. Use right away, or store in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.


Adapted from a recipe in Heartland: The Cookbook by Judith Fertig, recently featured in Saveur magazine.

Award-winning cookbook author Judith Fertig lives, cooks, bakes, grills and writes in Overland Park, Kan. She is the author of “Heartland: The Cookbook” and “I Love Cinnamon Rolls,” and the co-author of “The Gardener and the Grill” and the IACP award winning “The Back in the Swing Cookbook.”