When it comes to refreshing summer drinks, there’s no shortage of options—from iced tea to lemonade, from rosé to hard seltzer, from margaritas to Pina Coladas, there’s something to suit almost everyone’s taste at any age. I grew up sipping virgin strawberry daiquiris by the pool in our backyard, feeling oh-so adult be initiated into the frozen-drink club. In addition to the brain freeze and fun memories I can viscerally recall about those times, something that stands out in my mind was how slushy, sweet beverages like daiquiris never really felt that good in my body. They didn’t quench my thirst and usually resulted in what I now know all too well as bloating that ruined my appetite while making to hard to say no to a refill.
I know I’m not alone in the love-hate relationship with these types of summer beverages. The reason for their often uncomfortable side-effects are clear according to holistic health traditions: cold drinks (or food, for that matter), even on the hottest of days, are simply hard to digest. If you consider your gut like a fire—the place where your food gets “cooked” and transformed—pouring something cold and wet on top of it is not going to result in a well-cooked meal at the end of the digestive process. It’s going to put the fire out.
In Ayurveda, we call that fire agni, which also happens to be present in our external environment in a greater magnitude during the summer season. Because of all that heat outside of us, which we need to spend a lot of energy regulating, summer is also the season when our agni is at its weakest—hence our cravings for simple foods like cucumbers and watermelon, which break down very quickly once they get inside us. Combining an agni-killing drink and an already low agni is basically a recipe for indigestion, which can be a particular drag during the summer when all you want to do is play and have fun, not worry about running to the bathroom (or not).
Nature’s Air Conditioning
Textbook Ayurveda says to avoid cold drinks entirely, especially those with ice, to prevent the build-up of indigestion in the gut and the system overall. However, as with most things Ayurvedic, there’s always an “it depends” caveat to the rules. You see, we can work around the whole no-cold-drinks thing by choosing beverages (and foods) during summer that are cooling in their energetics, which counters the dominance of pitta dosha while not entirely killing agni.
The fruits combined in this refreshing drink all fall under the pitta-pacifying category, meaning they’re sweet, bitter, and/or astringent taste profiles—the flavors that help to reduce excess pitta even supporting good digestion. Pure aloe vera gel (be sure to get this from your health-food store, not just the tube you squirt out onto your sunburns; I like Lily of the Desert brand) is a secret weapon for cooling you down and boosting agni, making it a great thing to consume regularly throughout the summer to stay hydrated and juicy on the inside, too.
When making the drink, I used a few ice cubes just to increase the viscosity of the bright yellow mango puree at the base. That way, when you pour the deep red juice over top, you get a pretty, sunset effect that makes it perfect to sip during the drawn-out evenings of summer. There’s intentionally no alcohol in this drink, though it’d be easy enough to add a splash of something of your choosing; keep in mind that alcohol is quite heating in nature, which will only exacerbate the imbalances of pitta season. Instead, the “kick” of this cooler is in the form of an adaptogenic plant-based elixir.
Schisandra and rose are two incredibly healing plant medicines; schisandra, also known as magnolia berry or magnolia vine, is unique in that it has all five flavor profiles and, according to Chinese folklore, “calms the mind and quiets the spirit.” Alongside sweet, licorice-esque star anise (another magnolia derivative), each sip of this drink offers a sophisticated and nuanced taste that will make you rethink what it means to be “adult”—and how to enjoy the simple, healing gifts that nature offers us, from sunsets to the people we watch them with.
Sunset Mango Cooler
Prep time: 5 minutes
- 1 large ripe mango, peeled and chopped
- ½ cup coconut water
- ¼ cup pure aloe vera gel
- 3 to 4 ice cubes
- Juice of ½ lime, plus wedges to serve
- ½ cup pomegranate juice (plain or blended with other fruits, like cherry or blueberry)
- 1 tablespoon schisandra rose elixir
- 2 whole star anise
- Fresh mint leaves, for garnish (optional)
- Combine the mango, coconut water, aloe vera gel, ice, and lime juice in the bowl of a food processor or high-speed blender. Blitz until smooth, about 3 minutes. If your mango is very ripe and becomes very liquidy, add more aloe gel (not ice).
- In a small jar or bowl, mix together the pomegranate juice and Schisandra rose elixir.
- Pour the pureed mango into 2 clear glasses (the clear quality will make it even more cooling when you drink it!), then add the pomegranate juice and allow the two to mix. Add a star anise to each glass, and garnish with a wedge of lime and mint leaves, if using. Raise your glass for summer, and enjoy!