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Syrups for Summer

Fresh flavors for the fun of it

North Beach coffeehouses are famous for beat poets, steaming hot espresso and rows of jewel-toned syrups behind the bar. But if you think those syrups are just for flavored lattes and Italian sodas think again. Flavored syrup is just the thing to sweeten up your summer.

Torani brand syrups are a San Francisco coffeehouse classic, created and produced locally since 1925. A family business, the Italian Torre family began creating syrups based on heirloom syrup recipes from their native Lucca. Though they may have started out with only five flavors, they continue to innovate with wild new flavors their relatives in Italy might never have imagined. Flavors like watermelon, mango, peach and pomegranate lend themselves particularly well to hot weather coolers like margaritas, iced tea and lemonade.

A little further up north, Sonoma Syrups prides itself on making infused simple syrups with all-natural ingredients. They feature some sophisticated flavored syrups like Meyer lemon, tangerine and lavender in addition to vanilla bean. Most syrups also use plenty of fresh fruit. The Meyer lemon has so much lemon juice in it that it provides 200% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C in just two tablespoons! Festive and fun and a perfect hostess gift, they add a touch of elegance to entertaining and are accessible to drinkers and non-drinkers alike.

This summer the trend is sexy cocktails and luscious dessert drinks. If you are enjoying a little entertaining al fresco or just busy catching up on "Sex and The City" reruns, try one of these on for size.

Pomegranate Martini
6 oz. (3/4 cup) chilled gin or vodka
1 lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced
2 oz. (1/4 cup) pomegranate syrup

In a pitcher, stir the gin or vodka, fruit juices, and syrup. Divide among 4 martini glasses.

Orange Dreamsicle courtesy of Gary Danko Restaurant
1 1/4 oz. (2 1/2 Tbsp) Grey Goose Orange Vodka
1/4 oz. or splash of Cointreau
3/4 oz. (1 1/2 Tbsp.) Sonoma Syrup Vanilla Bean syrup
1 oz. (2 Tbsp.) fresh squeezed orange juice

Stir vigorously and serve in a chilled martini glass with a slice of orange.

Torani Shanghai Shimmy
1 oz. (2 Tbsp.) Torani Mango syrup
1/2 oz. (1 Tbsp.) Torani Lime syrup
2 oz. (1/4 cup) vodka
1 tsp. grated ginger

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lime twist.

Tangerini Sparkling Lemonade
1 cup sparkling water or soda water
1 oz. (2 Tbsp.) tangerine syrup
1 oz. (2 Tbsp.) fresh squeezed lemon juice
Fill a glass 3/4 full with ice. Add lemon juice, syrup, water and stir.

Lavenderlicious Ice Tea
1/2 oz. (1 Tbsp. ) lavender syrup
1 cup brewed tea, chilled

Combine ingredients in a tall glass, stir well and serve.

Where to find:
Torani Syrups in regular and sugar-free are available at Cost Plus, about $6 per bottle. Sonoma Syrups are available at Williams-Sonoma stores, at Copia in Napa and online at Stonewallkitchen.com, about $12 per bottle.