What to Cook This Weekend: Liquid Air Conditioning

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Each summer I mark the first truly hot day with a grim ritual: The wine that I’ve stashed in the coolest part of my kitchen cupboard goes straight into the refrigerator. Reds and whites, sherry, and Champagne, all of it. My dinky window air conditioner is not up to the task of keeping my small Brooklyn apartment cool, and exposure to temperatures over 80 degrees or so leads to “cooked” flavors: sugarplums and cherry preserves (but in, you know, a bad way). Cramming my crisper drawer with Beaujolais and St. Joseph isn’t an ideal solution (the low humidity and vibrations aren’t great long-term), but it’s better than nothing.

Each year I wish I were smart enough to just drink up my stash before it gets to this point, because I’m much more excited about drinking beer when things get sticky. Lightly sour goses and finely bitter European-style pilsners reward big, refreshing, gulps: they taste great freezing-cold and don’t have so much alcohol that you’ll immediately need a nap.

Stretching a beer with a mixer and maybe even some ice is an even better way to avoid the nap problem. Adding lemon soda to make a radler is a classic for a reason, stirring in Coke for what the Germans call a “diesel” is much better than it sounds, and sitting with a michelada in front of a fan after a run on a hot day is the closest thing to nirvana as I think I’ll ever personally experience.

Beyond the what to drink when it’s unbearably hot, there’s the where, and the answer is obviously somewhere outside. This is easy if you live someplace where people have yards. In New York, we have to improvise. I’ve heard a convincing argument that the best place to drink beer in the city is not a beer-nerd Valhallas like Tørst or Three’s Brewing, but the top deck of the Staten Island Ferry—the breeze is nice, they sell tallboys, and everyone turns a blind eye as long as you keep it in a paper bag.

Elsewhere, in the city’s parks and waterfront promenades, more serious camouflage is called for. An upcycled Coke-can disguise can withstand some pretty close scrutiny—Search eBay for “beer sleeve” and tell ‘em Chris sent you. Not that it’s a huge deal if you do get busted: Drinking in public used to be the kind of thing that could earn you a night in jail, but these days the ticket’s only $25. Think of it as the city’s corkage fee.

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