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Sweet and Cool Down: Diedre 'Dixie' Guindon tempts the hot and thirsty with a chocolate Coke.

Hot-Time Coolers

Santa Cruz abounds with refreshing liquids for those suddenly sunny days

By Janet Blaser

WITH THE ADVENT of hot weather--signaling that some of my prayers have been answered--comes the need for cold drinks. Of course, by the time you read this, the fog may have rolled back in, but hey, the sun will come out again, eventually. At least, that's what the tourist brochures tell us. When I have a thirst to be quenched, and it is not a coffee thing, there's a list of favorite places to which I head for a beverage. All of these drinks, excepting smoothies, are well under $3--definitely do-able with the change under the front seat.

Chocolate Coke at Pontiac Grill. I know what you're thinking. And I would never have tried it, either, if my youngest son, Dennis, had not ordered one. That familiar Coca-Cola flavor is mixed with just a hint of chocolate, and then, at the bottom of the glass, there's a yummy layer of chocolate syrup waiting to be slurped up.

My mom used to make real iced tea in the summer, and as far as I'm concerned, those powdered mixes and Snapple just don't make the grade. Find the real thing at Seabright Brewery and Java Junction. You'll have to add your own sugar, if that's how you like it, or just drink 'em straight. Java Junction has regular black tea and usually an herbal iced tea. The Brewery's bottomless glass of iced tea can be a godsend after a long, hot day at nearby Seabright beach.

There are two places to get the best lemonade in the downtown area: Espresso Roy--oops, I mean Lulu's--on Pacific Avenue, and the Hot Dog on a Stick booth at the Boardwalk. Any Californian worth his or her salt knows about the freshly squeezed lemonade at Hot Dog on a Stick, but Santa Cruzans may not know that they don't have to go all the way to the Capitola Mall to get it. Although the employees at the Boardwalk booth don't wear those neat uniforms, the lemonade still tastes great. It's at the river end of the Boardwalk, opposite the Typhoon and the Bermuda Triangle. (Hint: Get your lemonade after going on the rides.) I've been drinking at Lulu's for years, and the lemonade there is definitely da bomb: freshly squeezed, ice cold and a well-balanced combination of sweet and tart, the perfect pick-me-up on a hot afternoon.

If you're in the mood for something a little exotic, head to Asian Rose in the courtyard between Pacific Avenue and Cedar Street. There, you can do what they do in far-away climes when the temperatures soar: Have a big glass of mango lassi or Thai iced tea. Mango lassi, made with yogurt to cool the body, is sweet and fruity; Thai iced tea packs a mild caffeine wallop in its milky smoothness.

Another tropical option is horchata, basically Mexican rice dream. Again, there's a method to the madness--rice, like yogurt, cools the body's internal temperature--so this drink, made from rice, water, sugar and usually cinnamon, tastes good and will physically refresh you, too. Find horchata at many Mexican restaurants and taquerias (often not even listed on the menu), including, but not limited to, Costa Brava and Jalapeños.

Want fruity, light and dairy-free? Then order an agua fresca--every flavor is wonderful, although cantaloupe is my favorite--from Gabriella Wine Shoppe on Cedar Street. A legacy left by the original manager, Chris Dennenbaum, these thin, fresh, watery fruit juices are eminently refreshing and so, so good. Yes, there's a touch of sugar in there, but no caffeine or dairy. Order one with your sandwich, and you won't be sorry. And, if you go after the lunch rush, there's no line, no waiting.

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From the April 12-19, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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