In public parks around Europe, it’s not unusual to see people relaxing on blankets or sitting at picnic tables enjoying a summer's day with a bottle of wine or cold beer. It’s civilized, and no one raises an eyebrow or thinks twice about it.
Here in Alberta, the practice of drinking alcohol in public parks has been illegal. However, this summer, Edmonton is continuing a pilot project allowing alcohol consumption at some picnic sites around the city. It's great news, providing it’s not abused. See www.edmonton.ca/activities_parks_recreation/parks_rivervalley/alcohol-consumption-at-designated-picnic-sites
When enjoying beverages outdoors on a hot day, keeping them cool can be a challenge. Sure, you can drag a big ice chest or cooler filled with ice, wine and beer, but if you’re on a hike with a backpack and want to stop and enjoy a cold beverage, what do you do?
Chilling the beverages prior to heading out is advised. Then, use ice packs or flexible ice sleeves (that have also been kept cold) around the bottles or cans wrapped in a tea towel in your backpack. This also serves to keep the lunch you're taking chilled too! Ice sleeves can be purchased in wine stores, some grocery stores and hardware stores or online.
In the backyard, the old-fashioned ice bucket still works. Using any vessel you like, from a sand pail to a paint bucket or proper silver bucket--or for a larger crowd, even a child’s inflatable swimming pool--can work, filled with cold water and plenty of ice. I’ve seen repurposed bird baths, small boats, wheelbarrows, old barbecues, bathtubs, toilets (yes!) and other vessels used for ice buckets. Place the bottles or cans deep into the ice and your beverages will stay good and frosty.
There are wine chilling devices you can buy that are kept in the freezer and when needed, taken out and plunged into the wine bottle itself (after pouring the first half glass to allow for displacement). These work well and can remain in the bottle on a table for as long as you’re drinking that wine.
For cocktails that require ice, buy ice cube trays in different shapes. You can even find ice trays that have long straw-like shapes that sit vertically in a tall glass well. Big, globe-like ice cubes are great for shorter drinks that require chilling with very slow melting ice. Some are even shaped like small boats – for that gin and 'Titanic' tonic!
For whisky lovers who still drink their drams in the summer and prefer them chilled, whisky rocks made of soap stone or neutral metals work great. Keep them in the freezer and pop them in your drink before service. They rinse off for re-use.
Double walled acrylic glasses that you store in the freezer are great for casual sipping, and now there’s even coasters that will keep that drink chilled. You can spend a lot of money on fancy electric chilling devices if you want, but most of the mentioned ideas are economical, practical and uncomplicated.
However you choose to enjoy cold drinks outside this summer, explore some new parks and try a tasty new white or Rose or Lambrusco wine to chill. Stay cool!
Alison Phillips is co-owner of Aligra Wine & Spirits, located in West Edmonton Mall.