The drinker | lemons

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I can't help it. When the weather turns warm, my thoughts turn to lemons. Not that this most versatile of citrus fruits is ever exactly a million miles from my edible and potable musings, since the kitchen's never without them. But in summer, the lemon is king.

I can't help it. When the weather turns warm, my thoughts turn to lemons. Not that this most versatile of citrus fruits is ever exactly a million miles from my edible and potable musings, since the kitchen's never without them. But in summer, the lemon is king.

Lemons make it possible to drink lemonade. They perfect the accent of a G&T, a drink that cannot be drunk unless the yellow wedge interposes itself between the ice and your parched lips. They brighten iced tea or a glass of Pimm's or fizzy water for the designated drivers in the crowd. They crown Martinis with the shimmering halo of their expressed oil.

In countries where lemons are cheap, their association with alcohol is a foregone conclusion. That's why Italy and Spain are awash with lemon-flavoured licori (Spanish licores), a species of potable that wobbles violently in quality. Some are too sweet for their own good, no better than a lemon-infused vodka you can make for yourself by dumping four peeled and seeded lemons, sliced, into a bottle.

I've recently been converted by a fairly new entrant to the field, Limoncetta di Sorrento. This lovely fluid (31 per cent ABV) is made with a type of lemon called ovale di Sorrento, about which I have been able to learn precisely nothing. What I know from the drink is that it's very, very tart: drink with lots of ice, either as it is or with a diluting dose of fizzy water. Tel: 01756 709798 for stockists - you won't regret it.

There are other tricks you can play with this versatile old dog. I learned a great one recently at the Bodegas Nekeas in Navarra, when a bunch of us were served a dinner-finishing concoction that the hosts referred to as Sorbete. What it was, in fact, was lemon sorbet that had been mixed very quickly with a little bit of gin and a much larger quantity of their own excellent Cuvée Allier Chardonnay 1998. The resulting mix was thick and sweet, but cut with the acidity from both the lemons in the sorbet and the citrus flavours in the wine. A hot idea for the end of a summer meal - try too with cava.

Of course, for lemon in its natural purity, there's always just lemon in water. This sounds like an invalid's drink, but having sampled it in lieu of postprandial coffee, I think it's more substantial than that. Boil the kettle while washing a lemon in hot soapy water (to get the wax off). Rinse, dry, and cut off a good wodge of zest. Let the water come off the boil, then drop in the zest. Tingling taste-buds and a good night's sleep are your reward.

But ultimately, for me at any rate, drinkable lemon means lemonade. Lemonade is proof (to appropriate what Benjamin Franklin said about beer) that God loves us. And nowhere, in my experience, is it made better than at the Nantyffin Cider Mill and Dining Room in Crickhowell, Gwent. Last time I was there I got all cosy with the manager and coaxed the recipe from him. God's love in a glass, frosty and sweet.

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