I'm in celebratory mood, and in the absence of a champagne cocktail this spicy, wholesome cooler is just perfect.
If I had my way, today's drink would be champagne cocktail, a double-strength espresso martini - some celebratory drink of unselfconscious exuberance. It would be festooned with maraschino cherries and topped by a cocktail umbrella.
The reason for this mood of celebration? The coalition's announcement that all children under eight will be given free school meals - a recommendation from the School Food Plan, which I have spent a year and a half working on with my business partner John Vincent. This will transform the culture in schools and make the canteen the social hub of the school where pupils and teachers meet, talk, and eat good food. Evidence also shows that giving free meals to all children (including the rich ones) improves the academic performance of pupils - interestingly it is the poorest children who are already eligible for free school meals who benefit most. This is good news.
But, alas, the photos for this column are taken well in advance - so no festive cocktails today. Instead we have something with a certain logic of its own - a wholesome, alcohol-free spiced hibiscus cooler. They drink it in the Caribbean all year round, but this glowing red drink is perfect for the autumn - slightly spiced, tart, but still light and refreshing. And the ginger and orange is great for cold-busting.
I, for one, will be adding a large shot of vodka to mine.
Make your own hibiscus cooler
Makes 2 litres
2 litres water
250g dried sorrel or hibiscus flowers
2cm-piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 orange, zested
250g soft brown sugar
1 Bring all the ingredients up to the boil and simmer for 1 minute.
2 Cover; steep overnight at room temperature.
3 Pass through a sieve and taste for tartness and balance of flavour.
4 Chill in the fridge and serve in tall glasses over ice.
The glowing dark red hibiscus cooler. Photograph: Tricia De Courcy Ling for the Guardian