The frothy orange drink is what summer dreams are made of.
Growing up, long summer days culminated with my friends packed in my mother’s small Corona, Queens, kitchen. Racing our bikes home, they yelled against the wind, “You think she’ll make us the orange creamsicle drink?” Like clockwork, the rattling sound of a metal spoon and ice cubes inside a plastic pitcher greeted us as we ran up the apartment building stairs with what little energy the heat spared us.
We watched in awe as my mother skillfully broke all conventional knowledge around combining milk and orange juice like a Dominican mythbuster in her floral wallpapered laboratory. The smell of teenagers who spent the day playing tag overpowered the aroma of whatever was stewing on the stove, as she lined up the frosted glasses and brought out her ingredients (orange juice, evaporated milk, sugar, and ice), along with tiny vials of vanilla extract that she poured with precision.
It never took much convincing for her to make a plastic pitcher full of morir soñando. We loved it because the creamy, frothy beverage that tastes like a sweet dessert with juicy, tangy hints cooled us down after a long day of running around and being kids, and she loved it because it was less expensive than turning on the air conditioner—and almost as effective.
“Morir soñando” means “to die dreaming,” but the thirst-quenching combination of equal parts orange juice and evaporated milk, mixed with a few spoons of sugar and poured over a heap of crushed ice, brings you back to life on a hot summer day like nothing can. The drink originated in the Dominican Republic and is now found anywhere from stateside Dominican restaurants to street vendors and homes. Some variations include rum for a boozy treat, and morir soñando–inspired cocktails can be found at Caribbean-themed bars. The basic drink consists of three ingredients, but my mother adds vanilla extract for a little extra sweetness, or sometimes lime juice for sourness, depending on who comes over.
Although straightforward, the recipe has its complications, as coagulation can leave you with a less than Instagram-worthy drink, and the sugar will stay crunchy if you don’t mix it well before adding the ice. You can combat curdling by chilling the ingredients beforehand, pouring in the orange juice slowly while stirring, and consuming the drink almost immediately. That last part never poses an issue for me.
Today, a cold cup of morir soñando transports me to those summer days when we had more time for ourselves and fewer things to worry about. Back when keeping our favorite drink from curdling was our only care in the world.