Soda Week

From-Scratch Sodas

It’s easier than you to think to take the taste of summer produce into fall.

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I like the ritual of an evening cocktail hour—a drink paired with something salty signals the end of the work day, that it’s time to relax. It’s lovely to have something to sip while making dinner or chatting about the day. The only problem is that I am not much of a drinker. It’s not that I’m opposed; my body just doesn’t like alcohol. More than one glass of wine makes me uncomfortably hot and flushed. If I venture past a single cocktail, I end up feeling like I’ve been bludgeoned.

In my twenties, I fought against my biological desire to live a dry life, but now firmly settled into my thirties, I’ve come to accept my genetic incompatibility with booze. Though I’ve not been able to take part in much of the re-emerging cocktail scene, I’m grateful for it nonetheless. That’s because it had led to a renewed interest in herbal syrups, fruit and vinegar shrubs, and other tinctures that go beautifully in a glass of fizzy water.

When fresh herbs are abundant, I’ll infuse them into small batches of simple syrup. Rosemary lemon syrup is fresh on hot days and can do double duty in homemade vinaigrette. During peach season, I’ll peel and mash two or three ripe ones into a jar with sugar, apple cider vinegar, and grated ginger, for a bracing concoction that hits both the sweet and savory taste buds.

When fresh apple cider is in season, I regularly cook down a half gallon of juice into two concentrated cups of syrup. Flavored with a little mint and honey, it works with either sparkling water during that post-work, pre-dinner time or in a mug of hot water later in the evening. The best part of these shrubs and syrups is that once you learn the ratios and get a hang of the technique, you can use whatever fruit, herbs, or vinegars you have on hand.

Peach Ginger Shrub

Peach-ginger shrub

Ingredients:

  • 2 peaches, peeled and chopped
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger

Instructions:

Combine peaches and sugar in a quart jar. Using a wooden spoon or muddler, mash the peaches and sugar together. Add vinegar and ginger and stir to combine. Put a lid on the jar and refrigerate for 24 hours.

When a day has passed, strain the solids from the liquid. Discard solids. Store the finished shrub in the refrigerator.

Makes: 1 1/4 cups

Apple Mint Syrup

Apple-mint syrup

Ingredients:

  • ½ gallon unfiltered apple cider or juice
  • ¼ cup mint leaves
  • ⅓ cup honey

Instructions:

Combine apple cider and mint leaves in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Place over medium-high heat and cook at a gentle boil for 45 minutes, until the cider has reduced greatly. Add honey and stir to combine.

Continue to cook until you have just two cups of concentrated cider left. Remove mint leaves. Pour syrup into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and keep stored in the refrigerator.

Note: Do not cook the apple cider down past two cups. If you do, it will turn into jelly. While that’s delicious and very good spread on toast, it doesn’t work as well in sparkling water as a liquid syrup does.

Makes: 2 cups

Rosemary Lemon Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 healthy sprigs rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Instructions:

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Gently crush the rosemary leaves, to help them infuse the syrup. Add rosemary to the pot and let simmer for 10 minutes, so that it thickens slightly and gets intensely rosemary-flavored. At the end of cooking, add the lemon juice.

Let syrup cool completely with the rosemary sprigs in the pot. When it’s cool, pour it into a small jar or bottle. If you’d like it to be more intensely rosemary-flavored, leave a sprig in the jar to continue the infusion.

Makes: 1 1/4 cups

Comments

  1. Michele DiLauro says:

    How long are these ok in the frige? And are they ‘cannable ‘ as they are with their sugar/ acid content? I may need to re-think my calendar from jam to baking season, repeat; to jam, syrups, baking season!’

  2. Marisa says:

    Michele, they keep for weeks in the fridge. As long as they’re not growing mold or beginning to ferment, they’re still fine to use (I’ve had batches of the apple syrup in my fridge for weeks).

    The peach and apple recipes are cannable (keep jars to pints or smaller, process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes). If you wanted to can the rosemary lemon syrup, you’d need to double the amount of lemon juice to ensure proper acidity.

  3. sierra says:

    Can you use these bad boys in water kefir? It’s a funky fermented thing that fizzes itself. .. Yeah I said it! I don’t have a lot of experience with them and have been looking for flavor options :)

    • I have absolutely no experience using these with water kefir, so I don’t know at all how it would work.

  4. Doreen says:

    I’ve never seen these type of drink recipes before. What is the ratio of syrup to sparkling water? (How much syrup would you add to a 16 oz. bottle?) What other liquid can you use besides sparkling water? These all sound yummy! Thanks for the recipes. :)

    • Doreen, I rarely measure and just add them to taste. I’d recommend starting with a tablespoon or two. Stir it in well and then taste. Adjust accordingly. As far as other liquids, you can also pair them with plain or tonic water.

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