Currently, a storm of public fury is blowing through New York City, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempts to ban the sale of sodas larger than 16 ounces. And it got me thinking about all of the ingredients in Coca Cola, Pepsi and the like that are really not necessary (or healthy). Like corn syrup, caramel color and potassium benzoate (what ??). Really, to make tasty soda, you only need three ingredients.
Carbonated water in the form of club soda or sparkling water such as Perrier, a flavoring agent and a little know how. Sugar is not an essential ingredient, but in small amounts adds that satisfying texture and flavor we all crave.
As the idea hit me, I began my own storm in the kitchen concocting flavored syrups for a blueberry soda, an orange one (think Sunkist) and even the mysterious root beer. A good formula is 1 tablespoon of syrup or fruit purée for every 6 ounces of club soda. For a basic simple syrup, bring one cup of sugar and one cup of water just to a boil. From there you can add vanilla extract or citrus peel… the sky is the limit…
And as I was throwing my own personal soda party, I realized it could be even more fun with people – kids especially. Because crafting your own fizzy drink at home gives you (the parent) control over the sugar content (and resulting hyperactivity) of each cup. But they’re not just for youngsters. For big kids, these drinks are refreshing, guilt-free and satisfying. And you didn’t hear it from me, but on a Friday night you could easily trade in the club soda for a little bubbly.
Any Berry Syrup
1 cup fresh berries
2 Tbs granulated sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
Method: In a small sauce pot combine berries with lemon juice and sugar, smashing berries with a fork to release juice. Bring just to a simmer.
Cool slightly and purée in a blender or food processor. Strain through a mesh sieve, if desired. For extra smooth syrup, strain again through cheesecloth.
Root Beer Syrup
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp root beer extract (found in grocery stores and online, try Amazon)
Root beer barrel candy, for fun and a slight tinge of color
Method: Combine sugar and water in a small sauce pot and bring just to a boil. Add root beer extract, and cool.
1 orange, peeled and juiced
¼ cup water
3 Tbs granulated sugar
Lots of the orange peel
Method: Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pot and bring just to a boil. Off the heat add a decent amount of the orange peel (more peel = more flavor). Cool to room temperature, then store chilled with peel.
Side Note. For an orange cream soda (oh, yes), add 1 tablespoon of heavy cream to each drink.
Side Note #2. When making any of the simple syrups such as the orange and root beer, the ingredients can be combined in a microwave-safe container and heated for 30 seconds to a minute. The goal is simply to dissolve the sugar in the liquid.