A while back we purchased a soda stream soda maker. Rob and I both love Italian sodas, and it’s just wasteful to buy a bottle of sparkling water, especially in the quantities we drink it in. The resources used making the bottle, combined with the gas to ship water in a truck to wherever I was going to buy it, offends me. Water comes out of a faucet in my home, I own plenty of bottles, and with the soda maker we only have the “missing” ingredient shipped to us: CO2.
Once you have bubbly water, you may wish to flavor it. I stopped drinking coke because I avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), but I didn’t give up on sugary drinks! The easiest way to flavor bubble water is with simple syrup. Simple syrup is a syrup made from water and sugar. You can infuse any number of flavors into a simple syrup, such as mint, lavender, and ginger.
There are several thicknesses of simple syrup and they have different uses. Thin simple syrup, a ratio of 3 parts water to 1 part sugar, is used to glaze cakes and cookies. Medium simple syrup, a ratio of 2 parts water to 1 part sugar, is used to make beverages and sweeten iced tea. And thick simple syrup, a ratio of 1 part water to 1 part sugar, is used to glaze candied fruits and is the basis of cold drinks. – Linda Larson
You can mix some plain syrup with iced tea and get sweetness, without the paste of sugar granules at the bottom you’d get by adding regular sugar. It also works well with fresh lemon juice to make lemonade (though the acid from the lemons will do a great job of dissolving the sugar).
Simple syrup is an easy way to add sugar to your drink, but the important part is that it adds flavor! To infuse flavor in a syrup is exactly like making a tea: add the herbs to water and steep them, then dissolve the sugar, and you can have lavender or mint flavored tea! Fruit syrups are also easy to make, but for the more moist fruits (apple’s aren’t as moist as lemons, for example) I like to use a different technique. To get the juice out of fruit and combine it with sugar maceration seems to work best. Here’s a recipe that will give you the general idea. Kate and Nathan shared with me the technique of combining equal weights of sugar and sliced fruit (like strawberries or lemons, or blueberries) and letting the sugar draw out the juice, at least overnight. We then go on to add vinegar to make a shelf-stable “shrub”, but that’s a different topic. The syrup made from this is great in sodas, and should store for a week or two covered, in the refrigerator.
When I began avoiding HFCS I was very sad that I would have to avoid ginger ale and tonic water. I know how to make my own tonic water now, and you can get most drinks in a formula that does not include HFCS now, so it isn’t that big a deal. Imagine my joy when Kate and Nathan showed me their recipe for ginger syrup! Ginger ale is actually fermented, so it’s not the same thing. But with a ginger syrup, you can make ginger lemonade, put ginger syrup on your strawberries, pancakes, etc.
Ginger Syrup from Absinthe’s Art of the Bar.
2 oz ginger, thinly sliced
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
Place in a small pot, bring to a simmer and stir to dissolve the sugar. Let simmer 30-40 minutes. Strain out solids and let cool. Store covered in refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Use about two or three tablespoons for a 16 ounces soda.
I’m going to go have a ginger soda with my lunch.