August 7, 2011

Soda Sisters

My mom and I get a little crazy when we’re together. We spend 99% of our time together either talking about food, eating food, coming up with food projects, or shopping for said food projects.

Friday night after we were majorly full from Pizzeria Lola and Sebastian Joe’s, we immediately started talking about what we’d be eating next and which food projects we would tackle this weekend. Somehow, we ended up getting all fixated on homemade sodas. We had both remembered seeing recipes for them in a recent Bon Appetit—and immediately started paging through back issues to find the article. Once that mission was accomplished and we vetted the feasibility of making these sodas, we got in the car to go look for the perfect soda bottles.

Saturday morning, we got as many ingredients as we could from the Fulton Farmer’s Market (cukes and basil), and then filled in the rest at the grocery store (lots of ginger, sugar, and club soda). And that that afternoon after eating some Lyonnaise salads, we got started on our soda making.

Making homemade sodas is actually really easy if you don’t mind ending up with a mildly sticky floor (and even if you do mind, you get over it, I promise). You make simple syrups out of the ingredients that are going to give it its specific flavor. Then you add club soda. And then you drink glass upon glass until you wake up with a sugar hangover the next morning and make everyone regret it.

We tackled 3 different kinds of sodas, which was a tad aggressive for my limited attention span, but I didn't fizzle out--I managed to power through. We made Cucumber, Mint, and Basil Soda…Strawberry, Lemon, and Basil Soda…and Spicy Ginger Soda (my favorite).

It turns out they are actually the perfect trio. The Cucumber, Mint, and Basil was mild and refreshing. The Strawberry, Lemon, and Basil was definitely the sweetest of the mix. And the Spicy Ginger was just special—super spicy (with 4 tsp of red pepper flakes!), super ginger-y. Minus the red pepper flakes, the amount of ginger-y punch in this soda would cure any queasy stomach.

So we did our thing—we chopped up our ingredients, made our simple syrups, stirred in club soda, mixed well, had our shoes periodically stick to the floor, and very carefully poured the finished product into our perfect soda bottles.

Like I’ve said before, I do believe there are a few things that are truly not better homemade (pizza, for one…). I was worried that sodas would potentially fall into this camp, but much to my delight, homemade sodas trump anything already bottled or canned. By far.

The point at which we started to get a little nuts was after the sodas were made and we started talking about styling them. It involved getting out our big stainless beverage bucket, sending Zach out to the store to buy lots and lots of ice to fill the bucket, getting everyone gathered around the picnic table outside, raiding my “store” in the basement for colored napkins and straws, running around to get the photos snapped before the ice melted outside, yelling at the boys to not drink their sodas until all necessary photos were snapped, and talking about creating our own labels (which sadly didn’t end up happening).

I have lots of plans for these sodas. They’d make cute hostess gifts, there are endless other seasonal ingredients to be experimented with, and the syrups keep in the fridge for a little while allowing them to be on the ready for the perfect moment.

Here’s the recipe for my favorite—the rest can be found in the May 2011 issue of Bon Appetit!

Spicy Ginger Soda, Adapted slightly from the May 2011 issue of Bon Apptetit

1 cup sugar
4 tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp salt
6 inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
6 cups club soda
12 lime wedges for garnish

Mix together sugar, red pepper flakes, salt, ginger, and 2 cups water in small saucepan; bring to boil. After the mixture reaches a boil, reduce heat and simmer mixture for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and let steep another 30 minutes, covered. Chill syrup in refrigerator.

In pitcher, mix together syrup and club soda. Stir. Serve over lots of ice with a lime wedge.

Makes 12

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