DIY Strawberry Soda

diystrawberrysodaWhen I imagine the perfect strawberry soda, it smells like a Strawberry Shortcake doll and tastes like a strawberry dessert. But most of the strawberry sodas I’ve tried taste more like cherry, if they even taste like fruit at all. Fresh strawberries are everywhere, so it’s the perfect time to make a DIY strawberry soda. (Orange soda fans can try my DIY Orange Soda recipe.) Sometimes a non-alcoholic drink is in order!

This recipe is closer to the store-bought soda flavor of, say, Faygo or Crush—only with the taste of real strawberries. If you want to go for a more subtle or sophisticated flavor, you could add some mint, basil, rosemary or tarragon for added depth and cut back a little on the sugar. Honey and strawberry go together perfectly, so you could also skip the sugar altogether for a healthier option. Raspberries, blueberries and cranberries added to the mix could add some tartness without changing the berry goodness of the drink. As a bonus, the strained berries make a great dessert topping.

If you substitute honey, start with 1 1/3 cups honey as a replacement for the sugar and adjust to taste. If you are using herbs for flavor, add them with the strawberries when making the syrup.

DIY Strawberry Soda
(Makes almost 2 cups of syrup)

1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon citric acid
Seltzer

Add strawberries, water, sugar, and citric acid to a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a bare simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Bottle and refrigerate the cooled syrup. For each serving, mix 1 part syrup with 5 parts seltzer, adjusting to your personal taste. Mix syrup and seltzer on a glass-by-glass basis rather than mixing a large batch and storing it.

Note: Citric acid powder, also known as sour salt, is easy to find at many markets, but you can order it online from Amazon, too. The citric acid is optional but does add tartness to the recipe and extend the shelf life.

Sangria!

sangriaI love sangria. But when I see ready-made sangria in the supermarket or liquor store, I get a little confused. Isn’t the point of sangria to use up mediocre wine and leftover fruit? I guess I have a very pragmatic way of approaching such a delicious beverage. Besides, part of the fun is picking out which fruits go into it and then eating the fruit as you sip the drink.

Below is the basic recipe for sangria, but it’s an ideal DIY cocktail because you can improvise so easily. The best sangria I made featured peaches, meyer lemon slices, and strawberries along with a strawberry liqueur instead of triple sec. While you don’t have to use bad wine (though I sometimes do!), it’s a waste of money to use expensive wine since you are adding so many other flavors.

You can do this with white wine or a rosé, for an even more summery drink. It’s perfect for barbecues and big parties. No bartender needed!

Sangria

1 750 milliliter bottle of red wine
2 cups chopped fruit
2 ounces Cognac (or brandy or dark rum)
2 ounces triple sec (or other fruit liqueur)
2 ounces simple syrup

Combine all ingredients and let them set in the refrigerator overnight.

Photo by Jackson Stakeman

Rhubarb-Fennel Cocktail

rhubarbcocktailRhubarb is here! But what exactly do you do with a bunch of rhubarb? I actually think it makes a much better cocktail ingredient than baking ingredient, because of its tart grassy flavor. This cocktail goes all out with the rhubarb and a fennel-infused vodka. You can use the syrup and juice you make for this recipe in other rhubarb cocktails or get even fancier by making your own homemade rhubarb bitters.

Rhubarb-Fennel Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces fennel-infused vodka*
1 1/2 ounces rhubarb syrup**
1/3 ounce rhubarb juice
3/4 ounce lime juice

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake for about 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Note: If you don’t have a juicer, you juice rhubarb (stalks only!) in a blender and then press through a fine-mesh strainer.

*Fennel-Infused Vodka

1 cup vodka
1 sprig fresh fennel (the greenery, not the bulb)

Let fennel steep in vodka for 24 hours. Taste to see if you’re satisfied with the flavor. If you’d like it more intense, steep for longer.

**Rhubarb Syrup

1 1/2 cups water
5 stalks rhubarb, chopped into half-inch pieces
3/4 cup cane sugar

Bring all ingredients to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. The rhubarb will separate and turn into mush. Remove from heat and let the mixture steep for 10 more minutes. Strain out the solids through a fine-mesh sieve or cheese cloth. You can use the mush in baking. Keep the syrup in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

Photo by Jackson Stakeman

Pink Collins

strawberry-grapefruit-elderflowerSpring cocktail time! This one that I made with Savvy Housekeeping tastes like a delicate and refreshing grapefruit-elderflower soda with strawberries. (But don’t let that fool ya’ … there’s vodka in there!) Use juicy Ruby Red grapefruits, which are still hanging around, and fresh strawberries, which have just started their season. You can even leave out the vodka, for a lower-alcohol version.

Pink Collins

1 1/2 ounces vodka
1 ounce fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1 ounce St. Germain (elderflower liqueur)
1/2 ounce simple syrup
3 strawberries, cut up
Club soda (about 4 ounces)

Muddle the juice, liqueur, simple syrup, and strawberries in a mixing glass or cocktail shaker and then stir in the vodka. Pour into a glass and add ice, then top off with club soda.

Good Morning Milan from PDT

It’s complicated, fancy-pants cocktail time! You’ll notice there are a lot of asterisks in this recipe. Tincture, syrup, cheese-and-milk mixtures, egg white … this is one involved drink. It was created by a bartender at PDT in New York, which is consistently named one of the best bars whenever there’s any kind of poll or contest. (There’s even a PDT cocktail book.) But the last time I was in New York, the place was so packed that I couldn’t get in. I get a lot of recipes emailed to me, but I had to try this one so I could get at least part of the PDT experience at home.

Good Morning Milan
Created by Michael Klein, PDT

2 ounces blended scotch*
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce sage honey syrup**
1/2 ounce mascarpone milk ***
2 dashes of lavender tincture****
1 egg white
1 ounce club soda

Pour all ingredients except the soda into a shaker without ice and shake for 15 seconds. Add ice to the shaker, and then shake for an additional 30 seconds. Pour the club soda into a chilled Collins glass, and then strain the drink on top. Garnish with a sprig of lavender.

*This recipe was created with The Black Grouse blended scotch, but you can substitute another blended scotch if needed—just make it a smoky one.

**Make the syrup by mixing equal parts warm water and sage honey.Sage honey is particularly mild, but you can substitute another honey.

*** Blend equal parts mascarpone and whole milk until smooth.

**** You can make your own lavender tincture or buy it. Lavender bitters would also do the trick, if you can find them.Good Morning Milan (PDT)Photo and recipe courtesy of The Black Grouse