DIY Orange Soda

diyorangesodaOrange Crush, Sunkist and other kinds of orange soda are great, even if they taste more like orange the color than like orange the fruit. DIY orange soda has the same mix of sweet and tart as the store-bought stuff, only with the flavor of real oranges.

The citric acid is key to getting that sharp flavor associated with the real-deal orange soda, but it also extends shelf life a little. Leave it out if you like, but then this won’t be as tart and will taste more like OJ than Orange Crush and its kin.

DIY Orange Soda

Zest of 2 navel oranges
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (about 1 orange)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon citric acid

Zest the oranges. Be sure to avoid including any of the white pith. Juice one orange and strain out the pulp. Combine the zest, juice, sugar, water and citric acid in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, then let it cool. Refrigerate the cooled syrup and then mix one part syrup with three parts seltzer for each serving.

Adjust the amount of seltzer to taste. I suggest mixing on a glass-by-glass basis and storing the syrup separately, unmixed.

The recipe I created and posted here was first published on Serious Eats in my DIY vs. Buy column

Mocktails and Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Original_Mocktails-Virgin-Grapefruit-MojitoMaybe you overdid it a little on New Year’s Eve, or maybe you just want something delicious to drink that doesn’t contain alcohol. Either way, if you’re skipping the booze, you aren’t limited to water and soda. Previously, I found some tasty non-alcoholic drinks that don’t suck, and here are some more for 2014!

Spiced Thyme and Lime Iced Tea ~ Tea complemented with some herbs and spice (and of course a little lime) is a nice way to get layered, deep flavors without alcohol.

Virgin Grapefruit Mojito ~ Often times the virgin version of a cocktail disappoints or is just a sugary substitute. But thanks to the complexity of grapefruit and a recipe that uses agave or honey instead of sugar, this one is a sophisticated winner.

Horchata de Arroz Tostada ~ Toasted rice and cinnamon! It’s delicious to drink. Sure, it’s not anything like a damn cocktail, but cocktails could learn from this tasty beverage.

Apio-Rey ~ Celery, coriander, and grapes are an unusual combination that make for a satisfying drink made with sparkling water. I’ve never had Cel-Ray soda, but it’s supposed to be a take on that.

DIY Grape Soda ~ This isn’t Grape Crush! Homemade grape soda is like non-alcoholic wine with bubbles (and a little sweetness).

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

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.

Festive Non-Alcoholic Drinks for Thanksgiving

Grapefruit Thyme Soda from Reclaiming Provincial

As much as I love cocktails, Thanksgiving (and Christmas!) also call for exciting non-alcoholic drinks. They’ll be a festive option for kids or people who don’t drink, as well as a fun choice for those looking to keep their alcohol consumption on the lower side. It’s a special day, so do something more exciting and attractive than just water or cans of soda. Here are some fun ideas:

Fennel Apple Spritzer ~ Fennel is one of my favorite accent flavors, and it pairs well with the sweetness of apples. This one is a sophisticated drink that won’t make adults feel like they’re drinking like the kiddie table.

Asian Pear Sparkler ~ I love Asian Pears! But the spice of ginger and herbal notes of rosemary make this more than just a fruity drink.

Grapefruit & Thyme Soda ~ These two flavors are a refreshing match that’s outside of the ordinary. If you want to booze it up, add some gin. Garnish with a sprig of thyme to make it look even more festive.

Puritan’s Pride ~ It wouldn’t be the holidays without cranberries. Apple and ginger, elevate the cranberry in this drink above its usual role as a relish on top of the turkey.

Tarragon-Spiked Lady Grey Iced Tea ~ For a less-fruity option, this iced tea uses Lady Grey (a variation on the more famous Earl Grey tea) along with tarragon and lime.