Monday August 8, 2011

Club: Soda

A nightmarish concoction of Diet Coke and cheap ice cream constituted my first experience with floats. Scarred, I sweltered through nearly thirty summers, inadequately refreshed, until Mr. BraveTart instigated a regimen of intensive float therapy to help heal those old wounds.

First, training wheels. I combined vanilla bean ice cream and orange soda for an Aperol spiked Creamsicle float. A gateway float. Soon, I wanted something stronger. Brown sugar sassafras ice cream made the ultimate root beer float. Yet without homemade soda, those floating adventures seemed lackluster.

This nifty doo dad doesn’t cost much in terms of kitchen equipment, but I hadn’t worked up to investing in a carbonator. And I didn’t want to blow bubbles with my equipment budget at work either.

Especially knowing I could make gorgeously flavored sodas without one.

soda bubbles floating through ice
(Photography: Sarah Jane Sanders)

It takes seven ingredients to make soda at home, and three of them are water.

Sugar. Obviously sugar gives the soda its sweetness but less obvious, it gives soda body. Without the right amount of sugar, you only have fruity sparking water. Totally delicious, but not soda.

Salt. It takes a heap of sugar to give soda the right mouth feel, and that sweetness needs taming. Salt prevents the soda’s sweetness from becoming cloying and rounds the flavor profile of the soda, giving it complexity instead of just simple sweetness.

Acid. Almost all fruit sodas benefit from a sour punch. Acidity balances the sweetness, just like salt, but also brightens fruit flavors and gives them a “cleaner” taste. In some cases, lemon juice works great (blueberry lemon soda!) but sometimes, you want the sour without the flavor. Cherry soda, not cherry lemon soda. Enter citric acid.

Maybe not an American pantry staple, but not a specialty ingredient either. Supermarkets carry it during canning season, and pharmacies and health food stores sell it year round. This post from the Kitchn does a great job of explaining citric acid’s role without getting too Wikipedia about it.

Flavor. This can come from vanilla beans, herbs, spices, tea, fruit, or some combination thereof. Any kind of fruit will do, whether fresh from the farmers market, from the freezer aisle, or even freeze dried.

Final three ingredients? Water, water, water.

The first four ingredients combine with water to make a syrup. Pour the syrup over ice. Finish with club soda for fizz.

That easy.

homemade fruit soda syrup pouring over ice

I quit drinking soda a long time ago. Consider it the first rule of a relatively skinny pastry girl (the second: no stretchy pants). I face too many delicious morsels on a daily basis to waste calories on soda. Or, as we say in the South, “coke.” (For the uninitiated, this term refers to all carbonated sugar-water, regardless of brand. Even Pepsi.)

But the discovery of homemade coke, if you’ll allow me the continued abuse of the word, has turned me into a soda fiend. Cherry almond. Wild blackberry (pictured). Vanilla cream. Green tea Raspberry. Strawberry basil. Ginger. Blueberry violet’s my current obsession. Any flavor combination I can think of seems infinitely more delicious, more refreshing as a soda.

Homemade soda satisfies, leaving you content after just one. They make perfect canvas for creating floats of unimaginable deliciousness, yet they have enough substance to stand as a dessert all on their own.

wild blackberry soda pop

The syrups store almost forever in the fridge and whether you make a pint or a gallon, it takes the same amount of effort: practically none. Meaning ten minutes at the stove will translate into a summer’s worth of refreshment, doled out one glass at a time.

In most of the United States we have a full thirty days of blazing hot summer left on the calendar. In other places, Kentucky included, we can only call September nominally autumnal, giving us another two months of heat to endure. Each one of those sweltering days deserves something more refreshing, more memorable than a Coke.

Here are three recipes to make killer soda at home all year round. Use any of them as a springboard for your own creations: toss some lemongrass in with the vanilla. Replace the water with green tea. Steep the sodas with herbs from your garden and spices from your pantry. Go cool off!

Fruit Soda (from freeze dried fruit)

Fresh Fruit Soda

posted byStellaand filed under:  Fruit  Gluten Free  Lactose Free  Sarah Jane   Vanilla

28 comments and counting

Aug 08, 2011 · 10:08 AM

What a great idea, this looks fantastic!

 · Kelly ·

Aug 08, 2011 · 11:52 AM

Citric acid is a right old pain to get here in the UK , so I substituted fizzy vitamin C tablets which have citric acid in it, when I made Elderflower cordial, hehehe- and it worked !!
here’s the recipe by the way..

 · Modern Country Lady ·

Aug 08, 2011 ·  1:22 PM

Ha! I have the same justification for giving up pop.

However, I have to admit that I was very hopeful you’d produce a vanilla cream recipe when you started talking about all of this Nomz.

 · Kaitlin ·

Aug 08, 2011 ·  4:51 PM

Wow those pictures are fantastic!

 · RavieNomNoms · 

Aug 08, 2011 ·  9:16 PM

Cool idea, homemade is so much healthier than store bought. Love the vivid refreshing colors-stunning pictures.

 · flourtrader ·

Aug 08, 2011 · 10:07 PM

I love the photos in this post!

 · Miss Ericka ·

Aug 08, 2011 · 10:46 PM

Great idea now I have a reason to use soda. Love the pictures.

 · Tres Delicious ·

Aug 08, 2011 · 11:48 PM

OMG! I have been thinking about making blueberry soda for the last few weeks. I’ve never made homemade soda before so this will be a first for me. Wish me well!

 · Jemofthesouth ·

Aug 09, 2011 · 10:29 AM

…I want to swim in that berry soda. Outstanding. And great recipe too, easy enough for us dopey cooks out there.

Oh, and I REALLY want some doodads right now. They used to be my favorite snack…


 · Parsley Sage ·

Aug 09, 2011 · 10:44 AM

@Kelly, thank you ma’am!

@Modern Country Lady, Elderflower cordial? Yes please!!

@Kaitlin, zomg, you have to make a batch! It’s so good. I have house vanilla cream soda on the menu right now, with coconut pineapple sorbet and a shot of rum. Piña colada floats!

@RavieNomNoms @flourtrader @Miss Ericka @Tres Delicious, thank you all! Sarah’s photos are stunning, when she sent me this batch I couldn’t stop staring at that top photo. So gorgeous!!

@Jemofthesouth, blueberry soda is soooo good! Let me know how yours turns out, it’s easy, you’ll do great!

@Parsley Sage, ha. You are not a dopey cook! And what exactly is a doodad anyway?


Aug 09, 2011 · 10:56 AM

Look delicious—will have to try!! As always, great pics from SJ!

 · Janice ·

Aug 09, 2011 ·  2:39 PM

Finally delurking…
Your photos are fantastic.
Your blog layout and background are BADASS.
Your recipe (s) look amazing.
Be my neighbor?

 · Lauren @ WWoB ·

Aug 09, 2011 ·  6:37 PM

The website link is a cheap way to fizz drinks ! I haven’t tried it- but it uses simple science to make things fizzy.

 · Kryss ·

Aug 10, 2011 ·  9:31 AM

@Janice, thanks!

@Lauren, thanks for coming out of the woodwork! I’m ready to take the plunge, let’s be neighbors!

@Kryss, the power of science is super affordable, wow!


Aug 10, 2011 · 12:10 PM

I grew up in Oklahoma, where we said “coke” for any kind of soda. Now that I’ve moved to Kansas, everyone says “pop.” Ah, the regional nature of English.

I haven’t had a coke in years (except my once-yearly Dr. Pepper float), but I really want to try your cream soda recipe, especially since I have my own soda siphon.

 · Lauren  ·

Aug 11, 2011 · 10:52 AM

@Lauren, oh yeah! Long live “coke” as a blanket term. Let me know how your soda experiment goes, I’ve never used a soda siphon, I’m curious to know how it works. Keep me posted!


Aug 11, 2011 ·  6:55 PM

Every now and then I’ll indulge in an actual Coke, but making my own soda at home would definitely be more refreshing to me. Especially with all of our fresh CSA fruits – this blackberry one here has me hating myself for eating up our blackberries so quick!

 · Peggy ·

Aug 12, 2011 · 10:03 AM

@Peggy, it’s so difficult not to! Those Kentucky blackberries are amazing. But … they’re amazing in soda too.


Aug 12, 2011 · 10:21 AM

I inadvertently made a homemade cherry soda the other day with leftover candied cherries and club soda. Love the idea of homemade syrups, and the blackberries on top in the last photo look great!

 · lisaiscooking ·

Aug 12, 2011 · 11:06 AM

Hi! Just found your blog through Tasteology. I like making tasty spiked drinks this way with homemade liqueurs. But I saw a mention of a Cherry Almond soda, and I have been totally craving cherry and almond stuff. Was going to make a cake this weekend, but I have to try this! How do you do the almond part though? The cherry makes sense, but other than adding almond extract, is there another way to get the flavor? Thanks!!! Also your pics are awesome!

 · t3chg1rl · 

Aug 12, 2011 · 11:28 AM

Citric acid is abundant here..and never knew it could be used in such a delightful way..the pictures look awesome, Stella!

 · sanjeeta kk ·

Aug 12, 2011 ·  3:42 PM

goregous…simply goregous!!

 · bonnie ·

Aug 12, 2011 · 11:28 PM

@lisa, how serendipitous, soda surprise!

@t3chg1rl, quite right; you could definitely just add a splash of almond extract, but alternately you can steep crushed almonds into the water before making the syrup. Glad you’re enjoying Sarah’s photography!

@sanjeeta, no blueberries, but lots of citric acid, eh? Win some loose some, I guess.

@bonnie, thank you!


Aug 14, 2011 ·  9:16 PM

Hooray for sparkles! I’m only 15 days away from my annual Coke…something tells me, though, that yours wouldn’t have the creepy aftertaste.

 · Mallowsota · 

Aug 15, 2011 · 10:30 AM

@Mallowsota, creeeeeepy after taste! (I said that in my Marshie voice…


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