To bring liquid interest to my meals, I’ve been experimenting with home-made sodas. Or, more precisely, I’ve been experimenting with flavored syrups, as my sodas are simply some syrup topped by chilled sparkling water and perhaps a dash of Angostura bitters.
The possibilities are almost endless: aromatic leaves and roots from Asian cuisine, spices (the cardamom soda at Saul’s Deli in Berkeley is splendid), citrus zest, vanilla beans, berries, lavender, and so on. For many infusions, it’s almost as simple as making a cup of tea: heat water, sugar and the flavoring ingredients together, then cool and strain.
For infusions with fresh produce, like a strawberry syrup, a different approach is needed, macerating the fruit in sugar, then cooking the mixture to obtain a syrup – a process similar to jam making but with far less cooking (no need to get the “set”).
Here’s one of my favorite base flavors: ginger, makrut lime leaves and lemongrass. I’m still working on the timing for the infusion, thinking that a better flavor might be obtained by adding the lime leaves after the liquid has come to a boil.
Thai-Inspired Syrup for Soda Water
- 10 grams peeled ginger root. sliced thinly
- 3 paired makrut lime leaves (see note) i.e., 6 leaf segments total
- 20 grams lemon grass, sliced
- 225 grams water 1 cup
- 225 grams sugar about 1 cup
- Combine all of the ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat. Let boil for about a minute, then turn off the heat and cover. Let steep for five to ten minutes.
- Pour into a heat-proof container through a fine strainer and allow to cool.
- Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.
- To serve, pour 15-30 mL (1-2 tablespooninto a glass and top with 350 mL (12 fl. oz.) chilled sparkling water.
Makrut limes (Citrus hystrix) are an Asian lime with double-segmented leaves. Most famously used in Thai curries, salads and soups, the leaves impart a magical aroma and subtle flavor. You can sometimes find them in Asian grocery stores, or in groceries that carry more exotic ingredients.