I’m a big fan of seltzer. The more bubbles in my glass, the better. In my cocktail-making world, I create simple syrups, and last summer I started using them for some crazy sodas. This three-part series will go through creating your own syrups, shrubs made from vinegar bases and bitters, which are kind of like the salt and pepper of a drink. This year, why not invite your summer BBQ guests to make their own soda creations? And yes, a shot of rum or whiskey would make an all-ages soda very grown up!
Refreshing soda drinks have long been popular in Israel, too, with its hot and sticky summers. In 1910, the first kiosk opened in Tel Aviv, offering only one product: gazoz, artificially colored, sugary syrup topped with seltzer. Its name comes from the word for gas and refers to the carbonation. Gazoz fell out of style for several decades as Israelis turned, instead, to brand-name sodas. In recent years, however, it has seen a revival, with cafés, kiosks and restaurant offering new, artisanal versions made with fresh ingredients, like the recipes I share here, which many Israelis know nostalgically as gazoz shel pa’am (“gazoz/soda of the past”).
Simple syrup is one part water to one part sugar. The base recipe for tasty fruit syrups is frozen fruit plus water plus sugar plus flavor. Why frozen fruit? It’s available year round, consistent in flavor and sweetness and easy to use. You can use in-season fresh fruit; however, I prefer fresh fruit for eating and garnishing rather than for syrup. If you choose to use fresh fruit, you may need to adjust the sugar levels, depending on its sweetness. Do use fresh herbs, though, not dried. Try blueberry with sage or peach and basil. For a richer flavor, use cane or turbinado sugar, a sugar that still has some molasses flavor.
Don’t stop at only adding plain seltzer, though. A bit of spice syrup to your morning coffee with 2% milk or almond milk makes a fierce rival to the coffee shop’s offerings, or jazz up lemonade with some seltzer and strawberry tarragon syrup.