When the summer heat is in full force, a steaming cuppa can be a little overwhelming. Southerners know the value of ice-cold sweet tea to refresh; Central Americans sip cooling ruby red hibiscus. But, you know, everything gets so much more fun when you add bubbles! These aromatic herb sodas couldn’t be easier, and they’ll even do double duty as posh, low-cal mocktails to accompany dinner or serve at your next summer fling.
BASIC HERBAL SELTZER
This simple technique works particularly well with fresh, aromatic herbs from the garden or market. You’ll be surprised how quickly the flavor infuses into cold carbonated water! To keep things simple, use plain seltzer water from the grocery store. Bubble-holics may prefer at-home carbonators for an endless supply, and the more creative can add extra dimensions of flavor by playing with the variety of naturally flavored seltzer waters on the market.
This “grown-up” herb soda is unsweetened, healthy, and delicious.
* 3 large sprigs of herbs
* 1 liter bottle
* 1 liter of plain seltzer water
Rub the aromatic sprigs with your hands to help release their scent and flavor, then poke them into an empty one-liter soda bottle. Slowly and carefully fill the bottle with plain seltzer. Cap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 1 day, then serve. Try to serve within a day, because the infusion will lose its fresh flavor after about 24 hours.
HERBAL SODA ON THE GO Handling carbonation is tricky for most portable containers, which might leak or warp under the pressure. Re-use seltzer bottles, and seek out single- serving, dishwasher-safe glass bottles at specialty lunch spots. They won’t stay cold and they sweat a big mess, though. A well-made insulated travel mug is invaluable; the Thermos Vacuum Insulated 16-ounce Stainless Steel Commuter Bottle works particularly well. Just toss your herbs and ice into the container. Shake it a bit to muddle the herbs, then pour seltzer to the top, cap, and go! You’ll have ice-cold, bubbly tea all day long. The small hole at the top keeps the plant parts at bay.
SWEET SODA Craving something a bit sweeter? You can add one to two ounces of sweet syrup for each eight ounces of soda, or to taste. Liquid sweeteners are key; they mix better with cold water. Try maple syrup, honey, agave, or homemade simple syrup (heat 2 parts sugar with 1 part water until all the sugar is dissolved and store in the fridge for one week). For added flavor, you can steep tea or herbs in the simple syrup as it cools, then strain the solids out before adding it to your drink or storing it in the fridge.
TEA SODA Making true tea soda is a bit more challenging than a bubbly herbal infusion, because the flavor doesn’t always infuse well in cold water, and it may get bitter over time. Try making a double- to triple-strength tea out of simple syrup to add to seltzer. Or cold-infuse your tea in plain seltzer for about 15 minutes before straining. Flavored teas will come out best.