Kick Commercial Soda in F(l)avor of Healthier, Homemade, Thirst-quenching Summer Soft Drinks

Posted on Monday, June 26, 2017 by Larkspur

Photo of summer drink

I’ve eschewed commercial soda most of my adult life, and in my growing-up years this product wasn’t on my mother’s grocery shopping list. Rather, my mother allowed my sisters and me to have an occasional “treat” soda (7-UP was my preference) when we ate out at a restaurant, which wasn’t very often. Perhaps her protocol didn’t allow me to develop much of a taste for soda, and I don’t recall feeling deprived from the lack of it. Knowing what I know now about the ill health effects of drinking soda, I’m glad my mother offered us mostly water, orange juice or milk to drink at home.

Maybe you already know commercial soda (both regular and diet versions) is loaded with sugar and/or other artificial ingredients linked to a long list of deleterious health effects. If not, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but better to be informed so you can consider your choices. Here is a little parade of health conditions linked to soda consumption: obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, tooth decay and osteoporosis, among other health impacts. Apparently it doesn’t take much to harm your health; drinking just one can of soda a day can increase risk of stroke by 16%. And since soda is consumed amply by many in the U.S., this data is rather alarming. These two books, backed with substantial scientific research, clearly illuminate the health dangers of soda consumption: “Soda Politics” by Marion Nestle and “Killer Colas” by Nancy Appleton and G.N. Jacobs.

There are alternatives to drinking commercial soda, of course, and they can be much more varied, delicious and refreshing, besides being healthier and cheaper than store-bought soft drinks. What about infused water? I haven’t explored this beverage option beyond adding lemon or lime slices or crushed sprigs of fresh mint to cold water, but the possibilities are endless. All manner of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices can be used as infusion ingredients to offer wide-ranging flavor medleys for different palates. I look forward to trying such combinations as cucumber, radish and celery or cherry, raspberry and oregano.

Another option is to make your own soda with flavored simple syrups and sparkling mineral or seltzer water. If you like concocting in the kitchen, you can make your own syrups with a myriad of ingredients, i.e. ginger, lemon, strawberry and so on. If you don’t want to make flavored syrups yourself you can buy very good fruit or vegetable juice concentrates to use instead — I’ve purchased cherry, elderberry and cranberry, but there are many other juices available. To make a single serving of soda, mix ¼ cup of simple syrup or juice concentrate with ¾ cup of sparkling water — add ice if the ingredients have not been pre-chilled.

photo of hand holding mulberries

Near the end of May I had the idea to make some wild honeysuckle syrup to use for soda-making; I’d noticed the honeysuckle vines in my backyard were exploding with fragrant blossoms. Alas, I was out of town over Memorial Day weekend, and by the time I returned this explosion had all but peaked. Then, tooling around town on my bicycle, I saw the mulberry trees were shedding their ripe berries. Scheming again about simple syrups to use in sodas, I called my neighbor, who happens to have two such trees in her yard, and asked if I could harvest a cup or two. An hour later I had a lovely bottle of dusky sweet-tart, dark purple mulberry syrup cooling on my kitchen counter. Mmmmm!

As summer starts to heat up I envision myself taking work breaks out on my back patio in the shade of the ash and maple trees while sipping homemade sodas and infused waters. I hope you can try refreshing yourself this way as well. Cheers!