blackberry, lemon, & thyme soda
Spring, for me, brings craziness. Every year. Without fail. My attention span plummets to 5 minutes. I walk to the kitchen and then stand there trying to remember why I did. I drink lots more super coffee. (To make super coffee, simply pour hot water over coffee grounds in your french press or clever dripper, then forget about it for half an hour. When you finally remember that you were making coffee, sprint to the kitchen, pour a cup, and add excessive amounts of cream and sugar to counteract the taste.)
The craziness also makes me do very ambitious things. Like deciding to prepare two kinds of homemade soda along with a giant Easter dinner, despite waking up late and lazily milling around the house for far longer than I should have. I experienced a couple moments of doubt (accompanied by an impressive variety of curse words), but in the end everything turned out great, including my ambitious soda.
I’m not much of a soda drinker (with the exception of Reed’s Extra Spicy Ginger Ale — so good!). But I’m semi-obsessed with the idea of making my own sodas — in part because it makes me feel like a bit of an alchemist, but mostly because it allows me to create beverages that are far less sweet than the store-bought varieties. And since I’ve been loving the addition of herbs to soda syrups lately, this was a great way to use up the fresh thyme leftover after I’d made my Easter ham glaze.
I’d mentioned that I’d made two sodas, and I will admit that this was the less impressive of the two. (Sadly, there was none of the better one left to photograph!) This blackberry soda is still quite good, but it’s missing something. I think that something is tartness. Extra lemon juice might help, or possibly a pinch of citric acid or a little cider/red wine vinegar. If anyone has any suggestions, I would absolutely love to hear them. This is a recipe that I will continue to make and experiment with, and I’d encourage you to do the same if you decide to give it a try. Adjusting things to your taste is part of the fun of soda-making!
(This soda would also make a great cocktail mixer. I thought it might pair well with heartier liquors, but I tried mixing it with applejack and it just didn’t stand up the way I’d expected. I’d recommend trying it with gin instead [or vodka, if you aren’t big on gin].)
Blackberry, Lemon, & Thyme Soda
yield: approximately 3 cups of syrup, or enough to make 6 cups of soda
- 1 cup of blackberries, slightly muddled (or chopped, if using frozen berries)
- 1/2 cup of raspberries, slightly muddled (or chopped, if frozen)
- approximately 1 dozen sprigs of fresh thyme
- zest and juice of 2 lemons
- 2 tsp pomegranate molasses
- 1/4 cup of honey
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 3 cups of water
- (and perhaps something to increase the tartness — another lemon, a tsp of citric acid, or a little cider/red wine vinegar)
Combine everything except for honey, sugar, and molasses in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 5 minutes.* Remove from heat and let sit for an hour or two, or until completely cooled.
Once cooled, strain out solids through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Return liquid to sauce pan, place pan over medium heat, then add honey, sugar, and molasses, and stir until just dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool once again.
*I only let my syrup simmer for 5 minutes because I use a SodaStream to carbonate beverages. If you do not have a home carbonation system, you will want to reduce this syrup down a bit more so the end result is still fizzy once combined with seltzer. I would recommend allowing the syrup to simmer for around 20–30 minutes, or until it has reduced down by nearly half.
If you are using a home carbonation system, mix 1 part syrup with 1 part water and carbonate as directed . . . sort of. I’ve discovered that when you carbonate something besides just water, it has a tendency to fizz, a lot. I’ve found the best thing to do is carbonate cautiously, letting the mixture rest for a while when it becomes foamy. (If this seems like an annoying process, I’d suggest reducing the syrup down as instructed above for combining with seltzer. I simply prefer to cook things as little as possible, which is why I chose this method for my soda.)
If you go with the reduced syrup, I’m not quite sure of the proper ratio of syrup to seltzer. I’d recommend starting with an ounce of syrup, adding seltzer, then adjusting to taste. Throw in a couple fresh springs of thyme and enjoy!
(The syrup will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.)