In some of the healthiest of homes, there are soda lovers lurking. The fix may come from Mountain Dew or San Pellegrino Limonata, it makes no difference: Commercial soda is about 90 percent water, with the balance consisting of a heavy dose of high-fructose corn syrup, chemically produced flavors, preservatives, and stabilizers. There’s also the waste of plastic bottles and aluminum cans. But soda doesn’t have to be this way; there is no reason to fork over good money and calories when it is so easy to make soda at home. The garden can even be used as inspiration.
Anton Nocito, of P&H Soda Co. in Brooklyn, is a convert: “Making your own soda allows you to do whatever you want to do.” A chef by training, Nocito started playing around with homemade soda syrups, with the idea of opening a luncheonette with an old-fashioned soda fountain. His wife convinced him to sell his syrups at a New York City market, where they were so well received that he began to produce them on a larger scale. Luckily, you don’t need to be a chef to create your own sodas. It’s easy and requires only two components: carbonated water and a flavorful syrup. For the water, you can simply buy bottled seltzer water, but in keeping with the DIY spirit, try fizzing your own water.
Soda syrup is a simple syrup—sugar dissolved in an equal amount of water—steeped with a flavoring agent. This is where imagination comes in, aided and abetted by inspiration from the garden. Besides fruit, sodas can be flavored with flowers, herbs, roots (like ginger), and leaves. Turn to the spice cabinet for additional ideas, such as whole vanilla beans (cream soda, anyone?). Combinations of flavors—lemon and lavender, lime and raspberry, or peach and cardamom—are particularly special. Either steep the products together in the simple syrup or make separate syrups and combine them in a glass.
As Nocito observes about the process, “You know what’s going into your sodas.” Not only can you select the flavors you want, but you can also determine how much sweetener to add and what type. Most basic is organic cane sugar, but honey, agave syrup, and stevia are also options.
Just remember, the recipes shown here are only guidelines. Feel free to adapt them according to your tastes and the nature of the ingredients. Some will require less sugar or more steeping time. The greatest benefit is that making soda is fun, healthful, and economical.
Of course you can buy supermarket seltzer water, but it’s more fun to make your own, either with a traditional soda siphon or new products that are a little more economical to operate.
Soda Stream. This is the machine that brought soda-at-home back into the mainstream market. The small CO2 tank carbonates a liter of water instantly at the push of a button, and lasts for up to 60 uses. The basic model doesn’t require electricity, while the higher-end machines have more sophisticated settings. Models range in price from $80 to $200.
iSi Soda Siphon. The liter-size container is filled with water and sealed; then a disposable single-use CO2 charger capsule is clicked into place. Simply shake the bottle and chill for a few hours. The water will remain fizzy for a few days in the refrigerator. Boxes of replacement CO2 capsules are widely available for sale online. $70. - Katie Walker