There are a lot of great reasons to make your own soda syrup. You can use real sugar, rather than the HFCS devil that lurks in most bottles. You can make flavors that make you happy, from real seasonal ingredients with complexity and intensity, and you can use up excesses of things in your fridge like, say, the time you assumed strawberries being on sale meant that you were going to eat a few pounds of them before they went bad. You can use the syrup as a foundation for cocktails, because it’s Friday and baby, you’ve earned it, and you can package bottles up as gifts for friends, because you’re just that awesome of a person.
And while every one of these crossed my mind when I made this syrup this week (uh, once my kitchen and bathroom were reassembled), I am not sure any of them are the truth. The truth is not practical, logical or even terribly grown-up; it will never make it into a longform think piece about food and culture, thank heavens: I just wanted something pink, tart and pretty in my life, something that fills your kitchen with the smell of cotton candy, sunshine and popsicles as it simmers away on the stove. I wanted spring, and seeing as the weather was not going to provide it for me, I hoped a weeklong dose of ombré green and fuchsia would suffice.
Phew, it’s a good thing none of you thought I was punk rock, because clearly, this post is as twee as anything. Fortunately, there’s a bit of substance beneath the fluff. This syrup tastes intensely like fragrant strawberries and tart rhubarb, laced with a hint of lemon, and it’s miles better than anything I have ordered for $8 from my nearest bespoke restaurant’s mocktail menu. It’s incredibly practical too; the pulp leftover from straining the syrup makes a fantastic stir-in to your morning oatmeal, yogurt or even dolloped on top of this weekend’s oatmeal pancakes. But, you know, you can also make it because it’s a brilliant ray of spring — I did not touch the saturation dial on these photos — and there are worse things than opening up your fridge after a long day and finding a hot pink bottle of fizzy refreshment waiting for you.
One year ago: Dark Chocolate Coconut Macaroons
Two years ago: Spinach and Smashed Egg Toast
Three years ago: Over-the-Top Mushroom Quiche
Four years ago: French Onion Soup
Five years ago: Tangy Spiced Brisket and Radicchio Apple and Pear Salad
Six years ago: Artichokes Braised in Lemon and Olive Oil and Chewy Amaretti Cookies
Seven years ago: Shaker Lemon Pie
Eight years ago: Arborio Rice Pudding and Potato Rosemary Bread
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Better Chocolate Babka
1.5 Years Ago: Purple Plum Torte
2.5 Years Ago: Cumin Seed Roasted Cauliflower with Yogurt
3.5 Years Ago: Quick Chicken Noodle Soup
Strawberry Rhubarb Soda Syrup
Yield: 3 cups, if you’re patient
1 pound strawberries, stems removed and halved
1 pound rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-inch segments
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
Combine strawberries, rhubarb, sugar and water in a large saucepan. Remove several strips of peel from lemon with a knife or peeler and add them to the pot. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce it to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until fruit has completely collapsed, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add the juice of half the lemon (or more, to taste) and let fruit cool in syrup for maximum infusion. Once cool, pour mixture through a fine-mesh strainer (or, if you only have a coarse one, line it with cheesecloth or a lint-free towel); press solids with the back of a spoon or spatula to get the most syrup from them. You should have 2 cups right away, but I had to run an errand, left mine sitting in the strainer and was delighted to find 3 full cups of syrup when I got back. Pour into a glass bottle and chill until needed.
Save fruit pulp in a separate container; it can be used to stir into plain yogurt, oatmeal or even dollop on pancakes. (Be sure to fish out or at least look out for lemon peels if you do.)
To make 1 glass of soda, pour 2 tablespoons of the syrup in the bottom of a glass, fill with ice and then seltzer or sparkling water. Give it a stir and add more syrup to taste; for a large glass, you might use up to 2 tablespoons more. Garnish with a lemon wedge, if you wish. Drink and pretend it’s spring.
Do ahead: Syrup should keep in the fridge for at least three weeks, if not longer.