In our house the children aren’t allowed fizzy drinks, and we adults only drink it rarely. Well, I do, but Mr Healthy Alternatives drinks a fair bit of lemonade. The sugar content of commercial produced sodas is extremely high, and the empty calories have nothing good to offer the waistline or your teeth!
I am also a fan of zero-waste, and struggled with the 1.25L bottles and cans, emptied of soda, that fill up the recycle bins. OK they can be recycled, but why create the waste in the first place?
So we went out and bought a Soda Stream maker for Christmas. I think the last time I used one I was about ten years old and staying with my grandparents.
Sales of Soda Stream, a home water carbonator, have been increasing steadily after dropping off for years. Like myself, I think many people are becoming more aware of the packaging of their soda drinks, and the impact on the environment. I think there is also an element of convenience about it, and the knowledge you will never run out of soda, ever again!
The problem is with the flavours. Like the commercial sodas, the Soda Stream flavours are high in sugar. I received a free one with the machine and we chose lemonade. It really wasn’t very nice, and others I know with Soda Streams say “you get used to it”. I didn’t really want to get used to it, so I went searching for healthy alternatives (good old internet), and came up with some real gems.
Over at Gilt Taste I discovered some grown up syrup recipes, like watermelon mint and “dark and stormy”. Some of the ingredients, like the hoja santa, may be difficult if not impossible to get here, but there are always substitutes. Making your own variations is half the fun. Of course you can just add fresh squeezed lemon, lime or orange juice on the fly as you want it, but these syrups are intended for making in advance and keeping in the fridge.
So to make your own syrup you need to start with a simple syrup recipe, and add your flavours to that. To make, just add an even ratio of sugar to water. Two cups of each will make about a pint of syrup, enough to flavour about four litres of soda, depending on how sweet you like it. Add half a teaspoon of tartaric or citric acid, a natural preservative. The acid will bring balance, clarity and a sour tang to these sweet syrups, and more importantly, help them keep in the fridge up to a few months.
Bring the water, sugar and acid to a boil with your flavouring agents, then simmer 15-20 minutes and cool completely. Herb or spice syrups like mint, chamomile and cinnamon only need to be strained, preferably through a cheesecloth-lined sieve; the same applies to syrups involving juicy berries and cherries.
A blender makes quick work of the chunkier fruits: melons, pineapple, pitted peaches and plums, apples and pears, etc. After they’ve cooked and cooled, puree these syrups on high for a smooth consistency.
Use the syrups immediately in soda water, and keep the leftovers in the fridge. It’s that easy.
You can also check out these recipes: