With several of my family members and friends allergic to alcohol, I'm looking at the holidays as a time to invent seasonal, booze-free drinks that still feel special. This Asian pear sparkler is smooth and refreshing with an enticing undercurrent of warm autumn flavors.
I love making drinks with seasonal fruit, simmering the juice with sugar, honey, and other ingredients to form a simple syrup that can be mixed with fizzy water and adjusted to each person's preference for sweetness. Asian pear is especially juicy and it doesn't take much to extract the liquid (a juicer is the easiest way to do this, but you can also use a blender or food processor to make a puree). Even with the pulp strained out, there's a smoothness to the pear juice that makes the soda quite pleasant to sip.
What really takes the drink to the next level is the infusion of rosemary, ginger, and nutmeg. After the initial sweetness of the soda, traces of these herbs and spices linger on the tongue and throat – not so much as distinct seasonings but just a mellow warmth. I think it would make a lovely, non-alcoholic option for a cocktail party.
1 cup freshly pressed Asian pear juice*
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cups honey
1/4 cup sugar
1 (4-inch) sprig fresh rosemary
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into coins
Small grating of fresh nutmeg
Combine pear juice, lemon juice, honey, sugar, rosemary, ginger, and nutmeg in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat for 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugars.
Remove from heat and let stand 30 minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the solids. Let syrup cool completely.
To serve, fill an 8-ounce glass halfway with ice cubes, add 3 tablespoons of syrup, fill with soda water, and stir. Add more syrup for a sweeter or stronger flavor.
*Note: Use the most flavorful Asian pear you can find; Hosui is a consistently sweet variety. Making 1 cup of juice requires about 1 (12-ounce) pear, peeled and cored. If using a juicer, follow manufacturer's instructions to extract the juice and discard the pulp. If using blender or food processor, puree the pear until smooth, strain through a fine-mesh strainer, and discard the solids. If you wind up with a little less than 1 cup, top it off with water.
Related: Seasonal Spotlight: Asian Pears
(Images: Emily Ho)