I have a spring birthday that coincides with peak strawberry season, so these glorious berries always feature in the festivities. Though some might think it overkill, this year I am dreaming of an all strawberry menu, from crostini appetizers to old-fashioned strawberry shortcake, a Victoria sponge cake (Two desserts? Why not?!), and this sparkly homemade soda.
Over the years I have tried a few different methods of making strawberry sodas with some variation of fruit plus homemade or store-bought carbonated water. Whether made from freshly muddled berries or boiled simple syrup, they are all delightful, but have slightly different qualities of flavor and texture. For this particular version, I wanted a rich strawberry flavor without the distraction of seeds, so I chose the simple syrup approach, simmering pressed strawberry juice with sugar and a little lemon and basil to balance the sweetness.
I generally find commercial strawberry sodas to be cloying, but this homemade version is bright and sophisticated, with a suggestion of spice from the basil. The syrup isn't limited to use in sodas, either. Stir it into cocktails and champagne, pour it over ice cream sundaes and cake, and make it part of your spring celebrations.
Strawberry Basil Soda
1 pound strawberries, trimmed
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves
1 cup sugar
Juice strawberries using a juicer or blender.
If using a juicer: Juice strawberries according to manufacturer's instructions. Discard pulp.
If using a blender: Place strawberries in a blender and pulse until smooth. Strain through a sieve, pushing juice through with a spatula. Discard solids.
Pour strawberry juice into a liquid measuring cup. Add water to reach 1 cup if needed. Pour into a small saucepan with lemon juice, basil, and sugar.
Heat mixture over medium heat until boiling. Simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain syrup through a sieve into a clean container and discard solids.
To serve, spoon 2 tablespoons of syrup into an 8-ounce glass, top with carbonated water, and stir. Taste and add more syrup, if desired.
Can refrigerate syrup up to 1 week.
Related: Drink Recipe: Kumquat Spritzer
(Images: Emily Ho)