As a kid, we didn’t have that much soda growing up and, as a result, I always looked forward to parties and play dates where soda might be available and I could indulge that particular sweet tooth. The fruity sodas were always a lot of fun, whether I was sipping orange, grape or strawberry. Not only were they flavorful – and sweet enough to satisfy me – they always came in vibrant colors. Those drinks are sometimes too sweet for me these days, but I still love the idea of a fruity soda. Fortunately, it is easy to turn fresh fruit into a natural, homemade soda that is a refreshing treat on a warm summer day.
These Strawberry Sodas are made with soda water and a homemade strawberry syrup that starts out with nearly a pound of fresh strawberries. The syrup takes about 10 minutes to make on the stovetop and can be used almost right away. The syrup is made with nothing more than sugar, water and strawberries, with all of the flavor (and it is very flavorful) coming out of those berries. And just like the sodas I enjoyed as a kid – though a bit more natural this time around – the syrup is a vibrant red color that translates into a beautifully pink soda.
One of the best things about using a homemade syrup is that you have complete control of the sweetness of your finished drink. The syrup on its own is very sweet (though a lot of the sweetness comes from the fruit), but is easily diluted with soda water. You can use a splash of syrup for a beverage with a very light berry flavor or double up on it if you want something a bit more intense. The drinks can be made one at a time and leftover syrup will keep in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for about 5-7 days. This syrup also makes an outstanding strawberry lemonade, if you want to use it to sweeten up your next batch of that summertime classic.
Homemade Strawberry Sodas
14-16-oz fresh strawberries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 3-inch strips lemon peel
soda water, well chilled
Remove the hulls of the strawberries and rinse them. Place strawberries, sugar, water and lemon peel in a large skillet or medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until syrup is slightly reduced (by 25-30%) and the strawberries are very tender. Cool syrup to room temperature in the pan, then pour syrup through a strainer into a large measuring cup or bowl. Use a spatula to firmly press as much syrup as possible out of the soft berries.
Store syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
To make the soda: Combine 1 1/2 to 2-oz of syrup with 6 to 8-oz of soda water in a tall glass, adding more syrup or soda water to adjust the sweetness to suit your tastes. Stir to combine and add ice to serve.