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A Better-For-You DIY Soda

A few frozen berries, a bit of basil, and a few pantry basics add up to a tasty, better-for-you fizzy drink.


You don't need me to count the ways most ready-made sodas fall short. Too sweet, too laden with chemicals, and too expensive for what is essentially sugar water, most store- bought carbonated drinks have little going for them on the health front. But there are alternatives, and not just plain old carbonated H2O.
With a few simple add-ins, you can make your own soda, a real lifesaver if you're looking for an alternative to bottled sodas and alcoholic drinks during the holidays.
The basic procedure couldn't be simpler: Make your own simple syrup, a 1-to-1 mixture of water and sugar, cooked over medium heat until dissolved and then low heat for a few minutes. (Yes, it's sugar, but when you make your own drinks, you have control over how much sugar you put in, making it a little more virtuous than store-bought types). If you like, you can infuse your syrup with herbs or spices for extra flavor (here, we're using one of my favorites: basil). Add some fruit (strawberries, for example, chock-full of antioxidants) to a blender, pour on some of your syrup, puree, and pour in a glass with carbonated water. That's it!
Is the end result a little too sweet? Pour in more seltzer. Not sweet enough? Add a bit more syrup. You get the drill. You can use any bottled fizzy water—soda, mineral water, club soda—but if you're feeling really self-sufficient, you can invest in one of the make-your-own-soda gadgets (such as Sodastream) that are so popular these days.
Think of my recipe here as a starting point. But feel free to experiment a little. Feel like cranberries at Thanksgiving time? Try a 1-to-1-to-1 mix of sugar, water, and cranberries, cook over low heat for a few minutes, then drain to make seasonal syrup. Want to make your own ginger ale? Mix 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and 4 ounces of peeled, chopped ginger, heat a bit, steep, then drain for a gingery syrup. The options are really unlimited. You can even try a zesty syrup with what I think of as my signature flavor: lemon!

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