July 30, 2013

Mexican candy soda

When I was in junior high I was at a boarding school. I was a day student, meaning I got to go home to my parents at night. But most of my classmates were from far away places. I remember this Mexican candy friends from Mexico brought. Candy was contraband at my school, so we had to be secret about it. It was in little clay pots, and it was like a paste. I remember it had a very distinct taste. Salty, sweet, and spicy. It’s still super clear in my memory. That drink with flecks of pepper in it is inspired by that mexican candy. Wish I knew what it was called. I wonder if it was tamarind?

I’ve been experimenting with soda syrups a bunch at home over the past year or so. I’ll admit, I’m mostly making mixed drinks. I’ve gotten some fun results.

Michael Sutton and I have been thinking Burlington needs soda. Like a whole soda menu, 3-4 soda choices on any given day. We have this awesome new fountain tap and everything ready to go. So last night he worked on developing a ginger soda. And I jumped in and tried a version of a ginger syrup I love to make drinks with. And it just didn’t work.

So I started thinking harder about our sodas, about what we’re missing. I think we’ve had some fun sodas, and I think the switchels are incredible. But I just felt we could do more. Here are my thoughts:

  • Our soda recipes should be more uniform, they should all be made the same way so that it’s easier for us to make them more often
  • Our soda syrups need more liquid. I was thinking a lot about this. In the case of my mixed drink I’m trying hard to keep the liquid down. I don’t want to dilute my drink. And I’m playing with texture. One of my favorite syrups is one called Peach Honey, which is the peach syrup from peaches I’ve canned that’s been boiled down. It has a slippery texture from the pectin that’s just awesome in drinks. But in the case of sodas, we don’t need to worry about too much water. And a syrup thats say 2 parts water to 1 part sugar will mix much more easily and thoroughly than a syrup that’s 2 parts sugar, 1 part water
  • I started thinking hard about acid, and I think all of our soda waters need a little. Either lemon, lime, vinegar. Not much, but a little.
  • Michael told me he steeped his syrups when he made them at O Ya. That got me thinking about steeping. I think our method needs a steep.
  • And Chris Anderson has pioneered approaches where we use the blender to get crazy flavor from whole fresh ingredients. E.g,. blueberry lemonade. We don’t strain the blueberry, we don’t cook it, we just blend it to oblivion.
  • I thought I’d add a little salt. Not much, just a pinch.

So here’s the basic recipe outline:

  • 2 parts boiling water, 1 part sugar (say 2 cups, 1 cup)
  • Ingredient (e.g.,  blueberries)
  • Use vanilla pods liberally (I’m including them in a lot of my syrups)
  • Blend until smooth liquid, no particles
  • Strain through cheesecloth (we use a commercial strainer with a fancy french name , but cheese cloth is fine)
  • Label, date. These are fresh syrups. They don’t last forever. They like refrigeration

So what’s that line-up? Come by movie night tomorrow if you want to taste. We’ll be featuring there there. Dewey Square, on the Greenway. There are a couple of surprises in there.

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