Monday, August 18, 2014

Grapefruit Ginger Soda

I spent some time in France when I was a teenager.  One of the most memorable afternoons was on Bastille Day at the family apartments of the Auer family in Old Nice.  Madame Auer was a grand dame and hostess from another era and I was nervous.   As the summer guest of her son, my father’s dear friend Georges, a visit to the family’s matriarch would be my first real test of speaking French.  I’d spent several weeks in France so far, tutored by Georges, his wife Anne and twin daughters while their youngest son was learning to speak English at my parents' home across the Atlantic. 

The apartment was formally furnished in delicately carved armchairs and settees topped with ecru silk cushions embroidered in floral patterns.  The formal sitting room was cooled on hot days by keeping the shutters closed during the day.  (A tip I had learned learned earlier in the summer from Anne Auer that I have used ever since when air conditioning is not installed.) 

The walls were painted French green, somewhere between the color of a green olive and the stems of lavender.  The color spread from the paneled walls to the potted plants edging the shuttered floor-to-ceiling louvered glass doors that led to the balcony.   By late afternoon a little light crept into the dark room.   I sat carefully and listed attentively in case someone spoke to me.  Madame Auer offered me a soda and indicated I should pick my flavor from the bottles of sirop on the tea cart next to her.  The flavors were exciting.  I was tempted by the hazelnut but in the end picked the raspberry.  (Framboise, s'il vous plait.)

She poured a few ounces of raspberry sirop into a tall glass of ice and topped it with seltzer.   It was the perfect refresher.  Later that night we watched the Bastille Day fireworks shoot out of and around the old chateau in Nice from the plant-edged balcony of chez Auer.  It was a sensory overload sort of day.  Mme Auer, though formal in her manner, was extremely kind and made me feel at home.  A host’s simple offer of refreshment has done this for visitors for centuries.  Language was no barrier between new friends over a freshly concocted soda.

Back then, soda was served only on special occasions like birthday parties and national holidays.  Today, soda is part of the everyday and has grown a bit ordinary.  With the advent of soda making machines and an acceptance of more varieties of flavor, it is possible to craft your own special sirop and make a guest feel extra welcome. 

Try your hand at a six pack of grapefruit-ginger flavored soda.  This pomplemousse and ginger ale combo is sparkly pure and fresher than anything you can get for your soda stream. 

Grapefruit Ginger Soda Sirop

Yield 1 ½ cups, enough for 6 sodas
2 red grapefruits- sections and zest
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
¾ cup honey or sweet rice syrup

  1. Mash together the fruit, zest and ginger.  
  2. Stir in the honey or rice syrup.  
  3. Cover and chill for 48 hours.  
  4. Strain and serve with setlzer or tonice water.  Use a 2:5 ratio, that is 2 ounces of soda sirop for every 5 ounces of seltzer.
Credits to Monica Matheny of The Yummy Life for the inspiration and basic no-cook technique for this recipe. Check out more flavor ideas here.