I was just starting to think about my summer soda syrups when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed banning sales of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces.
I don’t drink Big Gulps, although I take a pretty big gulp when I see them charging 6 bucks for a fancy-pants, cane-syrup Boylan soda at the New York airports.
But sodas? I hardly ever drink them. I make my own.
It’s really very simple. First, you put 1 cup of sugar in a saucepan. Just plain sugar, no corn derivatives or sugar beet squeezings. Just simple cane sugar. Your kitchen staff can probably show you where they keep it.
Now, add an equal amount of water. If you put 1 cup of sugar in the pan, you add 1 cup of water.
Then, you apply heat under the saucepan.
Bring it just to a boil, stirring it around until the sugar dissolves and the water looks clear.
Next, add flavorings to the hot syrup. A good 2 cups of fresh mint leaves is a favorite at my house. But sometimes we branch out.
Grated ginger is a winner. Make sure it’s fresh ginger root, and grate a good 1 1/2 cups. You don’t have to peel it – ginger peels are very thin, and you’re just going to strain it out.
Or how about lemon syrup? Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest, the bright yellow part, from two lemons. Try to avoid the bitter white pith, but you don’t need to get fanatical about it. Throw the lemon peels in the hot syrup with the juice of both lemons.
Let your syrup stand for an hour or so. Then strain it and discard whatever you put in to flavor it. What you’ll have left is a flavored syrup.
And what do you do with that? Well, mayor, you can do all kinds of things with that. You can add a little to plain seltzer or club soda. If you have a Soda Stream for making carbonated water, you can make your own sodas.
You can use syrups to make frozen pops. You can freeze them to make sorbets or granitas.
You can also sweeten ice tea, or mix some of the lemon syrup with water and ice to make a dandy rendition of lemonade.
Yes, mayor, it’s a syrup. Yes, sir, that does involve sugar. But since the syrups have lots of flavor, you don’t add all that much. Even if you drink a big serving, you’re probably going to get a lot less sugar than the 10 teaspoons of sugar in a 12-ounce soft drink.
If you’re over 21, you can also use those syrups to make a cooling, adult libation, like a julep. Try combining a little ginger syrup and a little bourbon over ice and topping them with seltzer.
With one of those in your hand at the end of the day, Mayor Bloomberg, you might have a chance to calm down. You’ll find summer goes a lot easier that way.
Now, about that $12 they’re charging for a cocktail in Times Square…