Earlier this week, while enjoying my usual early morning routine of sipping coffee, catching up on blog posts, and postponing looking at my work email for as long as possible, I happened upon Lan’s question: What color would you describe your days right now? It made me pause, not in search of an answer, but in surprise at how quickly mine came to me.
Lately, my days have been a little grey. This is due, in part, to the much-needed rainy spring weather. But mostly to the fact that I am, for the first time in a long while, single. After nearly four years, Johnny and I decided to part ways last week. It was not preceded by constant arguing or festering animosity, nor was it entirely unexpected. We’ve simply realized that we are better friends than anything else, and that freedom from the constraints of a relationship would be best for both of us, as individuals and as friends. Despite the fact that this is the most amicable end to a relationship I’ve experienced, the sadness is no less difficult to bear. It makes food taste bland, turns seemingly normal breaths into heavy sighs, and makes it impossible to write this post without pausing to brush away a few tears.
The weather, thankfully, has been kind enough to match my mood. I’m enjoying the overcast days, the (sometimes epic) rain showers, and even the thunderstorms that wake me up at 3:00am. But before all this grey spring weather, we experienced an early summer spell here in the northeast, which prompted me to make these sodas.
Ever since this celery cocktail, I have been thinking about ways to incorporate other seemingly unusual vegetables into drinks. I wanted to start by making a non-boozified drink, especially after Alanna made this gorgeous celery soda that sounded all sorts of refreshing. I quickly fixated on red bell pepper + lemon, and then basil crept its way into the theoretical mix. But to be honest, I totally did not know what to expect when I combined all of these things together. I juiced the pepper and the citrus and made an agave syrup for sweetener, then I just kind of stood back and stared at all the separate ingredients sitting on my counter, moving in every few moments to bring two things up to my nose at a time and contemplate what they would taste like together. Bell peppers, while sweet, refreshing things to chomp on, have quite a flavor. And a glass of that liquid unadulterated flavor seemed a little intense to me once I had it right in front of my face. Finally, I muddled a tiny bit of basil in the bottom of a glass, added small amounts of the rest of the ingredients, and took a sip of the base, sans seltzer. And damn, you guys, was it delicious!
The lemon is the key to bringing an awesome brightness and balance to this drink. The agave syrup worked nicely as a sweetener, but I think a honey syrup would be equally (if not more) tasty. The basil adds some welcome earthy notes, but be careful not to overdo it, since too much can ruin the whole thing. My next step (obv) was to experiment with adding booze! Gin was good, although I found the juniper-y notes to be a bit much, especially in combination with the basil. Vodka would of course work well, since it wouldn’t really bring much to the party, flavor-wise. But the best combination, hands down, was with rum. (Which I’d kind of figured, as I’ve been super intrigued by this infusion since last year.)
The rum blends seamlessly with everything else in the drink, and makes the whole thing taste of summer. I bottled up a few and brought them to a bbq, and they were mostly met with rave reviews. (One friend described them as “interesting,” but hey, pepper juice just isn’t for everyone.) Overall, I am really digging this whole straight juice in drinks as opposed to flavored simple syrup. The taste is unparalleled, and it gives you a lot more control over the various components of the drink, rather than having the flavor of the fruit/vegetable intertwined with the sweetness. I am looking forward to experimenting with lots more juice-based drinks this summer.
Red Bell Pepper, Lemon, & Basil Soda
makes: two 8 oz. sodas
- 3 oz. red bell pepper juice
- 3 oz. lemon juice
- 2 oz. agave or honey syrup (1 part agave/honey : 1 part water)
- 2 basil leaves
- 8 oz. seltzer
Muddle basil in the bottom of a shaker. Fill with ice, then add pepper juice, lemon juice, and syrup, and shake to combine. Strain into two glasses filled with ice, then top with seltzer.
The Danny Torrance
makes: one drink
- 2 oz. gold rum (Gosling’s will do nicely)
- 1 oz. red bell pepper juice
- 1 oz. lemon juice
- 3/4 oz. agave or honey syrup (1 part agave/honey : 1 part water)
- 2 basil leaves
Lightly muddle basil in the bottom of a shaker. Fill with ice, then add rum, pepper juice, lemon juice, and syrup, and shake to combine. Strain into a glass filled with ice and top with seltzer.