Red Bell Pepper, Lemon, & Basil Soda

Red Bell Pepper, Lemon, & Basil Soda

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.

Red Bell Pepper, Lemon, & Basil Soda

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.

de-seeding peppers

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!

Red Bell Pepper, Lemon, & Basil Soda

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.)

pepper seeds

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

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
  • 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
  • seltzer

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.

Red Bell Pepper, Lemon, & Basil Soda


  1. says

    where to start? i bullet point:

    1. i’m sorry about the end of your relationship. i could be glib & say what i always when i want to lighten the mood btwn girlfriends: the best way to get over one guy, is to get under another. but that is so ridiculous, and truth be told, not a good sentiment (or even sincere) at all. so i will just say, i’m sorry. but holler at me if you require ridiculous sentiments thrown your way.

    2. i have a love hate relationship with juicing, something about it being healthy and cleanses i think. but to show up at a gathering to share homemade soda, an uniquely flavored one at that? what a show stopper. wherever did you find those bottles and caps?

    3. thanks for your shoutout/link. though your days are currently tinged with grey, from the weather and otherwise, sometimes it takes a good hard washing to know you’re really alive. just breathe sister.

    • says

      Thank you, Lan. :) It felt better just being able to talk about it in this space, especially considering Johnny has been the infamous J since I began the blog. It has been a long time since I’ve been a single gal, and while it’s a little unfamiliar, it also feels good. It’s kind of nice to revel in the grey.

      And yes, totally have the same feelings toward juicing! Some friends of mine run a juice cart, and the extent of my experience with juice for a while was stopping at their cart at the farmers’ market on Saturday to chat and grab a drink. (Then walk away and realize I just drank $6 in about 2 minutes.) I didn’t think it would ever be something that I wanted to bother with at home (especially because juicers look SO messy), but the idea of using it for soda and cocktails opened up a whole new world!

  2. says

    oh dear, I am so sorry!Sometime, things happens for a better reason. We might not know it at that very moment but eventually we realize it was for good. Nonetheless, it hurts and it takes times, lot of time to absorb what happened and move on with life. (((hugs))) Carey!

    As for the drink, love the color and it made me smile, cause I too have a recipe in my draft that’s a drink and that involves basil. Just like in your situation, basil just sneaked in my drink unplanned :)

    • says

      Thanks, Kankana. :) It’s certainly been a bit strange these past few days, but I know it’ll pass soon enough. Adjusting to the new normal is an interesting thing!

      Yay for basil drinks! I can’t wait to see that. :) Herbaceous drinks in the spring and summer are THE BEST.

  3. says

    This whole post is so moving in so many ways. Having been married for quite a few years, I haven’t had to deal with the pain of a breakup in ages, but how could I ever forget how unsettling it is, even when amicable?

    Your photos are moving me just as strongly, the colors, the light, I love your style, it makes me happy!

    • says

      Thanks so much, Sue. :) After nearly four years, I almost forgot how unsettling the end of a relationship can be too! But I know these things pass pretty quickly. (And it’s also nice to have a good end to things, and not a mean, spiteful one.)

  4. says

    Oh Carey, I’m so sorry to hear what happened and I hope you’re doing okay! I wish I knew what to say to make you feel better. Time heals all wounds? No, sorry, I won’t resort to cliches. Just feel better, my dear!!! Throwing yourself into juice-making is certainly a good distraction, no? And bell pepper juice, now that actually sounds really good. I love the clean taste of fresh bell pepper, and am imagining it contrasted with the tiny hint of basil. And the Danny Torrance? LOVE that name. RED RUM, RED RUM, RED RUM.

    Oh, and, I like that hand shot! :)

    • says

      Thanks, Linda! :) Everyone has had such great, supportive things to say, and (in addition to making me feel good) it kind of amazes me, because I am SO bad at knowing what to say to other people in situations like this. (It usually winds up being something like, “Dude, I’m sorry, that’s rough. ….Do you want to go grab a beer or something?.”) :P

      I’m so glad you got the name! :D I almost explained it and wrote it off as kind of a bad, dorky word association, but then I realized I liked it, and I was just going to put it out there as is and see what happened.

      • says

        I think the name is genius! I told Chris about it—he loves both the book and the movie—and he was like whoooaaa. Haha!

  5. says

    I’m so sorry to hear of your heartbreak. Like the others here, I wish I knew what to say to make you feel better. Just know that I’m thinking of you. I’m really glad that you shared this recipe. I’ve been thinking a lot about summer recipes, and drinks (and ice cream, let’s be real) are a common thread in my crazy brain as of late. I said ice cream. Could you make this into a sorbet? At least a granita, perhaps.

    I had to google the name of your cocktail. You couldn’t have given the drink better nomenclature. God, you’re just awesome. Your creativity blows my mind. Also, BIRCH STRAWS?! Girl, you didn’t ;P

    • says

      Thanks, Brianne. :) It feels a lot better just sharing it here, although it did take me forever to write those opening paragraphs (omg, I am so not good with feelings!).

      DUDE, I think this as a granita or sorbet would be awesome. OMG……maybe as a goat cheese ice cream too?? Turning vegetables into frozen desserts is blowing my mind way too much right now. Ahhhh!!!

      Birch straws! Terrible to actually drink from, but they look so dang cool. And I don’t even know how that name came to me. I am so bad at coming up with names for things, that at first I thought it was totally dumb. Then I realized I actually really liked it. :P

  6. says

    I’m so sorry to hear about your break-up. Time will surely heal your heart-ache and I wish you the strength and spirit to overcome this time of distress.

    On another note, love the rich colors of this soda…I admire the creative cocktails and juices you always come up with! :)

    • says

      Thank you, Archana. :) Time definitely works wonders!

      I was so loving the color of this soda. I thought the lemon and seltzer would dilute it to a weird pale orange-y pink, but it stayed a really nice shade of red-ish orange!

  7. says

    I wish I was in Vermont so I could take you out for a drink, but since I am not I will just say a heartfelt I’m sorry. Ending relationships is always very hard, even if it is an amicable. Know that I am always here for you if you ever want to talk about it, or just want to talk about anything at all for that matter.

    And about this soda; WHOA. This is inspiring! The color is just amazing, the most beautiful and bright coral I’ve ever seen in a food or drink. And such a creative blend, I am constantly blown away by the flavor combinations you think of! Now I am itching to get home and pick one of the bell peppers from our yard so I can toss it in the juicer and make a cocktail. Need to get my hands on some basil, too :)

    • says

      Thanks, Eva. :) I’m glad you at least got to meet Johnny when you were here! He’s a good guy, and still a great friend. It’s a weird but good change.

      I loved the color that they wound up being! (And the fact that a flavor combination I’d been obsessing over actually turned out as good as I hoped it would. Also, this success has me obsessing over veggie shrubs, which was an idea I’d been toying with for a little while anyway. Definitely going to give that a try!)

      That’s awesome that you have bell peppers in your garden. I bet they do great out there! I tried growing some a few years ago, and I think I got one tiny pepper. :P

  8. says

    I am so sorry to hear about the pain you are going through, sometime life puts strange moments in our plates; sometime they make us smile, sometime they rip our heart apart. I know it is easy for others to say to smile and move on but the fact is that life waits for nothing and time is the best healer. I strongly believe that whatever happens happens for a reason and in the end it always lead us to a better place. I really hope that you get loads n loads of color back in your day and smile back on your face really soon…

    B/W your drink looks so beautiful and absolutely a must have!

    • says

      Thank you, Reem. :) I’m a big believer in things happening for a reason, and I know that we made a good decision. It’s sad and strange, but I’m glad we’re still good friends. I’m also starting to get a bit tired of all this rain (it just won’t end!), so I think I’ll be more than ready for the sunny days we’re supposed to have next week!

  9. says

    So sorry to hear Carey; seems like sometimes the amicable breakups are tougher than that smash/bang/kill-em-all ones… We are getting tons of clouds and rain down here in Northern VA, and I actually kind of love it too; today was colder, like it’s still trying to decide between summer thunderstorms and spring showers. Either one is so refreshing and seems to shed new light on each day!

    I’ve always assumed that I like red bell peppers in stuff, because I like red bell peppers; however, I’ve tried using them in a couple different things (like bbq sauce and tomato soup) and maybe I’m doing it wrong, but I haven’t been a huge fan. It’s almost like the flavor is both extremely mild AND overpowering at the same time, and my brain isn’t sure what to do with that… But with the lemon here, I think that might be the key to cut through and give it that zing it needs. Thanks as always for sharing!

    • says

      Thanks, Tia. :) It’s so true! My last break-up was a total F-U-I’M-DONE-WITH-THIS scene and, although the break-up talk itself was kind of like ripping off a band-aid, I felt sooo good once it was over. This one is good, but tough — it makes me feel like a real adult!

      And I totally have a weird relationship with bell peppers. I only like them raw for the most part. Sometimes I like roasted red peppers, but only in small amounts. I’ve tried cooking with them on a handful of occasions, and I’ve decided that I really do not like them when they lose that fresh bite and crunchiness. (And cold, cooked peppers in leftovers are THE WORST. Blech.) They worked so well with the tang of the lemon though! I think I might try making red bell pepper shrub soon (possibly with tomato too). It could be totally weird and horrible. Or amazing. :)

  10. says

    Aww Carey, sending lots of hugs to you!! Would probably be more helpful if I could send cake too, but I don’t think cake would survive a trip across the ocean..

    But jeez, these photographs. HOLY CRAP, WOMAN. They’re incredible!! That photo of the pepper innards (..can’t think of another way to describe them haha) is literally taking my breath away. Well okay, they’re all stunning. Aaaand you’ve made a non alcoholic drink, YESSSSS! I am so intrigued by this flavour combo that you’ve got going on here, I’ve seen the whole basil paired with sweet things blah blah blah, but never red bell pepper! So cool :)

    You rule.

    End of story.

    • says

      Thanks, Izy! :) (When in the future do you think they’ll have the technology to transmit cakes all over the world? There has GOT to be some sort of science team working on that. I mean, they’re probably developing it for military purposes or something, but yeah…eventually CAKES.)

      The pepper innards photo was my fav too! And I totally didn’t know what to name it when I put it up on flickr. I wanted to call it guts or innards, but I just went with seeds. :P The Flavor Bible totally helped me out with that decision to bring in basil, too. (It was actually between that and thyme — which I think would have been SO delicious too — but basil won out because of the muddling, since I wasn’t making any sort of stove-top simple syrup.)

  11. says

    I’m always in awe of people who amicable break up. I haven’t really had many relationships in life (met the perfect match early in life) but I can imagine how difficult it is to balance emotions, sensibility and all that. Best wishes your way. Grey shall be sunny soon :) This drink looks fabulous.

  12. says

    You posted it! I can’t wait to try this. I’m heading to the market today to get the ingredients. They’re gorgeous!!! P.S. On a different note, I’ve been making pickled mustard seeds like it’s my job.

    • says

      Yeah! I’ve been keeping this one in the queue for a while, since the summery weather disappeared shortly after I made these. Also, YES, pickled mustard seeds! I’ve already gone through two batches, and I just made another this week. This time, I used rice wine vinegar, and I think they might be even better. :D

  13. says

    Carey, I’m sorry that you’re going through some heavy stuff right now. Relationships are not for the timid, this I am certain of. Wish I could food fax you some cake and a refreshing libation, although I think you’ve got that last one on lock.

    Also, these photos and this sipper in general are stunning. So vivid! Love the vegetable play in your drinks lately. For your health! ;)

    • says

      Thanks, Laura. :) Izy and I were talking about being able to instantly transmit cakes too! Seriously, get on that, SCIENCE.

      These veggie dranks have been rocking my world! It will be happening ALL summer.

  14. says

    Carey, I’m so sorry to hear about you and Johnny. I remember how difficult it was when my boyfriend and I broke up after 5 years of dating. But, it’s a process and you sorta have to embrace the sadness before moving on. Every day gets a little easier though and then you’ll wake up one day and find yourself completely fine and ready for something more. Hang in there girl! Us chicks are strong and luckily for our select group, we have our love of food to keep us busy and motivated. :)

    I was wondering when I was gonna see this on your blog! I think you posted a picture of it on IG a few weeks ago? I really have to commend you Carrie, you’re so creative when it comes to these drink thingys. I can whip up savory things to no end but when it comes to drinks or cocktails, I’m like uh…wut? :-p

    You have more open-minded friends. I don’t think many of mine would appreciate this drink. Too much “funny business” is what they’d say. lol. Oh well, like you said though, this isn’t for everyone. One of the first things that came to my mind, after of course, omg I want to drink this now, was I wonder if it would be good as a savory granita? Sorta refreshing right? Maybe in like a snowcone? lol. Oh dear…

    • says

      Thanks so much, Steph. :) It’s definitely gotten a lot better already, and I’m feeling a bit more comfortable with the new normal this week. And omg, I don’t even know where I’d be without my blog gals! All of my lady friends live in other places, so I’ve been totally deprived of my post-break-up girlfriends + wine therapy sessions.

      Yeah! These guys were sitting in the queue for a while. I’m glad I finally got around to posting them, especially now that the weather is heating back up. (A little too much, too quickly for my tastes. It was so gross yesterday!)

      And I soooo think this would be amazing as a granita. Brianne (above) actually suggested the same thing, and it kind of blew my mind. I started thinking about the frozen dessert possibilities, and now I’m fixated on a red bell pepper goat cheese ice cream…

  15. says

    I’m sorry about your breakup. Ending relationships are never easy, even when it is the best thing.

    I also wanted to say that your photography is extraordinarily beautiful. I am in awe of the colors of this juice and the lighting of the photograph.

    • says

      Thanks you so much, Aimee. :) (I have gotten so many comments on the pretty color of the juice, which is a relief because the color profile on my [extremely pricey — grrrr] monitor does this crazy thing where it turns orange into neon red! I had to quadruple check them on my iPhone via email. Gah!)

  16. says

    Life is joyful and dark and -if not for it all- we would not understand any of it.

    There have been times when I feel like I’m going through the juicer. But I like the idea of adding the fizz because there’s the humor.


  1. […] 14. Red Bell Pepper, Lemon, and Basil Soda Okay, I know this sounds weird. But it’s not weird—its’ actually incredibly delicious and super healthy, with just a little honey syrup to sweeten it. You’ll need red bell pepper juice, lemon juice, basil leaves, seltzer water, and that homemade honey syrup (or agave if you want). […]

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