With a Fizz
Fancy-schmancy eight-ingredient cocktails made with elixirs, herbs and a few signature bartender tricks are slowly going out of fashion. We’re seeing a return to simplicity: restrained cocktails made with a few wonderful ingredients.
I’ll admit to loving the complex flavours of the well-crafted multi-ingredient cocktail, but also championing the idea of keeping things easy in the kitchen. And then it hit me — one way to have both is to search out some of the new small-batch sodas popping up in North America.
These sodas use simpler sugars instead of the dreaded high-fructose corn syrup, and incorporate fewer ingredients. The best of the lot — like Halifax’s Jitterbug Sodas —use fresh fruit, herbs and spices and little else.
Jitterbug’s owner, 36-year-old Rowena Power, hawks her sodas at the year-round Halifax Farmers’ Market, and her customers love incorporating them into simple tipples. “Busy parents just mix my blackcurrant ginger soda with sparkling wine,” she says. “Cocktails should be something everyone can do.”
Her advice on mixing your favourite small-batch soda? “For a tall, easy-sipping cocktail, just add a shot of vodka to about five-times the amount of lighter, herbal or citrus soda.” For something warming, make a shorter drink with spicier, darker sodas — like blackcurrant ginger — on a three-to-one ration with rum.
“In choosing a soda, local isn’t enough — look for fresh fruits on the ingredient list, not just sugar water with flavouring,” she says. “When you mix these types of sodas, the booze really draws out the flavour of the fruit.”
While Jitterbug is only available in Halifax (for now), higher-end food stores like Whole Foods or the shelves of HomeSense or Winners stock some good international brands like Britain’s Fentimans and Portland’s Maine Root.
For my mix, I used the sweet, jammy blueberry Maine Root soda as a base — along with the vodka, it needed a boost of acidity and some herbaceous depth. The best combination turned out to be a four-ingredient tipple with rosemary and fresh lime. The vodka brightened the blueberry flavour, while the bitter herb balanced the soda’s sweetness. I used less lime than usual because of the latent acidity in the fruit soda. The result was a tall cocktail with a bright, amplified blueberry goodness — that still packed that complex flavour I’ve come to love.
2 sprigs rosemary
1 oz vodka
1/2 oz lime
6 oz Maine Root Blueberry Soda
Rub inside of glass with a rosemary sprig, then muddle the sprig with vodka in a shaker. Add lime, shake over ice and strain into tall glass. Top with soda, garnish with rosemary sprig and serve.