MODESTO, Calif. -- A cold drink on a hot day is one of summer's pleasures. Multiply your refreshment with some new drink ideas.
A soda is just a beverage, but a homemade soda is cartoon character-reaction good. One sip and your eyes will pop out of their sockets and your mouth will get "wow" big. That's how good it is.
Ripe cherries in the backyard inspired this version, but a soda made with blackberry, peach or strawberry syrup will have you dreaming of putting summer's fruits to good use. Fix and stash a batch or two in the freezer. The sugar content keeps the syrup from freezing hard, so it's always ready to mix with seltzer.
If cooking syrup seems like a tad too much work, then turn it into a chiller by combining 3/4 cup seltzer with 3 tablespoons fruit purée. For peach purée, "The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen" (Clarkson Potter, $35) recommends combining 1 pound ripe peaches, peeled and pitted, with 1/4 cup lime juice (three limes), 1 teaspoon sugar and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Purée the ingredients in a blender. For each drink, pour 6 ounces (3/4 cup) seltzer water over ice into a highball glass. Stir in 3 tablespoons peach purée and garnish with a peach slice.
A squirt of lemon in water is just the starting point for refreshing the palate and quenching your thirst. Steeped and infused water, with or without tea, offers even more choices. The tamarind water is a wake-up call to go outside your comfort zone in reaching for a cold one. It's tart and sweet and -- most important -- refreshing. Tamarind in pliable bricks can be found in Asian markets.
Herbs add another element when slaking your thirst. Steep rosemary, lemon verbena, basil, lavender or chamomile and chill and drink, or freeze in trays and add to drinks as ice cubes.
And don't forget spices. Cinnamon sticks, a pinch of saffron and sweet fennel are more flavor options.
Finally, there's no better way to end an evening than with an ice-cold egg cream. This soda, consisting of chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer, probably dates to the 19th century, according to "New York Sweets: A Sugarhound's Guide to the Best Bakeries, Ice Cream Parlors, Candy Shops, and Other Emporia of Delicious Delights," by Susan Pear Meisel (Rizzoli International, $29.95).
"The modern versions contain neither egg nor cream, although earlier versions did include eggs in the ingredients," according to the book. Whatever its origins, it sure hits the spot.
Sour Cherry Syrup
The syrup recipe and most of the serving suggestions are from "Make Your Own Soda: Syrup Recipes for All-Natural Pops, Floats, Cocktails and More," by Anton Nocito (Clarkson Potter, $14.99). Makes 2 cups.
2 quarts fresh sour cherries, pitted
2 cups sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
COMBINE the cherries, sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan set over medium heat and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes.
STRAIN the syrup through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the fruit solids. Store the syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to seven days.
POUR over ice cream or stir into milk.
Cherry soda: Fill tall glass with ice. Add 3 tablespoons syrup and add a few dashes citric acid solution or acid phosphate. Top with seltzer and mix gently.
Cherry cream soda: Fill a tall glass with ice. Add in 3 tablespoons syrup, pour in seltzer until the glass is almost full. Stir. Top with 3 tablespoons milk and serve.
Cherry lassi: Add 3 tablespoons yogurt to a pint glass. Stir until smooth. Add 3 tablespoons cherry syrup and stir until syrup and yogurt are incorporated. Fill three-quarters full with water, stir and top with ice.
Bourbon and cherry chocolate: Add 1 3/4 ounces Maker's Mark bourbon, 1 tablespoon cherry syrup and dash of chocolate bitters to a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Shake and strain over fresh ice cubes or into a rocks glass, or serve neat in a martini glass.