Friday, June 3, 2011

italian grapefruit soda, dry lemon soda & english pimm's cup

Recently, I bought a fun new toy for the kitchen: a "Twist 'n Sparkle" from Williams-Sonoma (I know, it sounds like an "as seen on TV" product, but try to get past the name). Basically, it's a device for injecting bubbles into liquid, a process which seems to transform merely refreshing drinks into truly superlative thirst quenchers. Since I began wielding the wand, all liquids in my path - iced tea, cider, margaritas, mojitos - have been subjected to it and have come out better for it in the end!

On our first scorchingly hot day of the season, I had a hankering for the Italian grapefruit soda I used to buy at Whole Foods and wondered if I could make a good approximation of it on my own. I was aiming for a subtly sweet drink with pronounced grapefruit flavor - not just a carbonated grapefruit ade. I figured the best way to achieve this was to infuse the juice with the zest, thereby harnessing all the essential oils. Once this was done, I made a quick simple syrup for sweetening and left all to chill in the fridge for the afternoon.

Finally, I strained the juice, and in flagrant disregard of Twist 'n Sparkle rules, filled the bottle beyond its clearly demarcated fill-line and applied the wand.

I'm really happy with the result. No kidding, this soda has the fine effervescence of good champagne, much unlike most commercial products. It has an assertive grapefruit flavor and the requisite underlying bitterness I think will appeal to the taste buds of grapefruit lovers out there. It's an unusual and unexpected treat worth making.

SO - since that went so well, I decided to apply the same treatment to lemons, aiming for a dry lemon soda. As I was juicing the fruit, it occurred to me that this concoction would be perfect in a Pimm's Cup, in place of the much sweeter Sprite or 7-Up that is often used.

A Pimm's Cup, if you don't know, is the veddy British quaff of choice at polo matches and Wimbledon, but that doesn't mean it's off limits to plebeians like you and me. It's based on the aperitif Pimm's No. 1, which is itself a secret concoction of gin, herbs, spices and citrus. Trying to describe its flavor is sort of like trying to describe the flavor of Coke; I can't isolate individual flavors but taken as a whole in this cocktail, it's unusual and very good. Pimm's is typically mixed with English lemonade, lemon-lime soda or, in an offshoot, ginger ale, usually in a ratio of 1 part Pimm's to 1 to 3 parts mixer, depending on tastes. This is meant to be a refreshing, low alcohol cocktail to ward off the summer heat. The Pimm's Cup final flourish is a garnish of fresh berries, apples, cucumber and mint, all of which look beautiful in the glass and lend an alluring flavor and aroma as you sip.


Grapefruit Soda

2 1/4 cups freshly squeezed ruby grapefruit juice (about 2 1/2 grapefruits, preferably organic)
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup simple syrup, or to taste - depending on sweetness of juice

Using a zesting tool or the fine side of a grater, remove the zest from 2 of the grapefruits and place in a nonreactive medium bowl. Juice the grapefruits and add 2 1/4 cups juice to the zest. Place in refrigerator to steep for at least 3 hours.

Make simple syrup: heat equal proportions sugar and water in a saucepan until sugar dissolves. Let cool and store in refrigerator. ** I highly recommend making at least a cup of syrup (1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water) because it's indispensable to have on hand for sweetening iced tea, mojitos, daiquiris - all kinds of things. I keep it in a mason jar.

Strain pulp and zest through a fine sieve set over a bowl, being sure to press the solids with a spatula or spoon to extract all the liquid. Discard solids.

Pour juice into Twist 'n Sparkle bottle. Add water; liquid should meet the 4 cup line on the bottle marked "pure water." (Don't worry - as long as the juice is well strained it will be fine.) Place CO2 cartridge in wand and place wand in the liquid. With the bottle sitting flat on a counter, twist the wand to close the cap and activate the CO2. Liquid will fizz, then the hissing noise will subside. Once all is quiet, remove cap and enjoy on ice.

Dry Lemon Soda

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 large lemons or 5 to 6 smaller ones, preferably organic)
2 1/2 cups water
scant 1/2 cup simple syrup, or to taste - depending on tartness of juice

Follow directions as above, using zest of 3 lemons.

English Pimm's Cup

Per tall drink: 

3 ounces Pimm's No. 1
6 ounces lemon soda
apple slice; strawberry, cut in half; mint sprig; cucumber slice

Half fill a tall Collins glass with ice. Add fruit. Top with ice. Pour liquid over and stir gently to slightly muddle the fruit. Top with mint sprig and place cucumber slice on the the rim or submerge in drink.

*Note: I don't get paid to endorse products (!), so I only mention things if I really like them, and I provide links to make things easy in case you want to learn more. If you happen to buy something through my Amazon link, I earn a miniscule royalty.


  1. These all look sooo good. I can't wait to taste the Pimms. Wished you lived closer so I could have it with you.

    By the way does the Twist 'n Sparkle work in the bathtub?

  2. Ha! Good idea! You'd go through lot of cartridges, but you'd be tinglingly fresh!

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