Homemade Blackberry Soda

Blackberry Soda_CREDIT StuWhat better way to make the most of the summer season than by making your own fresh fruit soda? This summery cooler from three-time James Beard nominee Maria Hines, chef and owner of Tilth restaurant in Seattle, combines the delicate flavor of lemon verbena with ripe, jammy blackberries. Subtly herbal, with just the right amount of sweetness, this no-fuss soda is perfect for lazy afternoons on the porch or a backyard barbecue with friends.

And with a recipe this simple, experimenting with other fruit and herb combinations is as easy as taking a stroll through your local farmer’s market or your own garden. Some of our other favorite combinations are apricot + rosemary, lychee + lemongrass, blueberry + lavender, cherry + sage, strawberry + basil, and peach + mint.

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup fresh lemon verbena leaves, loosely packed
2 pints fresh, ripe blackberries
Ice cubes
Soda water (Hines uses Fever Tree)

Combine sugar, water and lemon verbena leaves in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove verbena leaves with a slotted spoon and let the syrup cool completely. In the blender, purée the blackberries until fruit makes a thick pulp. Strain blackberry juice into a jar by pressing blended fruit through a fine-mesh strainer with a large wooden spoon. Add the verbena syrup to the blackberry juice and stir well. This is the base for your soda and will keep refrigerated for 1 week. To serve, fill a Collins glass with ice and add 1 part of blackberry-lemon verbena juice to 3 parts club soda. Stir gently to combine and garnish with a sprig of lemon verbena and fresh blackberries. Serves 4.