With the those lazy crazy days of summer not too far away each Thursday I'll be sharing a new drink recipe with you- cold, herbal, cocktail, mocktail, liqueur... to name a few.
One of my early food memories was The Pop Shoppe. This 80's birthday party institution was a dream for a kid- a warehouse full of endless varieties of sugary carbonated beverages in all their artificial coloured glory! Your Dad grabbed the shiny red plastic crate and you picked as many as would fit, trying to decide between the shiny coloured lime, cream sodas and grape, over the always popular root beet and cola. When you had crashed from the sugar high that certainly must have followed, you returned the case of empty bottles to The Poppe Shoppe, and the cycle would continue. Hello, recycling genius! Why don't places like this make a come back? I'm not sure if there is indeed still Pop Shoppes around but those were good times.
Nowadays I have rare pop* cravings but when I need a bit of sparkling sugar I go straight to Boylans who's Red Birch Beer I have a thing for. The thing about such drinks is that they are simply sugar, flavouring and carbonated water. All very readily available and inexpensive ingredients. With most high quality sodas costing almost $2 a drink, I cringe at the mark up, and I also see an opportunity to make it myself.
Cream soda and me go way back. I grew up with a penchant for the garish red cream soda of my youth- my Slurpee of choice as well as a mean ice cream float. But sometime in my adolescence Vanilla Cream Soda came about and I started to take to those Vanilla Cream Sodas, that is until a string of bad experiences. Each time I had a particular brand I would end up feeling queasy and then, well perhaps you can guess...( I don't really think a food blog is the place for the that "V" word) After a few occasions of such incident, each with my very observant best friend, she started cutting me off, even though I still desired said beverage and at the time didn't seem to care about the after effects. But she always did look out for me and she kept me in check and off of Vanilla Cream Soda for a few years. Not sure what was in that drink but something tells me it wasn't the vanilla. Eventually I did get back onto the vanilla wagon, but never went back to that brand and am happy to report there have been no more incidences.
Recently I started thinking about cream soda and reading some labels for ingredients. Since most are just a vanilla syrup and I with a plentiful supply of vanilla beans, I started to do a little research. With a little help from a fabulous book by the Vanilla Queen herself, I created this homemade cream soda: the most beautiful creamy, honey kissed, vanilla beverage. It is creamy, complex and full of real vanilla flavour. The addition of honey, such a natural partner for vanilla, gives this version a lovely depth. You won't believe how easy this is.
*in Canada most of us tend to refer to carbonated sweet beverages as pop, the same thing those of you in parts of the US would refer to as Soda.
Honey Cream Soda
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 Tbsp honey (don't use a dark honey here)
2 vanilla beans, split down the middle and scraped
3 Tbsp vanilla extract
Combine sugar, water,honey, vanilla seeds and scraped pods in a small saucepan over high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves, then bring to a boil and leave at a slow boil for about 5 minutes or until it starts to visibly thicken. Remove from heat, let cool for about 10 minutes, then add vanilla extract. Let sit overnight to steep, then pour into a bottle/jar and store in the fridge, if you can keeping the vanilla pods in there where they will continue to add flavour. This will keep for 1 month in the fridge.
To serve: Add 3 Tbsp syrup to a glass, top with about 1 cup sparkling water, stir well then top with ice. That's it! You can vary the sweetness level to your taste of course.
For a delicious adult version: add a shot of rum or bourbon to the glass.
Other uses: while this used alone will exhaust your supply, this is such a valuable ingredient to have on hand. Pour a little into a fruit salad, or into your daily tea and of course if you are a mixologist at all your will find never ending reasons to use this.