Summertime and the livin’ is easy. Billie Holiday must be forgetting how miserably sweltering this time of year can be. It has been unbearably hot this summer. My daily desires are for chilled drinks, air conditioning, and a good book to read indoors. Thankfully, the market is overflowing with new fruits of the season. All begging to be pureed and blended with chilled sparkling water. The first of many this summer, is a homemade Blackberry Lavender Soda. The tiny effervescent bubbles popping, with the quiet ‘clink-clink’ of ice, as it’s swirled in its glass. Billie should have written a song about this simple pleasure.
Sunny summer months conjure up past memories of time spent running around outdoors. Currently, some close family members are toiling away working at a summer camp in the area. In their phone calls I can hear their exhaustion from the unforgiving heat. Even more so, I can hear their joy. Free from the noise and rush of the city, they spend their days in nature. Each day is busier than the last which results in nights of deep slumber. Early morning sunrises and evening sunsets are witnessed daily. A sense of calm, amongst the chaos, brings back a flood of memories of my one summer spent working at summer camp.
It was for a college scholarship. One full summer with the sun on my face and cool breezes whipping around me when the storms would roll in. Days filled with repeated applications of sunscreen and squealing children running amok. Camp seemed to be a space in time that existed outside of reality. It was a place where a staff of young adults, who never would have spent time together otherwise, would congregate to look after the welfare of stranger’s children. Being brought together by this sole responsibility was bonding. You toiled in the heat together, you ate together, and you played together. The precious moments of freedom each evening were spent in conversation, in the dark night, under the stars. Oh the stories I could tell. Discovering secrets from people I hardly knew (some that I really wish I’d never heard) and belly-laughing over whatever young twenty year olds laugh at.
Once summer camp was over, we all segregated back into our social groups. Some people I never spoke to again. Others, I would run into years later. Our shared experiences bringing a light to our eyes as we remembered that ‘one summer.’ It was a distinct life experience. Currently, these personal family phone calls make me smile. They’re making their own memories of life experiences not forgotten. While we chat, I sip on this Blackberry Lavender Soda. Cool and refreshing. If only they could be passed through the phone. Make summertime memories of your own this summer with these homemade sodas. May they help you stay cool out there.
Blackberry Lavender Soda
Makes 12 sodas
16 oz (453g) blackberries
3 oz (85g) sugar
3 oz (85 ml) water
2 tsp dried culinary lavender buds
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Sparkling water of choice
Fresh blackberries, for garnish
In a Vitamix blender, or food processor, puree blackberries until smooth. Strain puree through a fine mesh sieve. Discard solids.
In a sauce pan, combine puree, sugar, water and lavender. Bring to a boil, stirring pot occasionally to prevent scorching on the bottom. Remove from heat, cover, and steep for 15 minutes. Strain mixture into a clean bowl and let cool to room temperature. Whisk in lemon juice. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to chill, at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
To serve, add two tablespoons of syrup to a glass. Top with 8-ounces of sparkling water and ice cubes. Garnish with fresh blackberries. For additional flavor, smash blackberries before adding to soda.
Blackberry lavender syrup will keep, stored in an airtight container, for up to one week.