Lime N.D. Coconut is a soda that is also a health drink! N.D. stands for “New Dimension.” (It’s also a sideways hat tip to Harry Nilsson.) It is a new direction in taking the Umami Principle to soft drinks. It tastes like nothing I’ve ever had in a traditional soda, and qualifies as a true umami flavor bomb. It is also the most nutrient-packed tonic drink I’ve devised so far.
This idea started when a friend encouraged me to try coconut sugar, because it was delicious. I did, and it was. Much coconut sugar comes from Indonesia with Thailand also an important producer. This suggested to me a Southeast Asian flavor theme, one that might produce in a soda, perhaps the enjoyment that comes from a well-made Tom Kha Gai.
My formula for a full-spectrum soft drink calls for a juice, a root, an oil, an herb, a sugar, a berry, and an acid. Here’s how those ingredients combine for Lime N.D. Coconut.
Faddish coconut water seems to crowd the health-food section lately. High in potassium and other minerals, it’s the latest trend in hydration and tasty too. Twenty years ago on a Mexican beach I bought a green coconut, the top lopped off with a machete, for a few pesos. The water inside was sweet and refreshing. The Whale Watcher Bar in Cabo would put in a shot each of rum, vodka, tequila, gin and Pernod—a Coco Loco. Twenty years later, Thai coconut water seems to be everywhere.
Shredded coconut, not the baker’s kind, just plain, unsweetened meat, adds to the coconut aroma of the drink, with a good dose of glutamate as well. Coconut milk, made from shredded coconut meat and water, contains about 0.37 percent glutamate. The amino acid is the most abundant of those in coconuts.
Key limes are easy to get now too. Their juice provides acidic sourness to balance the sweetness of the coconut water and sugar. The key lime zest provides citrus oil aromatics on top of the coconut aroma.
Fresh, thinly sliced galangal, a rhizome reminiscent of ginger, but with a stronger, more peppery taste, is the root component, with strong medicinal properties. Galangal and lime juice are mixed as a tonic in some Asian countries.
Lemongrass is a well-known tonic herb from India, now widely cultivated in Southeast Asia. Lemongrass provides this drink with both an aroma of lemons and a taste mildly reminiscent of them, without the sourness.
Coconut sugar is produced in Southeast Asia, on organic palm farms. Creamy and caramally sweet, it’s drawn from the flower buds of cocos nucifera. Coconut sugar contains minerals, B vitamins, and a large amount of glutamic acid. Glutamine is the largest constituent among the 16 amino acids found in coconut sap sugar, more than double the amount of the next highest, threonine.
Goji berries (wolfberry) go into Chinese tonic soups and herbal teas. Some Chinese wines also use goji berries. They contain about 500 times more Vitamin C than oranges, and befitting an umami bomb, the ingredient glutamic acid. At the same time polysaccharides from wolfberry protect neurons against the overstimulative effects of too much neurotransmitter such as glutamate.
A garnish of Thai basil and Kaffir lime leaves creates an amazing cloud of distinctive aromatics surrounding the glass. While Lime N.D. Coconut is refreshingly complex in flavor, this healthful tonic can be further tweaked with a shot of white rum and a twist of lime. Served on the rocks it is a great summer quencher.