Ruby Gush

Ruby Gush I’ve never been a fan of cola drinks. I’ll have one occasionally, but never understood how my cousin can have a Pepsi instead of her morning coffee. For as long as I can remember the tart/sweet drinks have been my favorite. My earliest recollection of this goes back to the time my Dad was buying his brand-new 1954 two-toned Dodge sedan. There was a pop machine that sold grapefruit-flavored Squirt in the dealership. Dad bought me one. I loved it.

The grapefruit is a hybrid of sweet orange and pomelo, developed in Barbados (where great rum is made, but I digress.) When I was growing up, yellow grapefruit halves sprinkled with sugar were a staple on our breakfast table. These have been almost completely replaced in the marketplace by the ruby variety, for good reason.

The ruby grapefruit has a distinctive smell, and a taste sweeter than the yellow grapefruit.
When our family recently acquired a case of Texas ruby grapefruit as part of the school band fund-raiser I decided to make a soft drink reminiscent of the Squirt I used to love.

Ruby Gush starts with 1.25 liters of grapefruit juice and the zest from two grapefruit for a 4 liter batch. I let the grapefruit rest in a cool room for two weeks to develop the flavor. To the juice I added 400 grams of evaporated raw cane juice. Next came 12.5 grams of fresh grated ginger, and 1.5 grams of lemon balm. I heated the syrup to steep out the flavors, strained and pasteurized it. I measured 150 ml into each of eight 500 ml swing top bottles, froze these, then topped them up with carbonated water. A total success, Ruby Gush is better than Squirt, though I remain enamored of the memory. Tasty indeed, I might even try adding a shot of spirits to the glass to make a Ruby Greyhound or even a Red Dog.

Sparkling Meyer Lemonade

Meyer Lemonade
Some recipes are a description of a state of mind. Sparkling Meyer Lemonade is one of those. Meyer Lemonade. To me that recalls the dwarf lemon tree Mom had in the back yard. When we moved to California from Ohio, things like year-round bearing citrus trees were a wonder. Mom said the best tasting lemon was the Meyer, a cross between an ordinary lemon and probably, a Mandarin orange, and that was the variety she planted first.

Mom was right. Cuisinistas like Martha Stewart and Alice Waters discovered the Meyer lemon a while after Mom did. Dad would pick 20 of them, perhaps some time around July, cut them in half, mash them in a bucket, add sugar, ice, water, and a good handful of the fresh mint that also grew abundantly in the wondrous California garden. The aroma was spectacular.

The taste was also refreshing, more tart than the concentrate that came in the six-ounce cans of the day. That thought reminds me of Schweppes Bitter Lemon, a lemon-quinine tang that I came to love perhaps 20 years later than those backyard picnics. Alas, it appears that Bitter Lemon is not made any more. I thought I’d make my own.

First of all, there is the joy of fizz, and that is accomplished using the frozen syrup method for mixing sparkling water with juice and sweetener. Secondly, this recipe furthers the idea that a good soft drink should contain a juice, a root, an herb, an oil, and a sugar.

Sparkling Meyer Lemonade starts with 150 ml of Meyer lemon juice per liter of lemonade. Before squeezing the lemons I peeled the zest from 6 per liter (about 5 grams) and set that aside. The sugar is 100 grams per liter of evaporated raw organic cane juice.

For the root, this recipe has 3 grams per liter of ginger. The herb is 0.3 grams of lemon balm per liter. I heated the juice, sugar, herb, zest, and root to infuse and pasteurize the ingredients, and let them cool for 12 hours. I strained the brew, pasteurized it again, cooled it and dispensed 115 ml of the syrup into each 500 ml swing-top bottle. After I froze these bottles I topped them up with carbonated water, and kept them cold.

This drink is Huckleberry Finn meets Dom Perignon. Aging it in the fridge really makes a difference. Less than 0.3 percent alcohol I estimate, but still full of a richness coming from the raw sugar, the herby, citrus aromatics, the mandarin-meets-lemon flavor and the tingle on the tongue that Huck rarely if ever tasted.