Fresh flavors are a delicate thing, few flavors more so than those of fresh produce. Imagine for a moment the cool crunch of a cucumber, the surprising intensity of a raspberry, the delicate balance of sweet and tart in an apple.

Now imagine a pickle, a spoonful of jam, or a jug of cider. Get the picture?

Preserving the flavor of produce is hopeless: apple juice loses its vitality, salt or vinegar overwhelms the delicacy of a fresh cucumber, sugar transforms a raspberry from something intense and alive into something cloying, heavy and dead. Maybe the most you can hope for is to feature these flavors, find the right balance of supporting characters to bring your favorite tastes front and let them live their brightest before they fade.

That seems to be the goal of Adam Bernbach, the DC-based bar manager who is getting increasing attention for his artistic skill as an illustrator and mixologist. And Bernbach deserves the attention: his sodas and syrups are like beautifully curated little paintings, with combinations that make you see fresh flavors in a brand-new light.

Bernbach’s recipe for green apple and bay leaf soda, used in his Solstice Hi-Ball, is light on the unusual ingredients, if a little heavy on the hardware. To make it, you’ll need a juicer, a seltzer maker, a fine strainer, a citrus squeezer and an assortment of spoons, beakers, knives and other implements of destruction. The finished product will make you seriously question your notions of apple flavor and spices and even the classic margarita. If that doesn’t justify dragging out the kitchen tools, nothing does.

Green Apple & Bay Leaf Soda:

  • 4 ounces lime juice
  • 12 ounces green apple juice (juice limes first, then juice apples into the lime juice to preserve the color)
  • 4 ounces sugar
  • 16 ounces bay leaf tea* (steep crumbled dried bay leaves in hot water for an hour, strain and cool)
  1. Combine all ingredients.
  2. Strain.
  3. Pour into a siphon.
  4. Carbonate.

Solstice Hi-Ball

  • 1.5 ounces Blanco Tequila
  • 3.5 ounces green apple & bay leaf soda
  1. Combine ingredients
  2. Garnish with a lime wheel and red apple slice

Some notes:

*For the bay leaf tea, I made a batch with twenty bay leaves, then another one with thirty. Not surprisingly, more leaves imparted more of the cool bay flavor.

Bernbach’s 1:3 lime to apple ratio is a somewhat Faustian bargain. While the limes preserve the vital green of the apples, they also overwhelm its flavor. As you increase the apple, the color gets yellower and the apple flavor comes to the fore.

For most seltzer makers, pre-sugared blends can gum up the works. If you have a SodaStream or a seltzer bottle, you may want to consider adding the sugar after carbonation. Simply carbonate the soda, then add superfine sugar, which more easily dissolves in cold liquids. 

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